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Works of George Berkeley 

Vol. Ill 






Works of George Berkeley 

D.D.; Formerly Bishop of Cloyne 
Including his Posthumous Works 

With Prefaces, Annotations, Appendices, and 
An Account of his Life, by 

Alexander C 


Hon. LL.D. Glasgow 
of Logic and Metaphys 

In Four Volumes 
Vol. Ill: Philosophical Works, 1734-52 

At the Clarendon Press 








Wherein it is examined whether the Object, Prin 
ciples, and Inferences of the Modern Analysis are 
more distinctly conceived, or more evidently deduced, 
than Religious Mysteries. 
First published in 1734. 

The Editor s Preface 3 

Contents 13 


In Answer to a Pamphlet of Philalethes Cantabrigi- 
ensis, entitled, Geometry no Friend to Infidelity, or a 
Defence of Sir Isaac Newton, and the British Mathe 
maticians. Also an Appendix concerning Mr. Walton s 
Vindication of the principles of Fluxions against the 
Objections contained in the Analyst. Wherein it is 
attempted to put this controversy in such a light as 
that every Reader may be able to judge thereof. 
First published in 1735. 

THE APPENDIX ... ..... 97 



First published in 1735. 




First published in 1744. 

The Editor s Preface . . . . . . . 117 

Contents 137 



First published in 1744-7. 

The First Letter to Thomas Prior .... 303 

The Second Letter to Thomas Prior .... 314 

The Third Letter to Thomas Prior .... 323 

The Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hales . . . . . 334 

First published tn 1752. 








Written dr. 1705. 





The Minute Philosopher 

First cast out the beam out of thine own eye ; and then shalt thou 

see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother s eye. 

MATT. c. vii. v. 5 

First published in 1734 




THE Analyst was published in 1734, in Dublin and 
in London, when its author was leaving London 
to take possession of the remote bishopric of Cloyne, 
after a stay of two years in England, following his re 
turn from Rhode Island. He was still engaged with the 
minute philosophers when he returned to Ireland ; and 
AlcipJiron had evoked the criticisms of theologians and 
orthodox thinkers as well as of religious sceptics. In 
April, 1734, he tells his friend Samuel Johnson in Con 
necticut, that as to the Bishop of Cork s (Browne) book , 
and the other book you allude to, the author whereof is 
one Baxter 2 , they are both very little read and considered 
here ; for which reason I have taken no public notice of them. 
To answer objections already answered, and repeat the 
same things, is a needless as well as disagreeable task. 
Nor should I have taken notice of that Letter about 
Vision :! , had it not been printed in a newspaper, which 
spread it through the kingdom. Beside, the Theory of 

1 Bishop Browne s Divine Ana- into tlic Nature of the Human Soul 
lgy> published in 1733. The eighth (1734), one section in which is en- 
chapter contains a defence of titled Dean Berkeley s scheme 
Browne s analogical knowledge against the existence of Matter, or 
of God, against the objections pro- a material world, examined and 
posed in Alciphron. shewn inconclusive. 

- He refers to Andrew Baxter, :I See Editor s Preface to Visual 

a Scotchman, author of an Inquiry Language I indicated. 

B -2. 


Vision I found was somewhat obscure to most people ; 
for which reason I was not displeased at an opportunity 
to explain it 1 . 

But Berkeley s minute philosopher now appears as 
a sceptical mathematician. Early in 1734, he thus refers 
to his health and engagements, in a letter to his friend 
Prior: As to myself, by regular living, and rising 
very early (which I find the best thing in the world), 
I am very much mended ; insomuch that though I cannot 
read, yet my thoughts seem as distinct as ever. I do, 
therefore, for amusement, pass my early hours in thinking 
of certain mathematical matters, which may possibly pro 
duce something 2 . The Analyst was the result. 

His Commonplace Book shews that his thoughts were even 
then working in this direction ; more distinctly afterwards 
in the Principles and the DC Motu. Andrew Baxter, in his 
Inquiry, urges as an objection to Berkeley s new concep 
tion of matter and space, that it forced those who accept it 
to suspect that even mathematics may not be very sound 
at the bottom. Stock tells that Addison was connected 
with Berkeley s crusade against mathematical free-thinkers, 
inasmuch as he had told him that Garth, in his last illness, 
was impervious to Christianity, on the ground that Edmund 
H alley, the famous mathematician and astronomer, had 
convinced him that this religion was an imposture ; because 
its professed revelation of God was incomprehensible. 
However this may be, Berkeley s thoughts during this 
spring in London, and afterwards at Cloyne, turned upon 
a phase of minute philosophy supposed to be common 
among mathematicians, founded on the existence of mys 
teries in religion. 

The Analyst is addressed to Edmund Halley (1646- 
1742), the famous astronomer, in the character of an 
infidel mathematician. In science Halley ranked next 

1 See my Life and Letters of Berkeley (1871"), p. 222. 

2 Ibid., p. 210. 


to Newton by the consent of his contemporaries, and 
there is no proof of religious scepticism in his pub 
lished writings. His infidelity rests upon common re 
pute, and private expressions of opinion, like the alleged 
atheistic demonstration of Anthony Collins; all which 
Berkeley was perhaps rashly apt to proceed upon. But 
his suspected materialism had deprived Halley of the 
support of Stillingfleet, when he was a candidate for the 
Savilian chair of Geometry at Oxford along with David 
Gregory. And we are told l that Newton checked him, 
when he spoke in disparagement of religion, by the mild 
reproof I have studied these things: you have not. 
The question is discussed in a Defence of Halley against 
the charge of Religious Infidelity (1844), by the Rev. S. J. 
Rigaud of Ipswich. 

The philosophical and theological aim of the Analyst, 
apart from the mathematical discussions to which it led, 
is apt to be confused with the purely mathematical con 
troversy. In Berkeley s mind it is an argumcntum ad 
hominem as against free-thinking mathematicians, in con 
tinuation, too, of the leading argument in the Seventh 
Dialogue of Alciphron. Certain mathematicians reject 
religion, on the ground of its ultimate incomprehensibility : 
yet their own science is ultimately incomprehensible; and 
indeed some of its doctrines rest on reasonings which 
seem incoherent, if not contradictory. Mathematics, like 
all other human knowledge, is sustained only by the faith 
or trust which is indispensable in the absence of omnisci 
ence. Religion necessarily shares in this ultimate incom 
prehensibility, common to it with the most demonstrable 
portion of human knowledge. 

A like argument appears in the Seventh Dialogue of 

Alciphron, and is approached in the Introduction to the 

Principles (sect. 20), where it is maintained that words need 

not always signify ideas : without ideas they may express 

1 Brcwster s Life of Newton. 


practical rules sufficient for us to act by. At the root 
of all human knowledge, there are working principles 
which cannot be reduced to our ideas : it is unreasonable 
to insist on so resolving them. In this respect science 
and religion are upon the same footing. Force is as 
incomprehensible as grace. Both have a practical mean 
ing ; but neither of the meanings can be fully exhibited 
in our ideas of sense or imagination. So, too, with the 
infidel mathematician. He objects to religion because 
God cannot be fully represented in a sensuous image : he 
ought equally to reject mathematics because it too is 
rooted in like mystery. 

Newton s method of fluxions, then so much in vogue, 
is taken as the example. Fluxions are unrepresentable in 
imagination: we cannot realise them in ideas of sense; 
and the demonstrations which support them, useful in 
the results, are humanly incomprehensible at last. Yet 
mathematical free-thinkers are found ready to accept 
within their own science what they reject in religion : 
fluxions, like religion, when resolved into ultimate prin 
ciples, involve incompleted or mysterious conceptions which 
transcend human understanding: and infidel mathema 
ticians receive them, trusting to the authority of incom 
pletely comprehended principles, some infidels on the 
personal authority of Sir Isaac Newton. 

In his criticism of the rationale of fluxions, Berkeley 
doubtless touched controvertible points in the New 
tonian theory. De Morgan, in his essay on The Early 
History of Infinitesimals in England, says that Newton s 
doctrine differed at different periods; that before 1704 he 
treated of infinitely small quantities ; that in that year, in 
his Ouadratura Curvarum, he renounced infinitely small 
quantity, and in a way apt to suggest that he had never 
accepted it. De Morgan further holds that Berkeley in 
the Analyst, could not, or would not, see that the Newton 
of 1687 and the Newton of 1704 were of two different 


modes of thought ; and that he puts the infinitely small 
moments of the Principia against contradictory declarations 
in the Ouadratura. 

In this congenial field Berkeley shews his characteristic 
subtlety. He boldly challenges the modern analysts; argues 
that mathematicians are obliged in their demonstrations to 
assume what cannot be resolved into finite objects of sense ; 
and concludes that reasoners who can accept mysteries in 
their own province are inconsistent in rejecting religion, 
because it makes a like demand upon imperfectly conceiv 
able trust. All human knowledge, physical, mathematical, 
and theological, is thus, in the last resort, practical faith, 
rather than perfectly conceived science. 

It may be allowed that Berkeley s natural impetuosity, 
and disposition to push conceptions to extremes, leads 
him in the Analyst to positions that are at least apt to be 
misunderstood. Not contented with pressing the incom 
prehensibility, if not the contradictiveness, of the founda 
tions of mathematics, especially of fluxions, he attributes 
fallacies to the Newtonian analysis. He speaks as if 
fluxions involved positive contradictions, and not merely 
relative incomprehensibility ; and mathematicians com 
plain that he was blind to the Newtonian conception of 
continuity. But he was arguing with persons who were 
supposed to assume that words must signify what is 
resolvable into data of sense, and who rejected the mys 
teries of religion because they were not thus analysable, 
except at the expense of a contradiction. He seems to 
regard the Newtonian conception of continuity as open 
to a like objection, at the same point of view; as incapable 
of reduction to data of sense and imagination, accordingly 
involving contradictions when dealt with as if it were. If 
this is all he meant, his language is unguarded. Carnot 
and Lagrange, Euler and D Alambert, afterwards tried by 
various expedients to resolve difficulties similar to some 
of those which Berkeley brought to light. 


Berkeley makes much of the mysteries involved in 
quantitative infinity in mathematics : one might have ex 
pected him to make a reference to the mystery of endless 
life in religion ; which, moreover, involves qualitative as 
well as quantitative incomprehensibility. A life prolonged 
for millions of years multiplied by millions is still finite, 
and therefore comprehensible, thus differing from life that 
is absolutely endless ; and eye hath not seen, nor ear 
heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to 
conceive a life released from the physical conditions of 
mortal life on earth. The sensuous imagination cannot 
produce a picture of immortality, and yet the word 
has been the medium of a stupendous influence in the 
spiritual history of man. It is a signal example of what 
Berkeley intends, when he says that the communicating 
of ideas is not the chief and only end of language, as is 
commonly supposed ; for it has other ends, as the 
raising of some passion, the exciting to or deterring 
from an action, the putting the mind in some particular 
disposition ; so that the passions of fear, love, hatred, 
admiration, disdain, and the like, arise immediately in the 
mind upon the perception of certain words, without any 
ideas coming between. 

The appearance of the Analyst with its metaphysics 
was the signal for a mathematical controversy, memor 
able in the history of the science in England in the 
eighteenth century. In the seven years that followed 
its appearance nearly thirty pamphlets and articles were 
issued in attack or defence, some of the chief mathemati 
cians of the time taking part in the fray. 

Foremost among them was Dr. James Jurin (1684-1750) 
of Cambridge, the eminent physician and physicist, an 
intimate friend of Newton, who attacked the Analyst soon 
after it appeared, under the pseudonym of Philalethcs Can- 
tabrigicnsis, in a pamphlet entitled, Geometry no friend to 


Infidelity ; or a Defence of Sir Isaac Newton and the British 
Mathematicians. In a letter to the author of the Analyst. 
Berkeley s Defence of Free-thinking in Mathematics, pub 
lished in March, 1735, is his reply to Jurin. There 
was a rejoinder by Philaletlics Cantabrigiensis, in the 
Minute Mathematician ; or the Free-thinker no Just thinker, 
set forth in a Second Letter to the Author of the Analyst; 
containing a Defence of Sir Isaac Newton and the British 
Mathematicians against a late Pamphlet entitled A Defence 
of Free-thinking in Mathematics To this Second Letter, 
dated June 13, 1735, and published in the following 
month, Berkeley made no reply. 

In the same year, Walton of Dublin offered a Vindi 
cation of Sir Isaac Newton s Fluxions. To this Berkeley 
replied in an Appendix to the Second Edition of his Defence 
of Free-thinking in Mathematics, an Appendix which ends 
in a series of questions. Walton s rejoinder is entitled 
The Catechism of the Author of the Minute Philosopher 
fully answered. This answer drew from Berkeley his 
Reasons for not replying to Mr. Walton s Full Answer, 
in a Letter to O. T. P. To this Walton responded 
in an Answer to the Reasons for not replying to Mr. 
Walton s Full Answer, appended to a second edition 
of his Catechism. With this the controversy between 
Berkeley and Walton ended. 

The discussion was continued for some years among 
the mathematicians, becoming more exclusively mathe 
matical, to the neglect of the metaphysical argument which 
was the motive of the Analyst. The following are among 
the more important of the relative publications : 

A Discourse concerning the Nature and Certainty of Sir 
Isaac Newton s Methods of Fluxions, and of Prime and 
Ultimate Ratios, by Benjamin Robins. Robins (1707-51) 
was a distinguished mathematician, who had been shortly 
before in controversy with Bernorelli about Leibniz s 
conception of motion. On returning from abroad he 


found English mathematicians eagerly engaged in the dis 
cussion which the Analyst had raised. His Discourse, 
which appeared in 1735, was followed in 1739 by his Re 
marks on M. Killer 1 s Treatise of Motion ; on the complcat 
System of Optics by Dr. Smith, Master of Trinity College, 
Cambridge ; and on Dr. Jurin s Discourse of distinct and indis 
tinct Vision ; thus connected with the theory of Vision. The 
Discourse of 1735 was reviewed in the Republic of Letters 
of September in that year. In the December number 
there is a criticism by Robins of the objections to the doc 
trine of fluxions and ultimate proportions ; with remarks 
on methods taken to obviate them. The controversy 
was continued in a series of articles by Robins and Jurin 
which appeared in the Republic of Letters in January, 
April, July, and August, 1736. Henry Pemberton (1694- 
1771), the physician, a friend of Newton, who employed 
him to superintend the third edition of the Principia 
(1726), likewise engaged in the controversy. A series of 
nine articles and rejoinders between Pemberton and Jurin 
appeared in the Works of the Learned in 1737, from 
February onwards. 

In 1736 the Rev. Thomas Bayes(?) published an in 
troduction to the Doctrine of Fluxions, and Defence of the 
Mathematicians against the objections of the Autlior of the 
Analyst; so far as they arc designed to affect the several 
Methods of Reasoning. In the following year James Smith 
produced A New Treatise on Fluxions ; and an anonymous 
Explanation of Fluxions was published in 1741. In 1745 
appeared The Harmony of the Ancient and Modern Geometry 
asserted: in Answer to the Call of the Author of the Analyst 
upon the celebrated Mathematicians of the present age, to clear 
up what he styles their obscure analytics. This forgotten 
tract consists of papers presented to the Royal Society, 
treating fluxions as a branch of a more general method 
of reasoning called maximinority and minimajority. In 
1739 Robins had published Remarks on Euler, Smitli, and 


Jnrin, to which Jurin replied in the same year. A re 
joinder by Robins in 1740 drew an Answer from Jurin in 
the following year. In 1742 Colin Maclaurin, the cele 
brated Scottish mathematician, published an elaborate 
Treatise on Fluxions. All these arc examples of the volu 
minous controversy of which the Analyst was the parent. 
The Analyst, according to Professor Kelland, did good 
service to science, if in no other way, by giving occasion 
to the work of Maclaurin on Fluxions. The principles 
of the method had been previously exhibited in a concise 
and obscure manner : he developed them after the manner 
of the ancient geometers. 

Berkeley refers to the Analyst controversy in Sin s (sect. 
271, note), which may be taken as his last word on the 
subject. The mathematical importance of the Analyst is 
less than its metaphysical, or than its biographical and 
historical significance. 


1. Mathematicians presumed to be the great masters of reason. Hence 

an undue deference to their decisions where they have no right to 
decide. This one cause of infidelity. 

2. Their principles and methods to be examined with the same freedom 

which they assume with regard to the principles and irrysteries of 
religion. In what sense and how far geometry is to be allowed an 
improvement of the mind. 

3. Fluxions the great object and employment of the profound geometri 

cians in the present age. What these fluxions are. 

4. Moments or nascent increments of flowing quantities, difficult to con 

ceive. Fluxions of different orders. Second and third fluxions 
obscure mysteries. 

5. Differences, i.e. increments or decrements infinitely small, used by 

foreign mathematicians instead of fluxions or velocities of nascent 
and evanescent increments. 

6. Differences of various orders, i.e. quantities infinitely less than 

quantities infinitely little ; and infinitesimal parts of infinitesimals 
of infinitesimals, &c. without end or limit. 

7. Mysteries in faith unjustly objected against by those who admit them 

in science. 

8. Modern Analysts supposed by themselves to extend their views even 

beyond infinity : deluded by their own species or symbols. 

9. Method for finding the fluxion of a rectangle of two indeterminate 

quantities, shewed to be illegitimate and false. 
10. Implicit deference of mathematical men for the great author of 

fluxions. Their earnestness rather to go on fast and far, than to 

set out warily and see their way distinctly. 
n. Momentums difficult to comprehend. No middle quantity to be 

admitted between a finite quantity and nothing, without admitting 


12. The fluxion of any power of a flowing quantity. Lemma premised 

in order to examine the method for finding such fluxion. 

13. The rule for the fluxions of powers attained by unfair reasoning. 

14. The aforesaid reasoning farther unfolded, and shewed to be illogical. 

15. No true conclusion to be justly drawn by direct consequence from 

inconsistent suppositions. The same rules of right reason to be 
observed, whether men argue in symbols or in words. 


16. An hypothesis being destroyed, no consequence of such hypothesis 

to be retained. 

17. Hard to distinguish between evanescent increments and infinitesimal 

differences. Fluxions placed in various lights. The great author, 
it seems, not satisfied with his own notions. 

18. Quantities infinitely small supposed and rejected by Leibnitz and 

his followers. No quantity, according to them, greater or smaller 
for the addition or subduction of its infinitesimal. 

19. Conclusions to be proved by the principles, and not principles by the 


20. The geometrical Analyst considered as a logician ; and his dis 

coveries, not in themselves, but as derived from such principles 
and by such inferences. 

21. A tangent drawn to the parabola according to the calculus different ialis. 

Truth shewn to be the result of error, and how. 

22. By virtue of a twofold mistake Analysts arrive at truth, but not at 

science : ignorant how they come at their own conclusions. 

23. The conclusion never evident or accurate, in virtue of obscure or 

inaccurate premises. Finite quantities might be rejected as well 
as infinitesimals. 

24. The foregoing doctrine farther illustrated. 

25. Sundry observations thereupon. 

26. Ordinate found from the area by means of evanescent increments. 

27. In the foregoing case, the supposed evanescent increment is really a 

finite quantity, destroyed by an equal quantity with an opposite sign. 

28. The foregoing case put generally. Algebraical expressions com 

pared with the geometrical quantities. 

29. Correspondent quantities algebraical and geometrical equated. The 

analysis shewed not to obtain in infinitesimals, but it must also 
obtain in finite quantities. 

30. The getting rid of quantities by the received principles, whether of 

fluxions or of differences, neither good geometry nor good logic. 
Fluxions or velocities, why introduced. 

31. Velocities not to be abstracted from time and space : nor their 

proportions to be investigated or considered exclusively of time 
and space. 

32. Difficult and obscure points constitute the principles of the modern 

Analysis, and are the foundation on which it is built. 

33. The rational faculties whether improved by such obscure analytics. 

34. By what inconceivable steps finite lines are found proportional to 

fluxions. Mathematical infidels strain at a gnat and swallow 
a camel. 

35. Fluxions of infinitesimals not to be avoided on the received prin 

ciples. Nice abstractions and geometrical metaphysics. 

36. Velocities of nascent or evanescent quantities, whether in reality 

understood and signified by finite lines and species. 

37. Signs or exponents obvious ; but fluxions themselves not so. 

38. Fluxions, whether the velocities with which infinitesimal differences 

are generated. 

39. Fluxions of fluxions or second fluxions, whether to be conceived as 

velocities of velocities, or rather as velocities of the second nascent 


40. Fluxions considered, sometimes in one sense, sometimes in another ; 

one while in themselves, another in their exponents : hence con 
fusion and obscurity. 

41. Isocronal increments, whether finite or nascent, proportional to 

their respective velocities. 

42. Time supposed to be divided into moments : increments generated in 

those moments : and velocities proportional to those increments. 

43. Fluxions, second, third, fourth, &c., what they are, how obtained, 

and how represented. What idea of velocity in a moment of time 
and point of space. 

44. Fluxions of all orders inconceivable. 

45. Signs or exponents confounded with the fluxions. 

46. Series of expressions or of notes easily contrived. Whether a series 

of mere velocities, or of mere nascent increments corresponding 
thereunto, be as easily conceived. 

47. Celerities dismissed, and instead thereof ordinates and areas intro 

duced. Analogies and expressions useful in the modern quadratures, 
may yet be useless for enabling us to conceive fluxions. No right 
to apply the rules without knowledge of the principles. 

48. Metaphysics of modern Analysts most incomprehensible. 

49. Analysts employed about notional shadowy entities. Their logics as 

exceptionable as their metaphysics. 

50. Occasion of this address. Conclusion. Queries. 



1. THOUGH I am a stranger to your person, yet I am 
not, Sir, a stranger to the reputation you have acquired in 
that branch of learning which hath been your peculiar 
study ; nor to the authority that you therefore assume in 
things foreign to your profession ; nor to the abuse that 
you, and too many more of the like character, are known 
to make of such undue authority, to the misleading of 
unwary persons in matters of the highest concernment, 
and whereof your mathematical knowledge can by no 
means qualify you to be a competent judge. Equity 
indeed and good sense would incline one to disregard 
the judgment of men, in points which they have not 
considered or examined. But several who make the 
loudest claim to those qualities do nevertheless the very 
thing they would seem to despise, clothing themselves in 
the livery of other men s opinions, and putting on a general 
deference for the judgment of you, Gentlemen, who are 
presumed to be of all men the greatest masters of reason, 
to be most conversant about distinct ideas, and never to 
take things upon trust, but always clearly to see your way, 
as men whose constant employment is the deducing truth 
by the justest inference from the most evident principles. 
With this bias on their minds, they submit to your decisions 
where you have no right to decide. And that this is one 
short way of making Infidels, I am credibly informed. 

2. Whereas then it is supposed that you apprehend more 
distinctly, consider more closely, infer more justly, and 



conclude more accurately than other men, and that you 
are therefore less religious because more judicious, I shall 
claim the privilege of a Free-thinker ; and take the liberty 
to inquire into the object, principles, and method of demon 
stration admitted by the mathematicians of the present 
age, with the same freedom that you presume to treat the 
principles and mysteries of Religion ; to the end that all 
men may see what right you have to lead, or what en 
couragement others have to follow you. It hath been an 
old remark, that Geometry is an excellent Logic. And it 
must be owned that when the definitions are clear ; when 
the postulata cannot be refused, nor the axioms denied ; 
when from the distinct contemplation and comparison of 
figures, their properties are derived, by a perpetual well- 
connected chain of consequences, the objects being still 
kept in view, and the attention ever fixed upon them ; 
there is acquired a habit of reasoning, close and exact and 
methodical which habit strengthens and sharpens the 
mind, and being transferred to other subjects is of general 
use in the inquiry after truth. But how far this is the 
case of our geometrical analysts, it may be worth while to 

3. The Method of Fluxions is the general key by help 
whereof the modern mathematicians unlock the secrets of 
Geometry, and consequently of Nature. And, as it is that 
which hath enabled them so remarkably to outgo the 
ancients in discovering theorems and solving problems, 
the exercise and application thereof is become the main 
if not sole employment of all those who in this age pass 
for profound geometers. But whether this method be 
clear or obscure, consistent or repugnant, demonstrative 
or precarious, as I shall inquire with the utmost im 
partiality, so I submit my inquiry to your own judgment, 
and that of every candid reader. Lines are supposed to 
be generated 1 by the motion of points, planes by the 
motion of lines, and solids by the motion of planes. And 

1 \Introd. ad Quadraturatn Cur- and also in the Calculus of the 

varum.~\ AUTHOR. In this and continental mathematicians, which 

the three following sections, we are alleged to make no less demand 

have a summary of mysteries in- on final faith than the mysteries 

volved in the Newtonian fluxions, that religion involves. 


whereas quantities generated in equal times are greater or 
lesser according to the greater or lesser velocity where 
with they increase and are generated, a method hath been 
found to determine quantities from the velocities of their 
generating motions. And such velocities are called fluxions : 
and the quantities generated are called flowing quantities. 
These fluxions are said to be nearly as the increments of 
the flowing quantities, generated in the least equal particles 
of time; and to be accurately in the first proportion of the 
nascent, or in the last of the evanescent increments. Some 
times, instead of velocities, the momentaneous increments 
or decrements of undetermined flowing quantities are con 
sidered, under the appellation of moments. 

4. By moments we are not to understand finite parti 
cles. These are said not to be moments, but quantities 
generated from moments, which last are only the nascent 
principles of finite quantities. It is said that the minutest 
errors are not to be neglected in mathematics: that the 
fluxions are celerities, not proportional to the finite incre 
ments, though ever so small ; but only to the moments or 
nascent increments, whereof the proportion alone, and 
not the magnitude, is considered. And of the aforesaid 
fluxions there be other fluxions, which fluxions of flux 
ions are called second fluxions. And the fluxions of 
these second fluxions are called third fluxions: and so 
on, fourth, fifth, sixth, &c. ad infinitum. Now, as our Sense 
is strained and puzzled with the perception of objects 
extremely minute, even so the Imagination, which faculty 
derives from sense, is very much strained and puzzled to 
frame clear ideas of the least particles of time, or the least 
increments generated therein : and much more so to com 
prehend the moments, or those increments of the flowing 
quantities in statu nasccnti, in their very first origin or 
beginning to exist, before they become finite particles. 
And it seems still more difficult to conceive the abstracted 
velocities of such nascent imperfect entities. But the 
velocities of the velocities the second, third, fourth, and 
fifth velocities, c. exceed, if I mistake not, all human 
understanding. The further the mind analyseth and 
pursueth these fugitive ideas the more it is lost and be 
wildered ; the objects, at first fleeting and minute, soon 
vanishing out of sight. Certainly, in any sense, a second 

C 2 


or third fluxion seems an obscure Mystery. The incipient 
celerity of an incipient celerity, the nascent augment of 
a nascent augment, i. e. of a thing which hath no magni 
tudetake it in what light you please, the clear conception 
of it will, if I mistake not, be found impossible ; whether 
it be so or no I appeal to the trial of every thinking reader. 
And if a second fluxion be inconceivable, what are we to 
think of third, fourth, fifth fluxions, and so on without end ? 
5. The foreign mathematicians are supposed by some, 
even of our own, to proceed in a manner less accurate, 
perhaps, and geometrical, yet more intelligible. Instead 
of flowing quantities and their fluxions, they consider the 
variable finite quantities as increasing or diminishing by 
the continual addition or subduction of infinitely small 
quantities. Instead of the velocities wherewith increments 
are generated, they consider the increments or decrements 
themselves, which they call differences, and which are 
supposed to be infinitely small. The difference of a line 
is an infinitely little line ; of a plane an infinitely little 
plane. They suppose finite quantities to consist of parts 
infinitely little, and curves to be polygons, whereof the 
sides are infinitely little, which by the angles they make 
one with another determine the curvity of the line. Now 
to conceive a quantity infinitely small that is, infinitely 
less than any sensible or imaginable quantity, or any the 
least finite magnitude is, I confess, above my capacity. 
But to conceive a part of such infinitely small quantity that 
shall be still infinitely less than it, and consequently though 
multiplied infinitely shall never equal the minutest finite 
quantity, is, I suspect, an infinite difficulty to any man 
whatsoever ; and will be allowed such by those who 
candidly say what they think ; provided they really think 
and reflect, and do not take things upon trust. 

6. And yet in the calculus differentialts, which method 
serves to all the same intents and ends with that of fluxions, 
our modern analysts are not content to consider only the 
differences of finite quantities : they also consider the 
differences of those differences, and the differences of 
the differences of the first differences : and so on ad in- 
finitum. That is, they consider quantities infinitely less than 
the least discernible quantity; and others infinitely less 
than those infinitely small ones ; and still others infinitely 


less than the preceding infinitesimals, and so on without 
end or limit. Insomuch that we are to admit an infinite 
succession of infinitesimals, each infinitely less than the 
foregoing, and infinitely greater than the following. As 
there are first, second, third, fourth, fifth, &c. fluxions, 
so there are differences, first, second, third, fourth, &c. in 
an infinite progression towards nothing, which you still 
approach and never arrive at. And (which is most strange) 
although you should take a million of millions of these 
infinitesimals, each whereof is supposed infinitely greater 
than some other real magnitude, and add them to the least 
given quantity, it shall never be the bigger. For this is one 
of the modest postulata of our modern mathematicians, 
and is a corner-stone or ground-work of their speculations. 

7. All these points, I say, are supposed and believed by 
certain rigorous exactors of evidence in religion, men who 
pretend to believe no further than they can see. That 
men who have been conversant only about clear points 
should with difficulty admit obscure ones might not seem 
altogether unaccountable. But he who can digest a second 
or third fluxion, a second or third difference, need not, 
methinks, be squeamish about any point in divinity. 
There is a natural presumption that men s faculties are 
made alike. It is on this supposition that they attempt to 
argue and convince one another. What therefore shall 
appear evidently impossible and repugnant to one may be 
presumed the same to another. But with what appearance 
of reason shall any man presume to say that mysteries 
may not be objects of faith, at the same time that he 
himself admits such obscure mysteries to be the object 
of science * ? 

8. It must indeed be acknowledged the modern mathe 
maticians do not consider these points as mysteries, but 
as clearly conceived and mastered by their comprehensive 
minds. They scruple not to say that by the help of these 
new analytics they can penetrate into infinity itself: that 
they can even extend their views beyond infinity : that 
their art comprehends not only infinite, but infinite of 

1 Objects of science, i. e. ob- and physical science, as it is also at 
jects of the/<7/V/;, or intelligent trust. the root of religion and theology, 
which is at the root of mathematical 


infinite (as they express it), or an infinity of infinites. But, 
notwithstanding all these assertions and pretensions, it may 
be justly questioned whether, as other men in other 
inquiries are often deceived by words or terms, so they 
likewise are not wonderfully deceived and deluded by 
their own peculiar signs, symbols, or species. Nothing is 
easier than to devise expressions or notations for fluxions 
and infinitesimals of the first, second, third, fourth, and 
subsequent orders, proceeding in the same regular form 

without end or limit x. x. x. x.^&c. or dx. ddx. dddx. ddddx. 
&c. These expressions, indeed, are clear and distinct, and 
the mind finds no difficulty in conceiving them to be con 
tinued beyond any assignable bounds. But if we remove 
the veil and look underneath, if, laying aside the expres 
sions, we set ourselves attentively to consider the things 
themselves which are supposed to be expressed or marked 
thereby, we shall discover much emptiness, darkness, and 
confusion ; nay, if I mistake not, direct impossibilities and 
contradictions. Whether this be the case or no, every 
thinking reader is entreated to examine and judge for 

9. Having considered tne object, I proceed to consider 
the principles of this new analysis by momentums, fluxions, 
or infinitesimals ; wherein if it shall appear that your 
capital points, upon which the rest are supposed to depend, 
include error and false reasoning ; it will then follow that 
you, who are at a loss to conduct yourselves, cannot with 
any decency set up for guides to other men. The main 
point in the method of fluxions is to obtain the fluxion or 
momentum of the rectangle or product of two intermediate 
quantities. Inasmuch as from thence are derived rules 
for obtaining the fluxions of all other products and powers; 
be the coefficients or the indexes what they will, integers 
or fractions, rational or surd. Now, this fundamental 
point one would think should be very clearly made out, 
considering how much is built upon it, and that its influ 
ence extends throughout the whole analysis. But let the 
reader judge. This is given for demonstration \ Suppose 

1 Philosophies Naiuralis Pnncipia Mathcnmtica. Lib. II. lem. 2.] 


the product or rectangle A B increased by continual motion : 
and that the momentaneous increments of the sides A 
and B are a and b. When the sides A and B were defi 
cient, or lesser by one half of their moments, the rect 
angle was ^A^\axB^\b t i.e. AB-\aB-\bA+\ab. 
And as soon as the sides A and B are increased by the 
other two halves of their moments, the rectangle becomes 
~A + \axI*+\b or AB + \aB+\bA + \ab. From the 
latter rectangle subduct the former, and the remaining dif 
ference will be aB + bA. Therefore the increment of the 
rectangle generated by the entire increments a and b is 
aB+bA. Q.E.D. But it is plain that the direct and 
true method to obtain the moment or increment of the rect 
angle AB, is to take the sides as increased by their whole 
increments, and so multiply them together, A + a by 
B + b, the product whereof AB + aB + bA+ab is the aug 
mented rectangle; whence, if we subduct AB the remainder 
aB + bA +ab will be the true increment of the rectangle, 
exceeding that which was obtained by the former illegiti 
mate and indirect method by the quantity ab. And this 
holds universally by the quantities a and b be what they 
will, big or little, finite or infinitesimal, increments, moments, 
or velocities. Nor will it avail to say that ab is a quantity 
exceeding small : since we are told that in rebus mathema- 
ticis errorcs qiiam minimi non sunt contcmmndi, 

10. Such reasoning as this for demonstration, nothing 
but the obscurity of the subject could have encouraged or 
irrduced the great author of the fluxionary method to put 
upon his followers, and nothing but an implicit deference 
to authority could move them to admit. The case indeed 
is difficult. There can be nothing done till you have got 
rid of the quantity a b. In order to this the notion of 
fluxions is shifted : it is placed in various lights : points 
which should be clear as first principles are puzzled ; and 
terms which should be steadily used are ambiguous. But, 
notwithstanding all this address and skill, the point of 

fetting rid of a b cannot be obtained by legitimate reasoning, 
f a man, by methods not geometrical or demonstrative, 
shall have satisfied himself of the usefulness of certain 
rules ; which he afterwards shall propose to his disciples 

1 \Introd, ad Quadratiiram Curvarmji.~\ AUTHOR. 


for undoubted truths ; which he undertakes to demonstrate 
in a subtle manner, and by the help of nice and intricate 
notions ; it is not hard to conceive that such his disciples 
may, to save themselves the trouble of thinking, be inclined 
to confound the usefulness of a rule with the certainty of 
a truth, and accept the one for the other ; especially if they 
are men accustomed rather to compute than to think ; 
earnest rather to go on fast and far, than solicitous to set 
out warily and see their way distinctly. 

n. The points or mere limits of nascent lines are un 
doubtedly equal, as having no more magnitude one than 
another, a limit as such being no quantity. If by a 
momentum you mean more than the very initial limit, it 
must be either a finite quantity or an infinitesimal. But 
all finite quantities are expressly excluded from the notion 
of a momentum. Therefore the momentum must be an 
infinitesimal. And, indeed, though much artifice hath been 
employed to escape or avoid the admission of quantities 
infinitely small, yet it seems ineffectual. For aught I see, 
you can admit no quantity as a medium between a finite 
quantity and nothing, without admitting infinitesimals. 
An increment generated in a finite particle of time is itself 
a finite particle ; and cannot therefore be a momentum. 
You must therefore take an infinitesimal part of time 
wherein to generate your momentum. It is said, the 
magnitude of moments is not considered ; and yet these 
same moments are supposed to be divided into parts. 
This is not easy to conceive, no more than it is why we 
should take quantities less than A and B in order to 
obtain the increment of AB, of which proceeding it must 
be owned the final cause or motive is obvious ; but it is 
not so obvious or easy to explain a just and legitimate 
reason for it, or shew it to be geometrical. 

12. From the foregoing principle, so demonstrated, the 
general rule for finding the fluxion of any power of a 
flowing quantity is derived . But, as there seems to have 
been some inward scruple or consciousness of defect in 
the foregoing demonstration, and as this finding the fluxion 
of a given power is a point of primary importance, it hath 
therefore been judged proper to demonstrate the same in 

1 [Philosnfln ee Nfifnralfs Friitripia Matlumati.a, Lib. II. lem. 2.] 


a different manner, independent of the foregoing demon 
stration. But whether this other method be more legiti 
mate and conclusive than the former, I proceed now to 
examine ; and in order thereto shall premise the following 
lemma : If, with a view to demonstrate any proposition, 
a certain point is supposed, by virtue of which certain 
other points are attained ; and such supposed point be 
itself afterwards destroyed or rejected by a contrary 
supposition ; in that case, all the other points attained 
thereby, and consequent thereupon, must also be destroyed 
and rejected, so as from thenceforward to be no more 
supposed or applied in the demonstration. This is so 
plain as to need no proof. 

13. Now, the other method of obtaining a rule to find 
the fluxion of any power is as follows. Let the quantity .Y 
flow uniformly, and be it proposed to find the fluxion of .r". 
In the same time that x by flowing becomes x+o, the 
power .r" becomes .v+oj", i.e. by the method of infinite 

111! 11 

.v" + ;/o.v"~ + ------ oox"~- + &c.. 


and the increments 

1111 11 
o and nox + oo.r"~ 2 + &c. 


are one to another as 

Let now the increments vanish, and their last proportion 
will be i to jix"~ } . But it should seem that this reasoning 
is not fair or conclusive. For when it is said, let the 
increments vanish, i.e. let the increments be nothing, or 
let there be no increments, the former supposition that the 
increments were something, or that there were increments, 
is destroyed, and yet a consequence of that supposition, 
i. e. an expression got by virtue thereof, is retained. 
Which, by the foregoing lemma, is a false way of reasoning. 
Certainly when we suppose the increments to vanish, we 
must suppose their proportions, their expressions, and 
everything else derived from the supposition of their exist 
ence, to vanish with them. 


14. To make this point plainer, I shall unfold the reason 
ing, and propose it in a fuller light to your view. It 
amounts therefore to this, or may in other words be thus 
expressed. I suppose that the quantity x flows, and by 
flowing is increased, and its increment I call o, so that by 
flowing it becomes x+o. And as x increaseth, it follows 
that every power of x is likewise increased in a due pro 
portion. Therefore as x becomes x+o, x n will become 
x + o\ " : that is, according to the method of infinite series, 

-^ + &c. 

And if from the two augmented quantities we subduct the 
root and the power respectively, we shall have remaining 
the two increments, to wit, 

nn n 

o and nox l -\ oox. ; 2 + &c. 

which increments, being both divided by the common 
divisor o, yield the quotients 


which are therefore exponents of the ratio of the incre 
ments. Hitherto I have supposed that x flows, that x hath 
a real increment, that o is something. And I have pro 
ceeded all along on that supposition, without which I should 
not have been able to have made so much as one single 
step. From that supposition it is that I get at the incre 
ment of x", that I am able to compare it with the increment 
of x, and that I find the proportion between the two 
increments. I now beg leave to make a new supposition 
contrary to the first, i. e. I will suppose that there is no 
increment of x, or that o is nothing ; which second sup 
position destroys my first, and is inconsistent with it, and 
therefore with everything that supposeth it. I do never 
theless beg leave to retain nx n ~\ which is an expression 
obtained in virtue of my first supposition, which necessarily 
presupposed such supposition, and which could not be 
obtained without it. All which seems a most inconsistent 


way of arguing, and such as would not be allowed of in 

15. Nothing is plainer than that no just conclusion can 
be directly drawn from two inconsistent suppositions. 
You may indeed suppose anything possible ; but after 
wards you may not suppose anything that destroys what 
you first supposed : or, if you do, you must begin de novo. 
If therefore you suppose that the augments vanish, i. e. 
that there are no augments, you are to begin again and 
see what follows from such supposition. But nothing will 
follow to your purpose. You cannot by that means ever 
arrive at your conclusion, or succeed in what is called by 
the celebrated author, the investigation of the first or last 
proportions of nascent and evanescent quantities, by insti 
tuting the analysis in finite ones. I repeat it again : you 
are at liberty to make any possible supposition : and you 
may destroy one supposition by another : but then you may 
not retain the consequences, or any part of the conse 
quences, of your first supposition so destroyed. I admit 
that signs may be made to denote either anything or 
nothing : and consequently that in the original notation 
x+ o, o might have signified either an increment or nothing. 
But then, which of these soever you make it signify, you 
must argue consistently with such its signification, and 
not proceed upon a double meaning : which to do were 
a manifest sophism. Whether you argue in symbols or in 
words the rules of right reason are still the same. Nor 
can it be supposed you will plead a privilege in mathematics 
to be exempt from them. 

16. If you assume at first a quantity increased by 
nothing, and in the expression x+o, o stands for nothing, 
upon this supposition, as there is no increment of the 
root, so there will be no increment of the power ; and 
consequently there will be none except the first of all 
those members of the series constituting the power of 
the binomial ; you will therefore never come at your 
expression of a fluxion legitimately by such method. Hence 
you are driven into the fallacious way of proceeding to 
a certain point on the supposition of an increment, and 
then at once shifting your supposition to that of no incre 
ment. There may seem great skill in doing this at a 
certain point or period. Since, if this second supposition 


had been made before the common division by o, all had 
vanished at once, and you must have got nothing by your 
supposition. Whereas, by this artifice of first dividing 
and then changing your supposition, you retain i and 
nx n -\ But, notwithstanding all this address to cover it, 
the fallacy is still the same. For, whether it be done 
sooner or later, when once the second supposition or 
assumption is made, in the same instant the former as 
sumption and all that you got by it is destroyed, and goes 
out together. And this is universally true, be the subject 
what it will, throughout all the branches of human know 
ledge ; in any other of which, I believe, men would hardly 
admit such a reasoning as this, which in mathematics is 
accepted for demonstration. 

17. It may not be amiss to observe that the method 
for finding the fluxion of a rectangle of two flowing quanti 
ties, as it is set forth in the Treatise of Quadratures, differs 
from the above-mentioned taken from the second book of 
the Principles, and is in effect the same with that used 
in the calculus differentialis . For the supposing a quantity 
infinitely diminished, and therefore rejecting it, is in effect 
the rejecting an infinitesimal ; and indeed it requires 
a marvellous sharpness of discernment to be able to dis 
tinguish between evanescent increments and infinitesimal 
differences. It may perhaps be said that the quantity 
being infinitely diminished becomes nothing, and so 
nothing is rejected. But, according to the received prin 
ciples, it is evident that no geometrical quantity can by 
any division or subdivision whatsoever be exhausted, 
or reduced to nothing. Considering the various arts and 
devices used by the great author of the fluxionary method ; 
in how many lights he placeth his fluxions ; and in what 
different ways he attempts to demonstrate the same point ; 
one would be inclined to think, he was himself suspicious 
of the justness of his own demonstrations, and that he 
was not enough pleased with any notion steadily to adhere 
to it. Thus much at least is plain, that he owned himself 
satisfied concerning certain points which nevertheless he 
would not undertake to demonstrate to others -. Whether 

1 [Analyse des Infmiment Petits, differs from the Newton of the 
Part I. prop. 2.1 AUTHOR. The Principia (1687). 
Newton of the Onadmtnra (1704) a [See Letter to Collins, Nov. 8. 


this satisfaction arose from tentative methods or induc 
tions, which have often been admitted by mathematicians 
(for instance, by Dr. Wallis, in his Arithmetic of Infinites), 
is what I shall not pretend to determine. But, whatever 
the case might have been with respect to the author, it 
appears that his followers have shewn themselves more 
eager in applying his method, than accurate in examining 
his principles. 

18. It is curious to observe what subtlety and skill this 
great genius employs to struggle with an insuperable 
difficulty ; and through what labyrinths he endeavours 
to escape the doctrine of infinitesimals ; which as it in 
trudes upon him whether he will or no, so it is admitted 
and embraced by others without the least repugnance ; 
Leibnitz and his followers in their calculus differentialis 
making no manner of scruple, first to suppose, and 
secondly to reject, quantities infinitely small ; with what 
clearness in the apprehension and justness in the reasoning, 
any thinking man, who is not prejudiced in favour of those 
things, may easily discern. The notion or idea of an 
infinitesimal quantity, as it is an object simply apprehended 
by the mind, hath been already considered . I shall now 
only observe as to the method of getting rid of such 
quantities, that it is done without the least ceremony. As 
in fluxions the point of first importance, and which paves 
the way to the rest, is to find the fluxion of a product 
of two indeterminate quantities, so in the calculus differen 
tialis (which method is supposed to have been borrowed 
from the former with some small alterations) the main 
point is to obtain the difference of such product. Now 
the rule for this is got by rejecting the product or rect 
angle of the differences. And in general it is supposed 
that no quantity is bigger or lesser for the addition or 
subduction of its infinitesimal : and that consequently no 
error can arise from such rejection of infinitesimals. 

19. And yet it should seem that, whatever errors arc 
admitted in the premises, pro portional errors ought to 
be apprehended in the conclusion, be they finite or infini 
tesimal : and that therefore the uKpifitia of geometry requires 
nothing should be neglected or rejected. In answer to 

1676.] AUTHOR. John Collins, the [Sect. 5 and 6.] AUTHOR. 

mathematician, born 1624, died 1683. 


this you will perhaps say, that the conclusions are accur 
ately true, and that therefore the principles and methods 
from whence they are derived must be so too. But this 
inverted way of demonstrating your principles by your 
conclusions, as it would be peculiar to you gentlemen, 
so it is contrary to the rules of logic. The truth of the 
conclusion will not prove either the form or the matter 
of a syllogism to be true ; inasmuch as the illation might 
have been wrong or the premises false, and the conclusion 
nevertheless true, though not in virtue of such illation 
or of such premises. I say that in every other science 
men prove their conclusions by their principles, and not 
their principles by the conclusions. But if in yours you 
should allow yourselves this unnatural way of proceeding, 
the consequence would be that you must take up with 
Induction, and bid adieu to Demonstration. And if you 
submit to this, your authority will no longer lead the way 
in points of Reason and Science. 

20. I have no controversy about your conclusions, but 
only about your logic and method : how you demonstrate ? 
what objects you are conversant with, and whether you 
conceive them clearly ? what principles you proceed upon ; 
how sound they may be ; and how you apply them ? It 
must be remembered that I am not concerned about the 
truth of your theorems, but only about the way of coming 
at them ; whether it be legitimate or illegitimate, clear 
or obscure, scientific or tentative. To prevent all possi 
bility of your mistaking me, I beg leave to repeat and 
insist, that I consider the geometrical analyst as a logician, 
i.e. so far forth as he reasons and argues ; and his mathe 
matical conclusions, not in themselves, but in their premises; 
not as true or false, useful or insignificant, but as derived 
from such principles, and by such inferences. And, for 
asmuch as it may perhaps seem an unaccountable paradox 
that mathematicians should deduce true propositions from 
false principles, be right in the conclusion and yet err 
in the premises ; I shall endeavour particularly to explain 
why this may come to pass, and shew how error may 
bring forth truth, though it cannot bring forth science. 

21. In order therefore to clear up this point, we will 
suppose for instance that a tangent is to be drawn to 


a parabola, and examine the progress of this affair as 
it is performed by infinitesimal differences. Let AB 
be a curve, the abscisse AP=x, the ordinate PB=y, the 
difference of the abscisse 
PM = dx, the difference T 
of the ordinate RN=dy. 
Now, by supposing the 
curve to be a polygon, 
and consequently BN, the 
increment or difference of 
the curve, to be a straight 
line coincident with the 
tangent, and the differ 
ential triangle BRN to 
be similar to the triangle 
TPB, the subtangent PT 
is found a fourth propor- 
tional to RN : RB : PB : 
that is, to dy : dx : y. 
Hence the subtangent 

. . . , y dx 
will be r- . But herein 

there is an error arising from the forementioned false 
supposition, whence the value of PT comes out greater 
than the truth : for in reality it is not the triangle RNB 
but RLE which is similar to PBT, and therefore (instead 
of RN) RL should have been the first term of the pro 
portion, i.e. RN+NL, i.e. dy + z: whence the true expres 
sion for the subtangent should have been -4- . There 

was therefore an error of defect in making dy the divisor ; 
which error was equal to 0, i.e. NL the line comprehended 
between the curve and the tangent. Now by the nature 
of the curve yy=px, supposing p to be the parameter, 

whence by the rule of differences 2,y dy=p dx and dy= . 

But if you multiply y + dy by itself, and retain the whole 
product without rejecting the square of the difference, it 
will then come out, by substituting the augmented quanti 
ties in the equation of the curve, that dy - 


truly. There was therefore an error of excess in making 
dy -, which followed from the erroneous rule of 

2 y 

differences. And the measure of this second error is 
-^ = s. Therefore the two errors being equal and con 

trary destroy each other ; the first error of defect being 
corrected by a second error of excess. 

22. If you had committed only one error, you would 
not have come at a true solution of the problem. But 
by virtue of a twofold mistake you arrive, though not at 
science, yet at truth. For science it cannot be called, 
when you proceed blindfold, and arrive at the truth not 
knowing how or by what means. To demonstrate that 

i is equal to - , let BR or dx be ///, and RN or dy 

be n. By the thirty-third proposition of the first book 
of the Conies of Apollonius, and from similar triangles, 

as 2 x to y so is m to n + z= . Likewise from the nature 


of the parabola yy + 2yn + nn = xp + nip, and 2yn + nn = 

, c vy 

mp: wherefore -- - - m\ and because yy = px, -~ 

will be equal to .v. Therefore substituting these values 
instead of in and x we shall have 



which being reduced gives 
nn dydy 


23. Now, I observe, in the first place, that the conclusion 
comes out right, not because the rejected square of dy 
was infinitely small, but because this error was com 
pensated by another contrary and equal error. I observe, 
in the second place, that whatever is rejected, be it ever 


so small, if it be real, and consequently makes a real 
error in the premises, it will produce a proportional real 
error in the conclusion. Your theorems therefore cannot 
be accurately true, nor your problems accurately solved, 
in virtue of premises which themselves are not accurate ; 
it being a rule in logic that conclusio sequitur partem 
debiliorem. Therefore, I observe, in the third place, that 
when the conclusion is evident and the premises obscure, 
or the conclusion accurate and the premises inaccurate, 
we may safely pronounce that such conclusion is neither 
evident nor accurate, in virtue of those obscure inaccurate 
premises or principles ; but in virtue of some other prin 
ciples, which perhaps the demonstrator himself never 
knew or thought of. I observe, in the last place, that 
in case the differences are supposed finite quantities ever 
so great, the conclusion will nevertheless come out the 
same : inasmuch as the rejected quantities are legitimately 
thrown out, not for their smallness, but for another reason, 
to wit, because of contrary errors, which, destroying each 
other, do, upon the whole, cause that nothing is really, 
though something is apparently, thrown out. And this 
reason holds equally with respect to quantities finite as 
well as infinitesimal, great as well as small, a foot or 
a yard long as well as the minutest increment. 

24. For the fuller illustration of this point, I shall con 
sider it in another light, and proceeding in finite quantities 
to the conclusion, I shall only then make use of one 
infinitesimal. Suppose the straight line MO cuts the 
curve AT in the points R and S. Suppose LR a 
tangent at the point R, AN the abscisse, NR and OS 
ordinates. Let AN be produced to O, and RP be drawn 
parallel to NO. Suppose AN = x, NR=y, NO = v, 
PS = s, the subsecant MN = s. Let the equation y = xx 
express the nature of the curve : and supposing y and x 
increased by their finite increments we get 

y + z = xx+2xv + vv : 

whence the former equation being subducted, there re 
mains s = 2xv + vv. And by reason of similar triangles 

PS:PR::NR:NM,i.e.s:v::y:s = ^, 




wherein if for y and z we substitute their values, we get 


2XV + VV~~ ~ 2X+V 

And supposing NO to be infinitely diminished, the sub- 
secant NM will in that case coincide with the subtangent 

NL, and v as an infinitesimal may be rejected, whence it 
follows that 

which is the true value of the subtangent. And, since this 
was obtained by one only error, i. e. by once ejecting one 
only infinitesimal, it should seem, contrary to what hath 
been said, that an infinitesimal quantity or difference may 
be neglected or thrown away, and the conclusion never 
theless be accurately true, although there was no double 
mistake or rectifying of one error by another, as in the 
first case. But, if this point be thoroughly considered, 
we shall find there is even here a double mistake, and 
that one compensates or rectifies the other. For, in the 
first place, it was supposed that when NO is infinitely 
diminished or becomes an infinitesimal then the subsecant 
NM becomes equal to the subtangent NL. But this is 


a plain mistake ; for it is evident that as a secant cannot 
be a tangent, so a subsecant cannot be a subtangent. Be 
the difference ever so small, yet still there is a difference. 
And, if NO be infinitely small, there will even then be an 
infinitely small difference between NM and NL. Therefore 
NM or S was too little for your supposition (when you 
supposed it equal to NL); and this error was compensated 
by a second error in throwing out v, which last error 
made s bigger than its true value, and in lieu thereof gave 
the value of the subtangent. This is the true state of the 
case, however it may be disguised. And to this in reality 
it amounts, and is at bottom the same thing, if we should 
pretend to find the subtangent by having first found, from 
the equation of the curve and similar triangles, a general 
expression for all subsecants, and then reducing the sub- 
tangent under this general rule, by considering it as the 
subsecant when v vanishes or becomes nothing. 

25. Upon the whole I observe, First, that v can never 
be nothing, so long as there is a secant. Secondly, that 
the same line cannot be both tangent and secant. Thirdly, 
that when v or NO l vanisheth, PS and SR do also vanish, 
and with them the proportionality of the similar triangles. 
Consequently the whole expression, which was obtained 
by means thereof and grounded thereupon, vanisheth when 
v vanisheth. Fourthly, that the method for finding secants 
or the expression of secants, be it ever so general, cannot 
in common sense extend any farther than to all secants 
whatsoever : and, as it necessarily supposed similar tri 
angles, it cannot be supposed to take place where there 
are not similar triangles. Fifthly, that the subsecant will 
always be less than the subtangent, and can never coincide 
with it ; which coincidence to suppose would be absurd ; 
for it would be supposing the same line at the same time 
to cut and not to cut another given line ; which is a manifest 
contradiction, such as subverts the hypothesis and gives 
a demonstration of its falsehood. Sixthly, if this be not 
admitted, I demand a reason why any other apagogical 
demonstration, or demonstration ad absurdum should be 
admitted in geometry rather than this : or that some real 
difference be assigned between this and others as such. 

1 [See the foregoing figure.] AUTHOR. 


Seventhly, I observe that it is sophistical to suppose NO 
or RP, PS, and SR to be finite real lines in order to form 
the triangle, RPS, in order to obtain proportions by 
similar triangles ; and afterwards to suppose there are no 
such lines, nor consequently similar triangles, and never 
theless to retain the consequence of the first supposition, 
after such supposition hath been destroyed by a contrary 
one. Eighthly, that although, in the present case, by 
inconsistent suppositions truth may be obtained, yet such 
truth is not demonstrated : that such method is not con 
formable to the rules of logic and right reason : that, how 
ever useful it may be, it must be considered only as a 
presumption, as a knack, an art, rather an artifice, but not 
a scientific demonstration. 

26. The doctrine premised may be farther illustrated 
by the following simple and easy case, wherein I shall pro 
ceed by evanescent increments. Suppose ABx, BCy, 
BD o, and that xx is equal 
to the area ABC : it is pro 
posed to find the ordinatejy 
or BC. When x by flowing 
becomes x+o, then xx be 
comes xx + 2: \o + 00: and the 
area ABC becomes ADH, 
and the increment of xx will 
be equal to BDHC, the in 
crement of the area, i.e. to 
BCFD+CFH. And if we 
suppose the curvilinearspace 
CFH to be qoo, then 

2 xo + oo yo + qoo, 

which divided by o gives 

2xo=y+qo. And, supposing o to vanish, -2.x y, in which 
case ACH will be a straight line, and the areas ABC, 
CFH triangles. Now with regard to this reasoning, it 
hath been already remarked 1 , that it is not legitimate or 
logical to suppose o to vanish, i. e. to be nothing, i. e. that 
there is no increment, unless we reject at the same time 
with the increment itself every consequence of such incre- 

[Sect. 12 and 13 supra. } AUTHOR. 


nicnt, i. e. whatsoever could not be obtained by supposing 
such increment. It must nevertheless be acknowledged 
that the problem is rightly solved, and the conclusion true, 
to which we are led by this method. It will therefore be 
asked, how comes it to pass that the throwing out o is 
attended with no error in the conclusion ? I answer, the 
true reason hereof is plainly this : because q being unit, 
qo is equal to o : and therefore 

2.V+0 qo=y = 2,x, 

the equal quantities qo and o being destroyed by contrary 

27. As, on the one hand, it were absurd to get rid of o by 
saying, Let me contradict myself; let me subvert my own 
hypothesis ; let me take it for granted that there is no 
increment, at the same time that I retain a quantity which 
I could never have got at but by assuming an increment : 
so, on the other hand, it would be equally wrong to imagine 
that in a geometrical demonstration we may be allowed 
to admit any error, though ever so small, or that it is 
possible, in the nature of things, an accurate conclusion 
should be derived from inaccurate principles. Therefore 
o cannot be thrown out as an infinitesimal, or upon the 
principle that infinitesimals may be safely neglected ; but 
only because it is destroyed by an equal quantity with 
a negative sign, whence o po is equal to nothing. And 
as it is illegitimate to reduce an equation, by subducting 
from one side a quantity when it is not to be destroyed, 
or when an equal quantity is not subducted from the other 
side of the equation : so it must be allowed a very logical 
and just method of arguing to conclude that if from equals 
either nothing or equal quantities are subducted they shall 
still remain equal. And this is a true reason why no error 
is at last produced by the rejecting of o. Which therefore 
must not be ascribed to the doctrine of differences, or 
infinitesimals, or evanescent quantities, or momentums, 
or fluxions. 

28. Suppose the case to be general, and that x" is equal 
to the area ABC, whence by the method of fluxions the 
ordinate is found nx n ~ l , which we admit for true, and shall 
inquire how it is arrived at. Now if we are content to 
come at the conclusion in a summary way, by supposing 


that the ratio of the fluxions of x and x n is found * to 
be i and nx n ~\ and that the ordinate of the area is con 
sidered as its fluxion, we shall not so clearly see our way, 
or perceive how the truth comes out that method as we 
have shewed before being obscure and illogical. But if 
we fairly delineate the area and its increment, and divide 
the latter into two parts BCFD and CFH 2 , and proceed 
regularly by equations between the algebraical and geo 
metrical quantities, the reason of the thing will plainly 
appear. For, as x n is equal to the area ABC, so is the 
increment of x n equal to the increment of the area, i. e. to 
BDHC ; that is to say 

nox n ~ l + nn ~- H oox" ~ 2 + &c. = BDFC+ CFH. 

And only the first members on each side of the equation 
being retained, nox n ~ 1 = BDFC: and dividing both sides 
by o or BD, we shall get nx n ~ ] = BC. Admitting therefore 
that the curvilinear space CFH is equal to the rejectaneous 

and that when this is rejected on one side, that is rejected 
on the other, the reasoning becomes just and the conclusion 
true. And it is all one whatever magnitude you allow to 
BD, whether that of an infinitesimal difference or a finite 
increment ever so great. It is therefore plain that the 
supposing the rejectaneous algebraical quantity to be an 
infinitely small or evanescent quantity, and therefore to be 
neglected, must have produced an error, had it not been 
for the curvilinear spaces being equal thereto, and at the 
same time subducted from the other part or side of the 
equation, agreeably to the axiom, If from equals you subduct 
equals, the remainders will be equal. For those quantities 
which by the analysts are said to be neglected, or made 
to vanish, are in reality subducted. If therefore the con 
clusion be true, it is absolutely necessary that the finite 

1 [Sect. 13.] AUTHOR. 

2 [See the figure in sect. 26.] AUTHOR. 


space CFH be equal to the remainder of the increment 
expressed by 

equal, I say, to the finite remainder of a finite increment. 

29. Therefore, be the power what you please, there will 
arise on one side an algebraical expression, on the other 
a geometrical quantity, each of which naturally divides 
itself into three members. The algebraical or fluxionary 
expression, into one which includes neither the expression 
of the increment of the absciss nor of any power thereof; 
another which includes the expression of the increment 
itself; and the third including the expression of the powers 
of the increment. The geometrical quantity also or whole 
increased area consists of three parts or members the 
first of which is the given area ; the second a rectangle 
under the ordinate and the increment of the absciss ; and 
the third a curvilinear space. And, comparing the homo 
logous or correspondent members on both sides, we find 
that as the first member of the expression is the expression 
of the given area, so the second member of the expression 
will express the rectangle or second member of the geo 
metrical quantity, and the third, containing the powers 
of the increment, will express the curvilinear space, or 
third member of the geometrical quantity. This hint may 
perhaps be further extended, and applied to good purpose, 
by those who have leisure and curiosity for such matters. 
The use I make of it is to shew, that the analysis cannot 
obtain in augments or differences, but it must also obtain 
in finite quantities, be they ever so great, as was before 

30. It seems therefore, upon the whole, that we may 
safely pronounce the conclusion cannot be right, if in order 
thereto any quantity be made to vanish, or be neglected 
except that either one error is redressed by another ; or 
that, secondly, on the same side of an equation equal 
quantities are destroyed by contrary signs, so that the 
quantity we mean to reject is first annihilated ; or, lastly, 
that from the opposite sides equal quantities are subducted. 
And therefore to get rid of quantities by the received 
principles of fluxions or of differences is neither good 


geometry nor good logic. When the augments vanish, 
the velocities also vanish. The velocities or fluxions are 
said to be primo and ultimo, as the augments nascent and 
evanescent. Take therefore the ratio of the evanescent 
quantities, it is the same with that of the fluxions. It will 
therefore answer all intents as well. Why then are fluxions 
introduced ? Is it not to shun or rather to palliate the use 
of quantities infinitely small? But we have no notion 
whereby to conceive and measure various degrees of 
velocity besides space and time ; or, when the times are 
given, besides space alone. We have even no notion of 
velocity prescinded from time and space. When therefore 
a point is supposed to move in given times, we have no 
notion of greater or lesser velocities, or of proportions 
between velocities, but only of longer or shorter lines, and 
of proportions between such lines generated in equal parts 
of time. 

31. A point may be the limit of a line : a line may be 
the limit of a surface : a moment may terminate time. But 
how can we conceive a velocity by the help of such limits ? 
It necessarily implies both time and space, and cannot be 
conceived without them. And if the velocities of nascent 
and evanescent quantities, i. e. abstracted from time and 
space, may not be comprehended, how can we comprehend 
and demonstrate their proportions ; or consider their 
rationcs primcc and ultimcc ? For, to consider the propor 
tion or ratio of things implies that such things have mag 
nitude ; that such their magnitudes may be measured, and 
their relations to each other known. But, as there is no 
measure of velocity except time and space, the proportion 
of velocities being only compounded of the direct propor 
tion of the spaces, and the reciprocal proportion of the 
times ; doth it not follow that to talk of investigating, 
obtaining, and considering the proportions of velocities, 
exclusively of time and space, is to talk unintelligibly ? 

32. But you will say that, in the use and application of 
fluxions, men do not overstrain their faculties to a precise 
conception of the above-mentioned velocities, increments, 
infinitesimals, or any other such-like ideas of a nature 
so nice, subtle, and evanescent. And therefore you will 
perhaps maintain that problems may be solved without 
those inconceivable suppositions ; and that, consequently, 


the doctrine of fluxions, as to the practical part, stands 
clear of all such difficulties. I answer that if in the use or 
application of this method those difficult and obscure points 
are not attended to, they are nevertheless supposed. They 
are the foundations on which the moderns build the prin 
ciples on which they proceed, in solving problems and 
discovering theorems. It is with the method of fluxions 
as with all other methods, which presuppose their respec 
tive principles and are grounded thereon ; although the 
rules may be practised by men who neither attend to, nor 
perhaps know the principles. In like manner, therefore, 
as a sailor may practically apply certain rules derived from 
astronomy and geometry, the principles whereof he doth 
not understand ; and as any ordinary man may solve divers 
numerical questions, by the vulgar rules and operations 
of arithmetic, which he performs and applies without 
knowing the reasons of them : even so it cannot be denied 
that you may apply the rules of the fluxionary method : 
you may compare and reduce particular cases to general 
forms : you may operate and compute and solve problems 
thereby, not only without an actual attention to, or an 
actual knowledge of, the grounds of that method, and the 
principles whereon it depends, and whence it is deduced, 
but even without having ever considered or comprehended 

33. But then it must be remembered that in such case, 
although you may pass for an artist, computist, or analyst, 
yet you may not be justly esteemed a man of science and 
demonstration. Nor should any man, in virtue of being 
conversant in such obscure analytics, imagine his rational 
faculties to be more improved than those of other men 
which have been exercised in a different manner and on 
different subjects; much less erect himself into a judge 
and an oracle concerning matters that have no sort of 
connexion with or dependence on those species, symbols, 
or signs, in the management whereof he is so conver 
sant and expert. As you, who are a skilful computist or 
analyst, may not therefore be deemed skilful in anatomy ; 
or vice versa, as a man who can dissect with art may, 
nevertheless, be ignorant in your art of computing : even 
so you may both, notwithstanding your peculiar skill in 
your respective arts, be alike unqualified to decide upon 


logic, or metaphysics, or ethics, or religion. And this 
would be true, even admitting that you understood your 
own principles and could demonstrate them. 

34. If it is said that fluxions may be expounded or 
expressed by finite lines proportional to them ; which finite 
lines, as they may be distinctly conceived and known and 
reasoned upon, so they may be substituted for the fluxions, 
and their mutual relations or proportions be considered as 
the proportions of fluxions by which means the doctrine 
becomes clear and useful : I answer that if, in order to 
arrive at these finite lines proportional to the fluxions, 
there be certain steps made use of which are obscure and 
inconceivable, be those finite lines themselves ever so 
clearly conceived, it must nevertheless be acknowledged 
that your proceeding is not clear nor your method scien 
tific. For instance, it is supposed that AB being the 

absciss, BC the ordinate, and VCH a tangent of the curve 
AC, Bb or CE the increment of the absciss, EC the incre 
ment of the ordinate, which produced meets VH in the 
point T and Cc the increment of the curve. The right line 
Cc being produced to K, there are formed three small 
triangles, the rectilinear CEc, the mixtilinear CEc, and the 
rectilinear triangle CET. It is evident these three triangles 
are different from each other, the rectilinear CEc being 
less than the mixtilinear CEc, whose sides are the three 
increments above mentioned, and this still less than the 
triangle CET. It is supposed that the ordinate be moves 
into the place BC, so that the point c is coincident with 
the point C ; and the right line CK, and consequently the 
curve Cc, is coincident with the tangent CH. In which 
case the mixtilinear evanescent triangle CEc will, in its 
last form, be similar to the triangle CET: and its evanes- 


cent sides CE, EC, and Cc, will be proportional to CE, ET, 
and CT, the sides of the triangle CRT. And therefore it 
is concluded that the fluxions of the lines AB, BC, and 
AC, being in the last ratio of their evanescent increments, 
are proportional to the sides of the triangle CET, or, which 
is all one, of the triangle VBC similar thereunto . It is 
particularly remarked and insisted on by the great author, 
that the points C and c must not be distant one from 
another, by any the least interval whatsoever : but that, in 
order to find the ultimate proportions of the lines CE, EC, 
and Cc (i. e. the proportions of the fluxions or velocities) 
expressed by the finite sides of the triangle VBC, the 
points C and c must be accurately coincident, i. e. one and 
the same. A point therefore is considered as a triangle, 
or a triangle is supposed to be formed in a point. Which 
to conceive seems quite impossible. Yet some there are 
who, though they shrink at all other mysteries, make no 
difficulty of their own, who strain at a gnat and swallow 
a camel. 

35. I know not whether it be worth while to observe, 
that possibly some men may hope to operate by symbols 
and suppositions, in such sort as to avoid the use of 
fluxions, momentums, and infinitesimals, after the follow 
ing manner. Suppose x to be an absciss of a curve, and 
z another absciss of the same curve. Suppose also that 
the respective areas are xxx and zzz\ and that s x is the 
increment of the absciss, and zzz xxx the increment of 
the area, without considering how great or how small 
those increments may be. Divide now zzzxxx by z x, 
and the quotient will be zz + zx+xx: and, supposing that 
z and x are equal, the same quotient will be %xx, which in 
that case is the ordinate, which therefore may be thus 
obtained independently of fluxions and infinitesimals. But 
herein is a direct fallacy : for, in the first place, it is sup 
posed that the abscisses z and x are unequal, without which 
supposition no one step could have been made ; and in 
the second place, it is supposed they are equal ; which is 
a manifest inconsistency, and amounts to the same thing 
that hath been before considered 2 . And there is indeed 
reason to apprehend that all attempts for setting the 

1 [I nt rod. ad Quadraluram CurvarumJ] AUTHOR. 

2 [Sect. 15.] AUTHOR. 


abstruse and fine geometry on a right foundation, and 
avoiding the doctrine of velocities, momentums, &c., will 
be found impracticable, till such time as the object and 
end of geometry are better understood than hitherto they 
seem to have been. The great author of the method of 
fluxions felt this difficulty, and therefore he gave in to 
those nice abstractions and geometrical metaphysics with 
out which he saw nothing could be done on the received 
principles : and what in the way of demonstration he hath 
done with them the reader will judge. It must, indeed, 
be acknowledged that he used fluxions, like the scaffold 
of a building, as things to be laid aside or got rid of as 
soon as finite lines were found proportional to them. But 
then these finite exponents are found by the help of 
fluxions. Whatever therefore is got by such exponents 
and proportions is to be ascribed to fluxions : which must 
therefore be previously understood. And what are these 
fluxions? The velocities of evanescent increments. And 
what are these same evanescent increments ? They are 
neither finite quantities, nor quantities infinitely small, nor 
yet nothing. May we not call them the ghosts of departed 
quantities ? 

36. Men too often impose on themselves and others as 
if they conceived and understood things expressed by 
signs, when in truth they have no idea, save only of the 
very signs themselves. And there are some grounds to 
apprehend that this may be the present case. The ve 
locities of evanescent or nascent quantities are supposed 
to be expressed, both by finite lines of a determinate 
magnitude, and by algebraical notes or signs : but I suspect 
that many who, perhaps never having examined the matter 
take it for granted, would, upon a narrow scrutiny, find it 
impossible to frame any idea or notion whatsoever of 
those velocities, exclusive of such finite quantities and 

a b c d e 

_ hrrH __ rrH _ -I- H 

K L m n o M p q r N O P 

Suppose the line KP described by the motion of a point 
continually accelerated, and that in equal particles of time 
the unequal parts KL, LM, MN, NO, &c. are generated. 


Suppose also that a, b, c, d, e, &c. denote the velocities of 
the generating point, at the several periods of the parts or 
increments so generated. It is easy to observe that these 
increments are each proportional to the sum of the ve 
locities with which it is described : that, consequently, the 
several sums of the velocities, generated in equal parts of 
time, may be set forth by the respective lines KL, LM, 
MN, &c. generated in the same times. It is likewise an 
easy matter to say, that the last velocity generated in the 
first particle of time may be expressed by the symbol a, 
the last in the second by b, the last generated in the third 
by c, and so on : that a is the velocity of LM in statu 
nascenti, and b, c, d, c, &c. are the velocities of the 
increments MN, NO, OP, &c. in their respective nascent 
estates. You may proceed and consider these velocities 
themselves as flowing or increasing quantities, taking 
the velocities of the velocities, and the velocities of the 
velocities of the velocities, i.e. the first, second, third, 
&c. velocities ad infmitum : which succeeding series of 
velocities may be thus expressed, 

a. b a. c2/) + a. d^c^b a <S;c., 

which you may call by the names of first, second, third, 
fourth fluxions. And for an apter expression you may 
denote the variable flowing line KL, KM, KN, &c. by 
the letter x ; and the first fluxions by x, the second by x, 

the third by x, and so on ad infmitum. 

37. Nothing is easier than to assign names, signs, or 
expressions to these fluxions ; and it is not difficult to 
compute and operate by means of such signs. But it will 
be found much more difficult to omit the signs and yet 
retain in our minds the things which we suppose to be 
signified by them. To consider the exponents, whether 
geometrical, or algebraical, or fluxionary, is no difficult 
matter. But to form a precise idea of a third velocity for 
instance, in itself and by itself, Hoc opus, hie labor. Nor 
indeed is it an easy point to form a clear and distinct idea 
of any velocity at all, exclusive of and prescinding from all 
length of time and space ; as also from all notes, signs, or 
symbols whatsoever. This, if I may be allowed to judge 
of others by myself, is impossible. To me it seems evident 


that measures and signs are absolutely necessary in order 
to conceive or reason about velocities ; and that conse 
quently, when we think to conceive the velocities simply 
and in themselves, we are deluded by vain abstractions. 

38. It may perhaps be thought by some an easier 
method of conceiving fluxions to suppose them the ve 
locities wherewith the infinitesimal differences are gene 
rated. So that the first fluxions shall be the velocities of 
the first differences, the second the velocities of the second 
differences, the third fluxions the velocities of the third 
differences, and so on ad infinitum. But, not to mention 
the insurmountable difficulty of admitting or conceiving 
infinitesimals, and infinitesimals of infinitesimals, &c., it 
is evident that this notion of fluxions would not consist 
with the great author s view ; who held that the minutest 
quantity ought not to be neglected, that therefore the 
doctrine of infinitesimal differences was not to be admitted 
in geometry, and who plainly appears to have introduced 
the use of velocities or fluxions, on purpose to exclude or 
do without them. 

39. To others it may possibly seem that we should form 
a juster idea of fluxions by assuming the finite, unequal, 
isochronal increments KL, LM, MN, &c., and consider 
ing them in statu nasccnti, also their increments in statu 
nascenti, and the nascent increments of those increments, 
and so on, supposing the first nascent increments to be 
proportional to the first fluxions or velocities, the nascent 
increments of those increments to be proportional to the 
second fluxions, the third nascent increments to be pro 
portional to the third fluxions, and so onwards. And, as 
the first fluxions are the velocities of the first nascent 
increments, so the second fluxions may be conceived to 
be the velocities of the second nascent increments, rather 
than the velocities of velocities. By which means the 
analogy of fluxions may seem better preserved, and the 
notion rendered more intelligible. 

40. And indeed it should seem that in the way of 
obtaining the second or third fluxion of an equation the 
given fluxions were considered rather as increments than 
velocities. But the considering them sometimes in one 
sense, sometimes in another, one while in themselves, 
another in their exponents, seems to have occasioned no 


small share of that confusion and obscurity which are 
found in the doctrine of fluxions. It may seem therefore 
that the notion might be still mended, and that instead of 
fluxions of fluxions, or fluxions of fluxions of fluxions, and 
instead of second, third, or fourth, &c. fluxions of a given 
quantity, it might be more consistent and less liable to 
exception to say, the fluxion of the first nascent incre 
ment, i. e. the second fluxion ; the fluxion of the second 
nascent increment, i.e. the third fluxion; the fluxion of 
the third nascent increment, i.e. the fourth fluxion which 
fluxions are conceived respectively proportional, each to 
the nascent principle of the increment succeeding that 
whereof it is the fluxion. 

41. For the more distinct conception of all which it may 
be considered that if the finite increment LM 1 be divided 
into the isochronal parts Lm, mn, no, oM ; and the incre 
ment MN into the parts Mp, pq, qr, rN isochronal to the 
former ; as the whole increments LM, MN are propor 
tional to the sums of their describing velocities, even so 
the homologous particles Lm, Mp are also proportional to 
the respective accelerated velocities with which they are 
described. And, as the velocity with which Mp is gene 
rated, exceeds that with which Lm was generated, even so 
the particle Mp exceeds the particle Lm. And in general, 
as the isochronal velocities describing the particles of MN 
exceed the isochronal velocities describing the particles of 
LM, even so the particles of the former exceed the cor 
respondent particles of the latter. And this will hold, be 
the said particles ever so small. MN therefore will exceed 
LM if they are both taken in their nascent states : and 
that excess will be proportional to the excess of the ve 
locity b above the velocity a. Hence we may see that this 
last account of fluxions comes, in the upshot, to the same 
thing with the first 2 . 

42. But, notwithstanding what hath been said, it must 
still be acknowledged that the finite particles Lm or Mp, 
though taken ever so small, are not proportional to the 
velocities a and b ; but each to a series of velocities 
changing every moment, or which is the same thing, to 
an accelerated velocity, by which it is generated during 

1 [See the foregoing scheme in 2 [See the foregoing scheme in 

sect. 36,] AUTHOR. sect. 36.] AUTHOR. 


a certain minute particle of time : that the nascent begin 
nings or evanescent endings of finite quantities, which are 
produced in moments of infinitely small parts of time, are 
alone proportional to given velocities : that therefore, in 
order to conceive the first fluxions, we must conceive time 
divided into moments, increments generated in those mo 
ments, and velocities proportional to those increments : 
that, in order to conceive second and third fluxions, we 
must suppose that the nascent principles or momentaneous 
increments have themselves also other momentaneous in 
crements, which are proportional to their respective gene 
rating velocities : that the velocities of these second 
momentaneous increments are second fluxions : those of 
their nascent momentaneous increments third fluxions. 
And so on ad infmitwn. 

43. By subducting the increment generated in the first 
moment from that generated in the second, we get the 
increment of an increment. And by subducting the velo 
city generating in the first moment from that generating 
in the second, we get a fluxion of a fluxion. In like 
manner, by subducting the difference of the velocities 
generating in the two first moments from the excess of the 
velocity in the third above that in the second moment, we 
obtain the third fluxion. And after the same analogy we 
may proceed to fourth, fifth, sixth fluxions, &c. And if 
we call the velocities of the first, second, third, fourth 
moments, a, b, c, d, the series of fluxions will be as above, 

ct. b ct. c 2b + a. d 3 c + 3 b a. cid infinitum, i.e. x .V. x\ 

x. ad infmitiim. 

44. Thus fluxions may be considered in sundry lights 
and shapes, which seem all equally difficult to conceive. 
And, indeed, as it is impossible to conceive velocity with 
out time or space, without either finite length or finite 
duration 1 , it must seem above the powers of men to 
comprehend even the first fluxions. And if the first are 
incomprehensible, what shall we say of the second and 
third fluxions, &c. ? He who can conceive the beginning 
of a beginning, or the end of an end, somewhat before the 
first or after the last, may be perhaps sharpsighted enough 

1 [Sect. 31.] AUTHOR. 


to conceive these things. But most men will, I believe, 
find it impossible to understand them in any sense 

45. One would think that men could not speak too 
exactly on so nice a subject. And yet, as was before 
hinted, we may often observe that the exponents of 
fluxions, or notes representing fluxions are compounded 
with the fluxions themselves. Is not this the case when, 
just after the fluxions of flowing quantities were said to be 
the celerities of their increasing, and the second fluxions 
to be the mutations of the first fluxions or celerities, we 

are told that z. z. z. z. z. z. l represents a series of quantities 
whereof each subsequent quantity is the fluxion of the 
preceding ; and each foregoing is a fluent quantity having 
the following one for its fluxion ? 

46. Divers series of quantities and expressions, geo 
metrical and algebraical, may be easily conceived, in lines, 
in surfaces, in species, to be continued without end or 
limit. But it will not be found so easy to conceive a 
series, either of mere velocities or of mere nascent incre 
ments, distinct therefrom and corresponding thereunto. 
Some perhaps may be led to think the author intended 
a series of ordinates, wherein each ordinate was the 
fluxion of the preceding and fluent of the following, i.e. 
that the fluxion of one ordinate was itself the ordinate of 
another curve ; and the fluxion of this last ordinate was 
the ordinate of yet another curve ; and so on ad infmitum. 
But who can conceive how the fluxion (whether velocity or 
nascent increment) or an ordinate should be itself an 
ordinate ? Of more than that each preceding quantity 
or fluent is related to its subsequent or fluxion, as the 
area of a curvilinear figure to its ordinate ; agreeably 
to what the author remarks, that each preceding quantity 
in such series is as the area of a curvilinear figure, 
whereof the absciss is z t and the ordinate is the following 
quantity ? 

47. Upon the whole it appears that the celerities are 
dismissed, and instead thereof areas and ordinates are 
introduced. But, however expedient such analogies or 
such expressions may be found for facilitating the modern 

1 \De Quadratura Curvaruml\ AUTHOR. 



quadratures, yet we shall not find any light given us 
thereby into the original real nature of fluxions ; or that 
we are enabled to frame from thence just ideas of fluxions 
considered in themselves. In all this the general ultimate 
drift of the author is very clear, but his principles are 
obscure. But perhaps those theories of the great author 
are not minutely considered or canvassed by his disciples ; 
who seem eager, as was before hinted, rather to operate 
than to know, rather to apply his rules and his forms than 
to understand his principles and enter into his notions. 
It is nevertheless certain that, in order to follow him in 
his quadratures, they must find fluents from fluxions ; and 
in order to this, they must know to find fluxions from 
fluents ; and in order to find fluxions, they must first 
know what fluxions are. Otherwise they proceed without 
clearness and without science. Thus the direct method 
precedes the inverse, and the knowledge of the principles 
is supposed in both. But as for operating according to 
rules, and by the help of general forms, whereof the 
original principles and reasons are not understood, this is 
to be esteemed merely technical. Be the principles there 
fore ever so abstruse and metaphysical, they must be 
studied by whoever would comprehend the doctrine of 
fluxions. Nor can any geometrician have a right to apply 
the rules of the great author, without first considering his 
metaphysical notions whence they were derived. These, 
how necessary soever in order to science which can 
never be obtained without a precise, clear, and accurate 
conception of the principles are nevertheless by several 
carelessly passed over ; while the expressions alone are 
dwelt on and considered and treated with great skill and 
management, thence to obtain other expressions by methods 
suspicious and indirect (to say the least) if considered in 
themselves, however recommended by Induction and 
Authority two motives which are acknowledged sufficient 
to beget a rational faith and moral persuasion, but nothing 

48. You may possibly hope to evade the force of all that 
hath been said, and to screen false principles and incon 
sistent reasonings, by a general pretence that these objec 
tions and remarks are Metaphysical* But this is a vain 


pretence. For the plain sense and truth of what is 
advanced in the foregoing remarks, I appeal to the 
understanding of every unprejudiced intelligent reader. 
To the same I appeal, whether the points remarked 
upon arc not most incomprehensible metaphysics. And 
metaphysics not of mine, but your own. I would 
not be understood to infer that your notions are false 
or vain because they are metaphysical. Nothing is 
either true or false for that reason. Whether a point 
be called metaphysical or no avails little. The question 
is, whether it be clear or obscure, right or wrong, well or 
ill deduced? 

49. Although momentaneous increments, nascent and 
evanescent quantities, fluxions and infinitesimals of all 
degrees, are in truth such shadowy entities, so difficult to 
imagine or conceive distinctly, that (to say the least) they 
cannot be admitted as principles or objects of clear and 
accurate science ; and although this obscurity and incom 
prehensibility of your metaphysics had been alone sufficient 
to allay your pretensions to evidence ; yet it hath, if I 
mistake not, been farther shewn, that your inferences are 
no more just than your conceptions are clear, and that 
your logics are as exceptionable as your metaphysics. It 
should seem, therefore, upon the whole, that your con 
clusions are not attained by just reasoning from clear 
principles : consequently, that the employment of modern 
analysts, however useful in mathematical calculations and 
constructions, doth not habituate and qualify the mind to 
apprehend clearly and infer justly ; and, consequently, 
that you have no right, in virtue of such habits, to dictate 
out of your proper sphere, beyond which your judgment is 
to pass for no more than that of other men 1 . 

50. Of a long time I have suspected that these modern 
analytics were not scientifical, and gave some hints thereof 

1 The inefficiency of the modern faculties that are concerned with 

mathematical analysis as an exer- the final problems of concrete 

cise of the spiritual life in man, reality to a state of atrophy, 

and accordingly the one-sidedness Berkeley condemns at once the 

of the culture which it affords, metaphysical inconsistency, and 

is a commonplace of educational the mathematical inconclusiveness 

and philosophical criticism. Ex- of certain mathematical minute 

elusive mathematicians reduce the philosophers. 

E 2 


to the public about twenty-five years ago . Since which 
time, I have been diverted by other occupations, and 
imagined I might employ myself better than in deducing 
and laying together my thoughts on so nice a subject. 
And though of late I have been called upon to make good 
my suggestions ; yet, as the person who made this call 
doth not appear to think maturely enough to understand 
either those metaphysics which he would refute, or mathe 
matics which he would patronize, I should have spared 
myself the trouble of writing for his conviction. Nor 
should I now have troubled you or myself with this 
address, after so long an intermission of these studies, 
were it not to prevent, so far as I am able, your imposing 
on yourself and others in matters of much higher moment 
and concern. And, to the end that you may more clearly 
comprehend the force and design of the foregoing remarks, 
and pursue them still farther in your own meditations, 
I shall subjoin the following Queries : 

Query i. Whether the object of geometry be not the 
proportions of assignable extensions ? And whether there 
be any need of considering quantities either infinitely great 
or infinitely small ? 

Qu. 2. Whether the end of geometry be not to measure 
assignable finite extension ? And whether this practical 
view did not first put men on the study of geometry ? 

Qu. 3. Whether the mistaking the object and end of 
geometry hath not created needless difficulties, and wrong 
pursuits in that science ? 

Qu. 4. Whether men may properly be said to proceed 
in a scientific method, without clearly conceiving the object 
they are conversant about, the end proposed, and the 
method by which it is pursued ? 

Qu. 5. Whether it doth not suffice, that every assignable 
number of parts may be contained in some assignable 
magnitude ? And whether it be not unnecessary, as well 
as absurd, to suppose that finite extension is infinitely 
divisible ? 

1 See Principles of Human Know- infinity, the following Queries may 

ledge, sect. 123 134, with which, be compared ; also Essay on Vision, 

as well as with the reasonings, in sect. 121-126; 149-160. Berkeley s 

the same treatise and in the De earliest publications (in 1707) are 

Afotu, against absolute space, time, mathematical, 
and motion, and on elimination of 


Qu. 6. Whether the diagrams in a geometrical demon 
stration are not to be considered as signs of all possible 
finite figures, of all sensible and imaginable extensions or 
magnitudes of the same kind ? 

Qu. 7. Whether it be possible to free geometry from 
insuperable difficulties and absurdities, so long as either 
the abstract general idea of extension, or absolute external 
extension be supposed its true object? 

Qu. 8. Whether the notions of absolute time, absolute 
place, and absolute motion be not most abstractedly meta 
physical ? Whether it be possible for us to measure, 
compute, or know them ? 

Qu. 9. Whether mathematicians do not engage them 
selves in disputes and paradoxes concerning what they 
neither do nor can conceive ? And whether the doctrine 
offerees be not a sufficient proof of this ? 

Qu. 10. Whether in geometry it may not suffice to 
consider assignable finite magnitude, without concerning 
ourselves with infinity ? And whether it would not be 
righter to measure large polygons having finite sides, 
instead of curves, than to suppose curves are polygons 
of infinitesimal sides, a supposition neither true nor con 
ceivable ? 

Qu. ii. Whether many points which are not readily 
assented to are not nevertheless true ? And whether 
those in the two following queries may not be of that 

Qu. 12. Whether it be possible that we should have had 
an idea or notion of extension prior to motion ? Or 
whether, if a man had never perceived motion, he would 
ever have known or conceived one thing to be distant from 
another 2 ? 

Ou. 13. Whether geometrical quantity hath co-existent 
parts ? And whether all quantity be not in a flux as well 
as time and motion ? 

Qu. 14. Whether extension can be supposed an attribute 
of a Being immutable and eternal ? 

Ou. 15. Whether to decline examining the principles, 

1 [See a Latin treatise De Motu, with these two pregnant Queries, 

published at London, in the year regarding the relation of sense- 

1721.] AUTHOR. presented motion to trinal ex- 

Compare the Essay on Vision tension. 


and unravelling the methods used in mathematics would 
not shew a bigotry in mathematicians? 

Qu. 16. Whether certain maxims do not pass current 
among analysts which are shocking to good sense ? And 
whether the common assumption, that a finite quantity 
divided by nothing is infinite, be not of this number ? 

Qu. 17. Whether the considering geometrical diagrams 
absolutely or in themselves, rather than as representatives 
of all assignable magnitudes or figures of the same kind, 
be not a principal cause of the supposing finite extension 
infinitely divisible; and of all the difficulties and absurdities 
consequent thereupon ? 

On. 18. Whether, from geometrical propositions being 
general, and the lines in diagrams being therefore general 
substitutes or representatives, it doth not follow that we 
may not limit or consider the number of parts into which 
such particular lines are divisible ? 

Qn. 19. When it is said or implied, that such a certain 
line delineated on paper contains more than any assignable 
number of parts, whether any more in truth ought to be 
understood, than that it is a sign indifferently representing 
all finite lines, be they ever so great. In which relative 
capacity it contains, i.e. stands for more than any assignable 
number of parts ? And whether it be not altogether 
absurd to suppose^a finite line, considered in itself or in its 
own positive nature, should contain an infinite number of 
parts ? 

Qu. 20. Whether all arguments for the infinite divisibility 
of finite extension do not suppose and imply, either general 
abstract ideas, or absolute external extension to be the 
object of geometry ? And, therefore, whether, along with 
those suppositions, such arguments also do not cease and 
vanish ? 

Qu. 21. Whether the supposed infinite divisibility of 
finite extension hath not been a snare to mathematicians 
and a thorn in their sides ? And whether a quantity 
infinitely diminished and a quantity infinitely small are 
not the same thing? 

Qu. 22. Whether it be necessary to consider velocities 
of nascent or evanescent quantities, or moments, or in 
finitesimals ? And whether the introducing of things so 
inconceivable be not a reproach to mathematics ? 


Qu. 23. Whether inconsistencies can be truths? 
Whether points repugnant and absurd are to be admitted 
upon any subjects, or in any science? And whether the 
use of infinites ought to be allowed as a sufficient 
pretext and apology for the admitting of such points in 
geometry ? 

On. 24. Whether a quantity be not properly said to be 
known, when we know its proportion to given quantities ? 
And whether this proportion can be known but by ex 
pressions or exponents, either geometrical, algebraical, or 
arithmetical? And whether expressions in lines or 
species can be useful but so far forth as they are reducible 
to numbers ? 

On. 25. Whether the finding out proper expressions or 
notations of quantity be not the most general character and 
tendency of the mathematics ? And arithmetical operation 
that which limits and defines their use ? 

On! 2.6. Whether mathematicians have sufficiently con 
sidered the analogy and use of signs? And how far the 
specific limited nature of things corresponds thereto ? 

On. 27. Whether because, in stating a general case of 
pure algebra, we are at full liberty to make a character 
denote either a positive or a negative quantity, or nothing 
at all, we may therefore, in a geometrical case, limited by 
hypotheses and reasonings from particular properties and 
relations of figures, claim the same licence ? 

Qu. 28. Whether the shifting of the hypothesis, or (as 
we may call it) the fallacia snpposilionis be not a sophism 
that far and wide infects the modern reasonings, both in 
the mechanical philosophy and in the abstruse and fine 
geometry ? 

Qu. 29. Whether we can form an idea or notion of 
velocity distinct from and exclusive of its measures, as we 
can of heat distinct from and exclusive of the degrees on 
the thermometer by which it is measured ? And whether 
this be not supposed in the reasonings of modern 
analysts ? 

Qu. 30. Whether motion can be conceived in a point of 
space ? And if motion cannot, whether velocity can ? 
And if not, whether a first or last velocity can be con 
ceived in a mere limit, either initial or final, of the described 
space ? 


Qu. 31. Where there are no increments, whether there 
can be any ratio of increments ? Whether nothings can 
be considered as proportional to real quantities ? Or 
whether to talk of their proportions be not to talk nonsense ? 
Also in what sense we are to understand the proportion of 
a surface to a line, of an area to an ordinate ? And whether 
species or numbers, though properly expressing quantities 
which are not homogeneous, may yet be said to express 
their proportion to each other? 

Qu. 32. Whether if all assignable circles may be squared, 
the circle is not, to all intents and purposes, squared as 
well as the parabola ? Or whether a parabolical area can 
in fact be measured more accurately than a circular ? 

Qu. 33. Whether it would not be righter to approximate 
fairly than to endeavour at accuracy by sophisms ? 

Qu. 34. Whether it would not be more decent to proceed 
by trials and inductions, than to pretend to demonstrate 
by false principles ? 

Qu. 35. Whether there be not a way of arriving at truth, 
although the principles are not scientific, nor the reasoning 
just ? And whether such a way ought to be called a knack 
or a science ? 

Qu. 36. Whether there can be science of the conclusion 
where there is not science of the principles ? And whether 
a man can have science of the principles without under 
standing them ? And therefore, whether the mathema 
ticians of the present age act like men of science, in taking 
so much more pains to apply their principles than to 
understand them ? 

Qu. 37. Whether the greatest genius wrestling with false 
principles may not be foiled ? And whether accurate 
quadratures can be obtained without new postulata or 
assumptions? And if not, whether those which are 
intelligible and consistent ought not to be preferred to 
the contrary ? See sect. 28 and 29. 

Qu. 38. Whether tedious calculations in algebra and 
fluxions be the likeliest method to improve the mind ? 
And whether men s being accustomed to reason altogether 
about mathematical signs and figures doth not make them 
at a loss how to reason without them ? 

Qu. 39. Whether, whatever readiness analysts acquire 
in stating a problem, or finding apt expressions for mathe- 


matical quantities, the same doth necessarily infer a propor 
tionable ability in conceiving and expressing other matters ? 

Qu. 40. Whether it be not a general case or rule, that 
one and the same coefficient dividing equal products gives 
equal quotients ? And yet whether such coefficient can be 
interpreted by o or nothing? Or whether any one will 
say that if the equation 2 x o = 5 x o, be divided by o, 
the quotients on both sides are equal ? Whether therefore 
a case may not be general with respect to all quantities 
and yet not extend to nothings, or include the case of 
nothing? And whether the bringing nothing under the 
notion of quantity may not have betrayed men into false 
reasoning ? 

Qu. 41. Whether in the most general reasonings about 
equalities and proportions men may not demonstrate as 
well as in geometry? Whether in such demonstrations 
they are not obliged to the same strict reasoning as in 
geometry? And whether such their reasonings are not 
deduced from the same axioms with those in geometry ? 
Whether therefore algebra be not as truly a science as 
geometry ? 

Qu. 42. Whether men may not reason in species as well 
as in words? Whether the same rules of logic do not 
obtain in both cases ? And whether we have not a right 
to expect and demand the .same evidence in both ? 

Qu. 43. Whether an algebraist, fluxionist, geometrician, 
or demonstrator of any kind can expect indulgence for 
obscure principles or incorrect reasonings ? And whether 
an algebraical note or species can at the end of a process 
be interpreted in a sense which could not have been sub 
stituted for it at the beginning? Or whether any particular 
supposition can come under a general case which doth not 
consist with the reasoning thereof? 

Qu. 44. Whether the difference between a mere computer 
and a man of science be not, that the one computes on 
principles clearly conceived, and by rules evidently demon 
strated, whereas the other doth not? 

Qu. 45. Whether, although geometry be a science, and 
algebra allowed to be a science, and the analytical a most 
excellent method, in the application, nevertheless, of the 
analysis to geometry, men may not have admitted false 
principles and wrong methods of reasoning? 


Ou. 46. Whether, although algebraical reasonings are 
admitted to be ever so just, when confined to signs or 
species as general representatives of quantity, you may not 
nevertheless fall into error, if, when you limit them to 
stand for particular things, you do not limit yourself to 
reason consistently with the nature of such particular 
things ? And whether such error ought to be imputed 
to pure algebra? 

On. 47. Whether the view of modern mathematicians 
doth not rather seem to be the coming at an expression by 
artifice, than the coming at science by demonstration ? 

On. 48. Whether there may not be sound metaphysics 
as well as unsound? Sound as well as unsound logic? 
And whether the modern analytics may not be brought 
under one of these denominations, and which ? 

On. 49. Whether there be not really a philosophia prinia, 
a certain transcendental science superior to and more 
extensive than mathematics, which it might behove our 
modern analysts rather to learn than despise ? 

On. 50. Whether, ever since the recovery of mathe 
matical learning, there have not been perpetual disputes 
and controversies among the mathematicians ? And 
whether this doth not disparage the evidence of their 
methods ? 

Ou. 51. Whether anything but metaphysics and logic 
can open the eyes of mathematicians and extricate them 
out of their difficulties ? 

On. 52. Whether, upon the received principles, a quantity 
can by any division or subdivision, though carried ever so 
far, be reduced to nothing? 

On. 53. Whether, if the end of geometry be practice, 
and this practice be measuring, and we measure only 

1 So Bacon : Because the distri- the former distribution, to erect 

butions and partitions of knowledge and constitute One Universal 

are not like several lines that meet Science, by the name of Philoso- 

in one angle, and so touch but in phia Prinia, Primitive or Summary 

a point ; but are like branches of Philosophy, as the main and com- 

a tree that meet in a stem, which mon way, before we come where 

hath a dimension and quantity of the ways part and divide them- 

entireness and continuance, before selves : which Science whether 

it come to discontinue and break I should report as deficient or no, 

itself into arms and boughs ; there- I stand doubtful. (Advancement of 

fore it is good, before we enter into Learning. Book II.) 


assignable extensions, it will not follow that unlimited ap 
proximations completely answer the intention of geometry? 

On. 54. Whether the same things which are now done 
by infinites may not be done by finite quantities ? And 
whether this would not be a great relief to the imagina 
tions and understandings of mathematical men ? 
Ou. 55. Whether those philomathematical physicians, 
anatomists, and dealers in the animal economy, who admit 
the doctrine of fluxions with an implicit faith, can with 
a good grace insult other men for believing what they do 
not comprehend 1 ? 

On, 56. Whether the corpuscularian, experimental, and 
mathematical philosophy, so much cultivated in the last 
age, hath not too much engrossed men s attention ; some 
part whereof it might have usefully employed ? 

Ou. 57. Whether, from this and other concurring causes, 
the minds of speculative men have not been borne down 
ward, to the debasing and stupifying of the higher faculties? 
And whether we may not hence account for that prevailing 
narrowness and bigotry among many who pass for men of 
science, their incapacity for things moral, intellectual, or 
theological, their proneness to measure all truths by sense 
and experience of animal life - ? 

On. 58. Whether it be really an effect of thinking, that 
the same men admire the great author 3 for his fluxions, 
and deride him for his religion ? 

On. 59. If certain philosophical virtuosi of the present 
age have no religion, whether it can be said to be want 
of faith ? 

Ou. 60. Whether it be not a juster way of reasoning, to 
recommend points of faith from their effects, than to demon 
strate mathematical principles by their conclusions ? 

On. 61. Whether it be not less exceptionable to admit 
points above reason than contrary to reason ? 

1 Seeing that at the point of its physical evolution in time is 

view of human understanding all a reason for rejecting mechanical 

science, including mathematical, science. 

must retire into mystery and so rest J Are not the habits thus formed 

at last in faith, the ultimate incom- an explanation of dogmatic agnos- 

prehensibilityof the universe under ticism and its narrow faith at the 

its religious conception is no more present time? Cf. Siris, sect. 331, 

an argii ncnt against theism than 332. 

the ultimate incomprehensibility of 3 Sir Isaac Newton. 


Qu. 62. Whether mysteries may not with better right be 
allowed of in Divine Faith than in Human Science * ? 

Ou. 63. Whether such mathematicians as cry out against 
mysteries have ever examined their own principles ? 

Qu. 64. Whether mathematicians, who are so delicate 
in religious points, are strictly scrupulous in their own 
science ? Whether they do not submit to authority, take 
things upon trust, and believe points inconceivable? 
Whether they have not their mysteries, and what is more, 
their repugnances and contradictions? 

Qu. 65. Whether it might not become men who are 
puzzled and perplexed about their own principles, to judge 
warily, candidly, and modestly concerning other matters ? 

Qu. 66. Whether the modern analytics do not furnish 
a strong argumentum ad homineni against the philomathe- 
matical infidels of these times ? 

Qu. 67. Whether it follows from the above-mentioned 
remarks, that accurate and just reasoning is the peculiar 
character of the present age ? And whether the modern 
growth of infidelity can be ascribed to a distinction so 
truly valuable 2 ? 

1 Yet the mathematicians tacitly free-thinkers are really minute 

proceed upon them in mathematics, philosophers, whose narrow vision 

while they complain of them in is confined to the data of sense, 

religion. For, does not all human and who fail to recognise the 

science finally rest on faith in supernatural in the natural, is the 

God? undertone alike of Alcipliron and 

- That those who claim to be the Analyst. 















The Minute Philosopher 

Veritas odium pant. TER. And. I. i. 41. 

Eim 8t o MaOrj/^ariKos xprJTai rofy Koivofs !5/<us, Kal ray TQVTMV apxas av 
irj Gfcuprjcai TTJS IIpwTijs QiXoffotpias. ARIST. Metaph. Lib. X. cap. 4. 

First publisiied in 1 735. 




1. WHEN I read your Defence of the British Matlic- 
maticians, I could not, Sir, but admire your courage in 
asserting with such undoubting assurance things so easily 
disproved. This to me seemed unaccountable, till I re 
flected on what you say (p. 32), when, upon my having 
appealed to every thinking reader, whether it be possible 
to frame any clear conception of Fluxions, you express 
yourself in the following manner Pray, Sir, who are 
those thinking readers you appeal to ? Are they geome 
tricians, or persons wholly ignorant of geometry? If the 
former, I leave it to them : if the latter, I ask, How well 
are they qualified to judge of the method of fluxions? 
It must be acknowledged you seem by this dilemma secure 
in the favour of one part of your readers, and the ignorance 
of the other. I am nevertheless persuaded there are fair 
and candid men among the mathematicians. And for those 
who are not mathematicians, I shall endeavour so to 
unveil this mystery, and put the controversy between us 
in such a light as that every reader of ordinary sense and 
reflexion may be a competent judge thereof. 

2. You express an extreme surprise and concern, that 
I should take so much pains to depreciate one of the noblest 
sciences, to disparage and traduce a set of learned men, 
whose labours so greatly conduce to the honour of this 
island (p. 5) ; to lessen the reputation and authority of Sir 
Isaac Newton and his followers, by shewing that they are 
not such masters of reason as they are generally presumed 
to be ; and to depreciate the science they profess, by 

1 See Editor s Preface to the Analyst, p. 9. 


demonstrating to the world that it is not of that clearness 
and certainty as is commonly imagined. All which, you 
insist, appears very strange to you and the rest of that 
famous University, who plainly see of how great use 
mathematical learning is to mankind. Hence you take 
occasion to declaim on the usefulness of mathematics in 
the several branches, and then to redouble your surprise 
and amazement (p. 12 and 20). To all which declamation 
I reply, that it is quite beside the purpose. For, I allow, 
and always have allowed, its full claim of merit to whatever 
is useful and true in the mathematics : but that which 
is not so, the less it employs men s time and thoughts the 
better. And, after all you have said or can say, I believe the 
unprejudiced reader will think with me, that things obscure 
are not therefore sacred ; and that it is no more a crime to 
canvass and detect unsound principles or false reasonings 
in mathematics than in any other part of learning. 

3. You are, it seems, much at a loss to understand 
the usefulness, or tendency, or prudence of my attempt. 
I thought I had sufficiently explained this in the Analyst. 
But for your farther satisfaction shall here tell you it is 
very well known that several persons who deride Faith 
and Mysteries in Religion admit the doctrine of Fluxions 
for true and certain. Now, if it be shewn that fluxions 
are really most incomprehensible Mysteries, and that 
those who believe them to be clear and scientific do 
entertain an implicit faith in the author of that method : 
will not this furnish a fair argumentum ad hominem against 
men who reject that very thing in religion which they 
admit in human learning ? And is it not a proper way to 
abate the pride, and discredit the pretensions of those who 
insist upon clear ideas in points of faith, if it be shewn 
that they do without them even in science? 

4. As to my timing this charge ; why now and not before, 
since I had published hints thereof many years ago 2 ? 
Surely I am obliged to give no account of this : if what 
hath been said in the Analyst be not sufficient. Suppose 
that I had not leisure, or that I did not think it expedient, 
or that I had no mind to it. When a man thinks fit to 

1 Also faith or trust in the fundamental principles of the modern 
analysis, notwithstanding their mysteriousness. 
* In the Principles. 


publish anything, either in mathematics or in any other 
part of learning, what avails it, or indeed what right hath 
any one to ask, Why at this or that time ; in this or that 
manner ; upon this or that motive? Let the reader judge 
if it suffice not that what I publish is true, and that I have 
a right to publish such truths when and how I please, 
in a free country. 

5. I do not say that mathematicians, as such, are infidels ; 
or that geometry is a friend to infidelity ; which you 
untruly insinuate, as you do many other things ; whence 
you raise topics for invective. But I say there are certain 
mathematicians who are known to be so ; and that there 
are others who are not mathematicians who are influenced 
by a regard for their authority. Some, perhaps, who live 
in the University, may not be apprised of this : but the 
intelligent and observing reader, who lives in the world, 
and is acquainted with the humour of the times and the 
characters of men, is well aware there are too many that 
deride Mysteries and yet admire Fluxions ; who yield 
that faith to a mere mortal which they deny to Jesus 
Christ, whose religion they make it their study and 
business to discredit. The owning this is not to own that 
men who reason well are enemies to religion, as you 
would represent it : on the contrary, I endeavour to shew 
that such men are defective in point of reason and judg 
ment, and that they do the very thing they would seem to 

6. There are, I make no doubt, among the mathema 
ticians many sincere believers in Jesus Christ. I know 
several such myself; but I addressed my Analyst to an 
infidel : and, on very good grounds, I supposed that, 
besides him, there were other deriders of faith who had 
nevertheless a profound veneration for fluxions ; and 
I was willing to set forth the inconsistence of such men. 
If there be no such thing as infidels who pretend to 
knowledge in the modern analysis, I own myself mis 
informed, and shall gladly be found in a mistake ; but 
even in that case, my remarks upon fluxions are not the 
less true ; nor will it follow that I have no right to examine 
them on the foot of human science, even though religion 
were quite unconcerned, and though I had no end to serve 
but truth. But you are very angry (p. 13 and 14) that 



I should enter the lists with reasoning infidels, and attack 
them upon their pretensions to science : and hence you 
take occasion to shew your spleen against the clergy. 
I will not take upon me to say that I know you to be a 
Minute Philosopher yourself; but I know the Minute 
Philosophers make just such compliments as you do to 
our church, and are just as angry as you can be at any 
who undertake to defend religion by reason. If we resolve- 
all into faith, they laugh at us and our faith : and if we 
attempt to reason, they are angry at us : they pretend we 
get out of our province, and they recommend to us a blind 
implicit faith. Such is the inconsistence of our adver 
saries. But it is to be hoped there will never be wanting 
men to deal with them at their own weapons ; and to shew 
they are by no means those masters of reason which they 
would fain pass for. 

7. I do not say, as you would represent me, that we 
have no better reason for our religion than you have for 
fluxions : but I say that an infidel, who believes the 
doctrine of fluxions, acts a very inconsistent part in 
pretending to reject the Christian religion because he 
cannot believe what he doth not comprehend ; or because 
he cannot assent without evidence ; or because he cannot 
submit his faith to authority. Whether there are such 
infidels, I submit to the judgment of the reader. For my 
own part I make no doubt of it, having seen some shrewd 
signs thereof myself, and having been very credibly in 
formed thereof by others. Nor doth this charge seem 
the less credible, for your being so sensibly touched, and 
denying it with so much passion. You, indeed, do not 
stick to affirm, that the persons who informed me are 
a pack of base, profligate, and impudent liars (p. 27). 
How far the reader will think fit to adopt your passions, 
I cannot say; but I can truly say, the late celebrated 
Mr. Addison is one of the persons whom you are pleased 
to characterise in these modest and mannerly terms. He 
assured me that the infidelity of a certain noted mathema 
tician, still living, was one principal reason assigned by 
a witty man of those times for his being an infidel J . Not 

Dr. (Sir Samuel) Garth, who seems to be the noted mathe- 
diedin January, 1719, a few months matician referred to. 
before Addison s death. Halley 


that I imagine geometry disposeth men to infidelity : but 
that, from other causes, such as presumption, ignorance, 
or vanity,like other men geometricians also become infidels, 
and that the supposed light and evidence of their science 
gains credit to their infidelity. 

8. You reproach me with calumny, detraction, and 
artifice (p. 15). You recommend such means as are 
innocent and just, rather than the criminal method of 
lessening or detracting from my opponents (Ibid.). You 
accuse me of the odium thcologicum, the intemperate zeal 
of divines, that I do stare super vias anliquas (p. 13); with 
much more to the same effect. For all which charge I 
depend on the reader s candour, that he will not take 
your word, but read and judge for himself. In which 
case he will be able to discern (though he should be no 
mathematician) how passionate and unjust your reproaches 
are, and how possible it is for a man to cry out against 
calumny and practise it in the same breath. Considering 
how impatient all mankind are when their prejudices are 
looked into, I do not wonder to see you rail and rage 
at the rate you do. But if your own imagination be 
strongly shocked and moved, you cannot therefore con 
clude that a sincere endeavour to free a science, so useful 
and ornamental to human life, from those subtleties, 
obscurities, and paradoxes which render it inaccessible to 
most men, will be thought a criminal undertaking by such 
as are in their right mind. Much less can you hope that 
an illustrious Seminary of learned men, which hath pro 
duced so many free-spirited inquiries after truth, will 
at once enter into your passions, and degenerate into a 
nest of bigots. 

9. I observe upon the inconsistency of certain infidel 
analysts. I remark some defects in the principles of the 
modern analysis. I take the liberty decently to dissent 
from Sir Isaac Newton. I propose some helps to abridge 
the trouble of mathematical studies, and render them 
more useful. What is there in all this that should make 
you declaim on the usefulness of practical mathematics ? 
That should move you to cry out Spain> inquisition, odium 
theologicuml By what figure of speech do you extend 
what is said of the modern analysis to mathematics in 
general ; or what is said of mathematical infidels to all 


mathematicians ; or the confuting an error in science to 
burning or hanging the authors ? But it is nothing new 
or strange that men should choose to indulge their passions, 
rather than quit their opinions, how absurd soever. Hence 
the frightful visions and tragical uproars of bigoted men, 
be the subject of their bigotry what it will. A very 
remarkable instance of this you give (p. 27), where, upon 
my having said that a deference to certain mathematical 
infidels, as I was credibly informed, had been one motive 
to infidelity, you ask, with no small emotion For God s 
sake are we in England or in Spain ? Is this the lan 
guage of a familiar who is whispering an inquisitor, &c. ? 
And the page before you exclaim in the following words 
Let us burn or hang up all the mathematicians in Great 
Britain, or halloo the mob upon them to tear them to 
pieces every mother s son of them, Tros Rutulusve fuat, 
laymen or clergymen, &c. Let us dig up the bodies of 
Dr. Barrow and Sir Isaac Newton, and burn them under 
the gallows. 

10. The reader need not be a mathematician to see how 
vain all this tragedy of yours is. And if he be as 
thoroughly satisfied as I am that the cause of fluxions 
cannot be defended by reason, he will be as little sur 
prised as I am to see you betake yourself to the arts of 
all bigoted men, raising terror and calling in the passions 
to your assistance. Whether those rhetorical flourishes 
about the inquisition and the gallows are not quite ridicu 
lous, I leave to be determined by the reader. Who will 
also judge (though he should not be skilled in geometry) 
whether I have given the least grounds for this and a 
world of such-like declamation ? And whether I have not 
constantly treated those celebrated writers with all proper 
respect, though I take the liberty in certain points to differ 
from them ? 

n. As I heartily abhor an inquisition in faith, so 
I think you have no right to erect one in science. At 
the time of writing your Defence you seem to have been 
overcome with passion. But, now you may be supposed 
cool, I desire you to reflect whether it be not wrote in 
the true spirit of an inquisitor ? Whether this becomes 
a person so exceeding delicate himself upon that point ? 
And whether your brethren the analysts will think them- 


selves honoured or obliged by you, for having defended 
their doctrine in the same manner as any declaiming 
bigot would defend transubstantiation ? The same false 
colours, the same intemperate sallies, and the same indigna 
tion against common sense ! 

12. In a matter of mere science, where authority hath 
nothing to do, you constantly endeavour to overbear me 
with authorities, and load me with envy. If I see a 
sophism in the writings of a great author, and, in com 
pliment to his understanding, suspect he could hardly 
be quite satisfied with his own demonstration ; this sets 
you on declaiming for several pages. It is pompously 
set forth, as a criminal method of detracting from great 
men; as a concerted project to lessen their reputation, 
as making them pass for impostors. If I publish my free 
thoughts, which I have as much right to publish as any 
other man, it is imputed to rashness, and vanity, and the 
love of opposition. Though perhaps my late publication, 
of what had been hinted twenty-five years ago, may acquit 
me of this charge in the eyes of an impartial reader. But 
when I consider the perplexities that beset a man who 
undertakes to defend the doctrine of fluxions, I can easily 
forgive your anger. 

13. Two sorts of learned men there are. One who 
candidly seek truth by rational means : these are never 
averse to have their principles looked into, and examined 
by the test of reason. Another sort there is who learn 
by rote a set of principles and a way of thinking which 
happen to be in vogue. These betray themselves by 
their anger and surprise, whenever their principles are 
freely canvassed. But you must not expect that your 
reader will make himself a party to your passions or 
your prejudices. I freely own that Sir Isaac Newton 
hath shewed himself an extraordinary mathematician, a 
profound naturalist, a person of the greatest abilities and 
erudition. Thus far I can readily go ; but I cannot go the 
lengths that you do. I shall never say of him as you do, 
Vestigia pronus adoro (p. 70). This same adoration that 
you pay to him, I will pay only to truth. 

14. You may, indeed, yourself be an idolater of whom 
you please. But then you have no right to insult and 
exclaim at other men, because they do not adore your 


idol. Great as Sir Isaac Newton was, I think he hath, 
on more occasions than one, shewed himself not to be 
infallible. Particularly, his demonstration of the doctrine 
of fluxions I take to be defective ; and I cannot help 
thinking that he was not quite pleased with it himself. 
And yet this doth not hinder but the method may be 
useful, considered as an art of invention. You, who are 
a mathematician, must acknowledge there have been divers 
such methods admitted in mathematics, which are not 
demonstrative. Such, for instance, are the inductions 
of Dr. Wallis, in his Arithmetic of Infinites; and such 
what Harriot, and, after him, Des Cartes, have wrote con 
cerning the roots of affected equations. It will not, never 
theless, thence follow that those methods are useless ; but 
only that they are not to be allowed of as premises in 
a strict demonstration. 

15. No great name upon earth shall ever make me 
accept things obscure for clear, or sophisms for demon 
strations. Nor may you ever hope to deter me from 
freely speaking what I freely think, by those arguments 
ab invidia which at every turn you employ against me. 
You represent yourself (p. 52) as a man whose highest 
ambition is in the lowest degree to imitate Sir Isaac 
Newton/ It might, perhaps, have suited better with your 
appellation of Philakthes, and been altogether as laudable, 
if your highest ambition had been to discover truth. Very 
consistently with the character you give of yourself, you 
speak of it as a sort of crime (p. 70) to think it possible 
you should ever see farther, or go beyond Sir Isaac 
Newton. And I am persuaded you speak the senti 
ments of many more besides yourself. But there are 
others who are not afraid to sift the principles of human 
science, who think it no honour to imitate the greatest 
man in his defects, who even think it no crime to desire 
to know, not only beyond Sir Isaac Newton, but beyond 
all mankind. And whoever thinks otherwise, I appeal 
to the reader whether he can properly be called a philo 

16. Because I am not guilty of your mean idolatry, 
you inveigh against me as a person conceited of my own 
abilities ; not considering that a person of less abilities 
may know more on a certain point than one of greater ; 


not considering that a purblind eye, in a close and narrow 
view, may discern more of a thing than a much better 
eye in a more extensive prospect ; not considering that 
this is to fix a ne plus ultra, to put a stop to all future 
inquiries ; lastly, not considering that this is in fact, so 
much as in you lies, converting the republic of letters 
into an absolute monarchy, that it is even introducing 
a kind of philosophic popery among a free people. 

17. I have said (and I venture still to say) that a fluxion 
is incomprehensible : that second, third, and fourth fluxions 
are yet more incomprehensible : that it is not possible to 
conceive a simple infinitesimal : that it is yet less possible 
to conceive an infinitesimal of an infinitesimal, and so 
onward 2 . What have you to say in answer to this ? Do 
you attempt to clear up the notion of a fluxion or a dif 
ference ? Nothing like it. You only assure me (upon your 
bare word) from your own experience, and that of several 
others whom you could name, that the doctrine of fluxions 
may be clearly conceived and distinctly comprehended ; 
and that if I am puzzled about it and do not understand it, 
yet others do. But can you think, Sir, I shall take your 
word, when I refuse to take your Master s ? 

18. Upon this point every reader of common sense 
may judge as well as the most profound mathematician. 
The simple apprehension of a thing defined is not made 
more perfect by any subsequent progress in mathematics. 
What any man evidently knows, he knows as well as 
you or Sir Isaac Newton. And every one can know 
whether the object of this method be (as you would have 
us think) clearly conceivable. To judge of this no depth 
of science is requisite, but only a bare attention to what 
passes in his own mind. And the same is to be under 
stood of all definitions in all sciences whatsoever. In 
none of which can it be supposed that a man of sense 
and spirit will take any definition or principle upon trust, 
without sifting it to the bottom, and trying how far he 
can or he cannot conceive it. This is the course I have 
taken, and shall take, however you and your brethren may 
declaim against it, and place it in the most invidious light. 

19. It is usual with you to admonish me to look over 

1 So Principles, Introduction, sect. 5. 

2 [Analyst, sect. 4, 5, 6, &c.] AUTHOR. 


a second time, to consult, examine, weigh the words of 
Sir Isaac. In answer to which I will venture to say that 
I have taken as much pains as (I sincerely believe) any 
man living to understand that great author, and to make 
sense of his principles. No industry, nor caution, nor 
attention, I assure you, have been wanting on my part. 
So that, if I do not understand him, it is not my fault 
but my misfortune. Upon other subjects you are pleased 
to compliment me with depth of thought and uncommon 
abilities (p. 5 and 84). But I freely own, I have no pre 
tence to those things. The only advantage I pretend 
to is that I have always thought and judged for myself. 
And, as I never had a master in mathematics, so I fairly 
followed the dictates of my own mind in examining and 
censuring the authors I read upon that subject, with the 
same freedom that I used upon any other ; taking nothing 
upon trust, and believing that no writer was infallible. 
And a man of moderate parts, who takes this painful 
course in studying the principles of any science, may be 
supposed to walk more surely than those of greater abili 
ties, who set out with more speed and less care. 

20. What I insist on is, That the idea of a fluxion, 
simply considered, is not at all improved or amended 
by any progress, though ever so great, in the analysis : 
neither are the demonstrations of the general rules of 
that method at all cleared up by applying them. The 
reason of which is, because, in operating or calculating, 
men do not return to contemplate the original principles 
of the method, which they constantly presuppose, but 
are employed in working, by notes and symbols denoting 
the fluxions supposed to have been at first explained, 
and according to rules supposed to have been at first 
demonstrated. This I say to encourage those who are 
not far gone in these studies, to use intrepidly their own 
judgment, without a blind or a mean deference to the 
best of mathematicians, who are no more qualified than 
they are to judge of the simple apprehension, or the 
evidence of what is delivered in the first elements of 
the method ; men by farther and frequent use or exercise 
becoming only more accustomed to the symbols and rules, 
which doth not make either the foregoing notions more 
clear, or the foregoing proofs more perfect. Every reader 


of common sense, that will but use his faculties, knows 
as well as the most profound analyst what idea he frames 
or can frame of velocity without motion, or of motion 
without extension, of magnitude which is neither finite 
nor infinite, or of a quantity having no magnitude which 
is yet divisible, of a figure where there is no space, of 
proportion between nothings, or of a real product from 
nothing multiplied by something. He need not be far 
gone in geometry to know that obscure principles are 
not to be admitted in demonstration ; that if a man destroys 
his own hypothesis, he at the same time destroys what 
was built upon it : that error in the premises, not rectified, 
must produce error in the conclusion. 

21. In my opinion the greatest men have their pre 
judices. Men learn the elements of science from others : 
and every learner hath a deference more or less to 
authority, especially the young learners, few of that kind 
caring to dwell long upon principles, but inclining rather 
to take them upon trust : and things early admitted by 
repetition become familiar : and this familiarity at length 
passeth for evidence. Now to me it seems there are 
certain points tacitly admitted by mathematicians which 
are neither evident nor true. And such points or prin 
ciples ever mixing with their reasonings do lead them 
into paradoxes and perplexities. If the great author of 
the fluxionary method was early imbued with such notions 
it would only shew he was a man. And if, by virtue 
of some latent error in his principles, a man be drawn 
into fallacious reasonings, it is nothing strange that he 
should take them for true : and, nevertheless, if, when 
urged by perplexities and uncouth consequences, and 
driven to arts and shifts, he should entertain some doubt 
thereof, it is no more than one may naturally suppose 
might befall a great genius grappling with an insuperable 
difficulty : which is the light in which I have placed 
Sir Isaac Newton . Hereupon you are pleased to remark 
that I represent the great author not only as a weak but 
an ill man, as a deceiver and an impostor. The reader 
will judge how justly. 

22. As to the rest of your colourings and glosses, your 

1 [Analyst, sect. 18.] AUTHOR. 


reproaches and insults and outcries, I shall pass them 
over, only desiring the reader not to take your word, 
but read what I have written, and he will want no other 
answer. It hath been often observed that the worst cause 
produceth the greatest clamour ; and indeed you are so 
clamorous throughout your defence that the reader, although 
he should be no mathematician, provided he understands 
common sense, and hath observed the ways of men, will 
be apt to suspect that you are in the wrong. It should 
seem, therefore, that your brethren the analysts are but 
little obliged to you for this new method of declaiming 
in mathematics. Whether they are more obliged by your 
reasoning I shall now examine. 

23. You ask me (p. 32) where I find Sir Isaac Newton 
using such expressions as the velocities of velocities, the 
second, third, and fourth velocities, &c. This you set 
forth as a pious fraud and unfair representation. I answer, 
that if according to Sir Isaac Newton a fluxion be the 
velocity of an increment, then according to him I may 
call the fluxion of a fluxion the velocity of a velocity. 
But for the truth of the antecedent see his Introduction 
to the Quadrature of Curves, where his own words are 
Motuum vel incrementorum velocitates nominando fluxiones. 
See also the second lemma of the second book of his Mathe 
matical Principles of Natural Philosophy, where he ex- 
presseth himself in the following manner Velocitates incre- 
moitorum ac dccrementorwn, quas ctiani, motus, nmtationcs, 
et fluxiones quantitatum nominare licet. And that he admits 
fluxions of fluxions, or second, third, fourth fluxions, &c., 
see his Treatise of the Quadrature of Curves. I ask now, 
Is it not plain that if a fluxion be a velocity, then the 
fluxion of a fluxion may, agreeably thereunto, be called 
the velocity of a velocity? In like manner, if by a fluxion 
is meant a nascent augment, will it not then follow that 
the fluxion of a fluxion or second fluxion is the nascent 
augment of a nascent augment ? Can anything be plainer ? 
Let the reader now judge who is unfair. 

24. I had observed that the great author had proceeded 
illegitimately, in obtaining the fluxion or moment of the 
rectangle of two flowing quantities ; and that he did not 
fairly get rid of the rectangle of the moments. In answer 


to this you allege that the error arising from the omission 
of such rectangle (allowing it to be an error) is so small 
that it is insignificant. This you dwell upon and exemplify 
to no other purpose but to amuse your reader and mis 
lead him from the question ; which in truth is not con 
cerning the accuracy of computing or measuring in practice, 
but concerning the accuracy of the reasoning in science. 
That this was really the case, and that the smallness of 
the practical error nowise concerns it, must be so plain 
to any one who reads the Analyst that I wonder how you 
could be ignorant of it. 

25. You would fain persuade your reader that I make 
an absurd quarrel against errors of no significancy in 
practice, and represent mathematicians as proceeding 
blindfold in their approximations, in all which I cannot 
help thinking there is on your part either great ignorance 
or great disingenuity. If you mean to defend the reason 
ableness and use of approximations or of the method of 
indivisibles, I have nothing to say. But then you must 
remember this is not the doctrine of fluxions : it is none 
of that analysis with which I am concerned. That I am 
far from quarrelling at approximations in geometry is 
manifest from the thirty-third and fifty-third queries in 
the Analyst. And that the method of fluxions pretends 
to somewhat more than the method of indivisibles is plain; 
because Sir Isaac disclaims this method as not geometrical 1 . 
And that the method of fluxions is supposed accurate in 
geometrical rigour is manifest to whoever considers what 
the great author writes about it; especially in his Intro 
duction to the Quadrature of Curves, where he saith, In 
rebus mathematicis crrorcs quam minimi non sunt contcm- 
ncndi. Which expression you have seen quoted in the 
Analyst, and yet you seem ignorant thereof, and indeed 
of the very end and design of the great author of this his 
invention of fluxions. 

26. As oft as you talk of finite quantities inconsiderable 
in practice, Sir Isaac disowns your apology. Cave, saith 
he, intellexeris finitas. And, although quantities less than 
sensible may be of no account in practice, yet none of 

1 [See the Scholium at the end of the first section. Lib. I. Phil. 
Nat. Prin. Math. ] AUTHOR. 


your masters, nor will even you yourself, venture to say they 
are of no account in theory and in reasoning. The appli 
cation in gross practice is not the point questioned, but 
the rigour and justness of the reasoning. And it is evident 
that, be the subject ever so little, or ever so inconsiderable, 
this doth not hinder but that a person treating thereof 
may commit very great errors in logic ; which logical 
errors are in nowise to be measured by the sensible or 
practical inconveniences thence arising, which, perchance, 
may be none at all. It must be owned that, after you 
have misled and amused your less qualified reader (as 
you call him), you return to the real point in con 
troversy, and set yourself to justify Sir Isaac s method 
of getting rid of the above-mentioned rectangle. And 
here I must entreat the reader to observe how fairly 
you proceed. 

27. First then you affirm (p. 44), that neither in the 
demonstration of the rule for finding the fluxion of the 
rectangle of two flowing quantities, nor in anything pre 
ceding or following it, is any mention, so much as once, 
made of the increment of the rectangle of such flowing 
quantities. Now I affirm the direct contrary. For, in 
the very passage by you quoted in this same page, from 
the first case of the second lemma of the second book of 
Sir Isaac s Principles, beginning with Rcctangiilum quodvis 
motu pcrpctuo auctum, and ending with igitur laterum 
increments totis a ct b gcneratur rectanguli incrcmcnlum 
aB + bA. Q.E.D. in this very passage, I say, is express 
mention made of the increment of such rectangle. As this 
is matter of fact, I refer it to the reader s own eyes. Of 
what rectangle have we here the increment? Is it not 
plainly of that whose sides have a and b for their incre- 
mcnta tota, that is, of AB? Let any reader judge whether 
it be not plain from the words, the sense, and the context, 
that the great author in the end of his demonstration 
understands his incremcntum as belonging to the rectan- 
gulum quodvis at the beginning. Is not the same also 
evident from the very lemma itself prefixed to the demon 
stration ? The sense whereof is (as the author there 
explains it), that if the moments of the flowing quantities 
A and B are called a and b, then the momentum vd mutatio 
gcniti rectanguli A B will be aB + bA. Either therefore 


the conclusion of the demonstration is not the thing which 
was to be demonstrated, or the rectanguli incrementum 

aB + bA belongs to the rectangle AB. 

28. All this is so plain that nothing can be more so; 
and yet you would fain perplex this plain case by dis 
tinguishing between an increment and a moment. But it 
is evident to every one who has any notion of demon 
stration that the incrementum in the conclusion must be 
the momentum in the lemma ; and to suppose it otherwise 
is no credit to the author. It is in effect supposing him 
to be one who did not know what he would demonstrate. 
But let us hear Sir Isaac s own words : Earum (quant i- 
tatum scilicet fluentium] incrementa vcl decrementa momcn- . 
tanea sub nomine momentorum intelligo. And you observe 
yourself that he useth the word moment to signify either 
an increment or decrement. Hence, with an intention to 
puzzle me, you propose the increment and decrement 
of AB, and ask which of these I would call the moment? 
The case you say is difficult. My answer is very plain 
and easy, to wit, Either of them. You, indeed, make a 
different answer ; and from the author s saying that by 
a moment he understands either the momentaneous incre 
ment or decrement of the flowing quantities, you would 
have us conclude, by a very wonderful inference, that his 
moment is neither the increment nor decrement thereof. 
Would it not be as good an inference, because a number 
is either odd or even, to conclude it is neither ? Can any 
one make sense of this ? Or can even yourself hope that 
this will go down with the reader, how little soever 
qualified? It must be ow r ned, you endeavour to intrude 
this inference on him, rather by mirth and humour than 
by reasoning. You are merry, I say, and (p. 46) represent 
the two mathematical quantities as pleading their rights, 
as tossing up cross and pile, as disputing amicably. You 
talk of their claiming preference, their agreeing, their 
boyishness, and their gravity. And after this ingenious 
digression you address me in the following words Believe 
me, there is no remedy, you must acquiesce. But my 
answer is that I will neither believe you nor acquiesce ; 
there is a plain remedy in common sense ; and, to prevent 
surprise, I desire the reader always to keep the contro 
verted point in view, to examine your reasons, and be 


cautious how he takes your word, but most of all when 
you are positive, or eloquent, or merry. 

29. A page or two after, you very candidly represent 
your case to be that of an ass between two bottles of hay : 
it is your own expression. The cause of your perplexity 
is that you know not whether the velocity ofAB increasing, 
or of AB decreasing is to be esteemed the fluxion, or 
proportional to the moment of the rectangle. My opinion, 
agreeably to what hath been premised, is that either may 
be deemed the fluxion. But you tell us (p. 49) that you 
think, the venerable ghost of Sir Isaac Newton whispers 
you, the velocity you seek for is neither the one nor the 
other of these, but it is the velocity which the flowing 
rectangle hath not while it is greater or less than AB, but 
at that very instant of time that it is AB. For my part, 
in the rectangle AB considered simply in itself, without 
either increasing or diminishing, I can conceive no velocity 
at all. And if the reader is of my mind, he will not take 
either your word, or even the word of a ghost, how 
venerable soever, for velocity without motion. You pro 
ceed and tell us that, in like manner, the moment of the 
rectangle is neither its increment or decrement. This 
you would have us believe on the authority of his ghost, 
in direct opposition to what Sir Isaac himself asserted 
when alive. Incrcmcnta (saith he) vel decrementa wionicn- 
tanca sub nomine moinentorum intelligo : ita lit incrcmenta 
pro moincntis addititiis sen affirmativis, ac decrementa pro 
subductitiis sen negativis habeantur. I will not in your 
style bid the reader believe me, but believe his eyes. 

30. To me it verily seems that you have undertaken 
the defence of what you do not understand. To mend the 
matter, you say, you do not consider AB as lying at 
either extremity of the moment, but as extended to the 
middle of it ; as having acquired the one half of the 
moment, and as being about to acquire the other ; or, as 
having lost one half of it, and being about to lose the 
other. Now, in the name of truth, I entreat you to tell 
what this moment is, to the middle whereof the rectangle 
is extended ? This moment, I say, which is acquired, 
which is lost, which is cut in two, or distinguished into 
halves? Is it a finite quantity, or an infinitesimal, or 
a mere limit, or nothing at all? Take it in what sense 


you will, I cannot make your defence either consistent 
or intelligible. For, if you take it in either of the two 
former senses, you contradict Sir Isaac Newton. And, if 
you take it in either of the latter, you contradict common 
sense ; it being plain, that what hath no magnitude, or is 
no quantity, cannot be divided. And here I must entreat 
the reader to preserve his full freedom of mind entire, and 
not weakly suffer his judgment to be overborne by your 
imagination and your prejudices, by great names and 
authorities, by ghosts and visions, and above all by that 
extreme satisfaction and complacency with which you utter 
your strange conceits ; if words without a meaning may 
be called so. After having given this unintelligible 
account, you ask with your accustomed air, What say 
you, Sir? Is this a just and legitimate reason for Sir 
Isaac s proceeding as he did? I think you must acknow 
ledge it to be so. But, alas ! I acknowledge no such 
thing. I find no sense or reason in what you say. Let 
the reader find it if he can. 

31. In the next place (p. 50), you charge me with want 
of caution. Inasmuch (say you) as that quantity which 
Sir Isaac Newton, through his whole lemma, and all the 
several cases of it, constantly calls a moment, without con 
fining it to be either an increment or decrement, is by you 
inconsiderately and arbitrarily, and without any shadow 
of reason given, supposed and determined to be an incre 
ment. To which charge I reply, that it is as untrue as it 
is peremptory. For that, in the foregoing citation from 
the first case of Sir Isaac s lemma, he expressly determines 
it to be an increment. And, as this particular instance or 
passage was that which I objected to, it was reasonable 
and proper for me to consider the moment in the same 
light. But, take it increment or decrement as you will, 
the objections still lie, and the difficulties are equally in 
superable. You then proceed to extol the great author 
of the fluxionary method, and to bestow some brusqueries 
upon those who unadvisedly dare to differ from him. To 
all which I shall give no answer. 

32. Afterwards to remove (as you say) all scruple and 
difficulty about this affair, you observe that the moment 
of the rectangle determined by Sir Isaac Newton, and the 
increment of the rectangle determined by me are perfectly 


and exactly equal, supposing a and 1) to be diminished ad 
infmitum : and, for proof of this, you refer to the first 
lemma of the first section of the first book of Sir Isaac s 
Principles. I answer that if a and b are real quantities, 
then a b is something, and consequently makes a real 
difference : but if they arc nothing, then the rectangles 
whereof they are coefficients become nothing likewise: and 
consequently the momentum or incrcmcntum , whether 
Sir Isaac s or mine, are in that case nothing at all. As for 
the above-mentioned lemma, which you refer to, and which 
you wish I had consulted sooner, both for my own sake 
and for yours ; I tell you I had long since consulted and 
considered it. But I very much doubt whether you have 
sufficiently considered that lemma, its demonstration, and 
its consequences. For, however that way of reasoning 
may do in the method of exhaustions, where quantities less 
than assignable are regarded as nothing; yet, for a fluxionist 
writing about momentums to argue that quantities must be 
equal because they have no assignable difference seems 
the most injudicious step that could be taken : it is directly 
demolishing the very doctrine you would defend. For, it 
will thence follow that all homogeneous momentums are 
equal, and consequently the velocities, mutations, or 
fluxions, proportional thereto, are all likewise equal. There 
is, therefore, only one proportion of equality throughout, 
which at once overthrows the whole system you undertake 
to defend. Your moments (I say) not being themselves 
assignable quantities, their differences cannot be assignable : 
and, if this be true, by that way of reasoning it will follow, 
they are all equal ; upon which supposition you cannot 
make one step in the method of fluxions. It appears from 
hence, how unjustly you blame me (p. 32) for omitting to 
give any account of that first section of the first book of the 
Principia, wherein (you say) the foundation of the method 
of fluxions is geometrically demonstrated and largely ex 
plained, and difficulties and objections against it are clearly 
solved. All which is so far from being true that the very 
first and fundamental lemma of that section is incompatible 
with and subversive of the doctrine of fluxions. And, 
indeed, who sees not that a demonstration ad absurdum 
more vetcrum, proceeding on a supposition that every dif 
ference must be some given quantity, cannot be admitted 


in, or consist with, a method wherein quantities, less than 
any given, are supposed really to exist, and be capable 
of division ? 

33. The next point you undertake to defend is that 
method for obtaining a rule to find the fluxion of any 
power of a flowing quantity, which is delivered in his 
Introduction to the Quadratures, and considered in the 
Analyst^. And here the question between us is, whether 
I have rightly represented the sense of those words, 
evanescant jam augmenta ilia, in rendering them, let the 
increments vanish/ i. e. let the increments be nothing, or 
let there be no increments ? This you deny ; but, as your 
manner is, instead of giving a reason you declaim. I, on 
the contrary, affirm, the increments must be understood to 
be quite gone, and absolutely nothing at all. My reason 
is, because without that supposition you can never bring 
the quantity or expression 

nx n-i + nn ~ n ox "-2 + & c . down to nx n ~\ 


the very thing aimed at by supposing the evanescence. 
Say whether this be not the truth of the case ? Whether 
the former expression is not to be reduced to the latter ? 
And whether this can possibly be done so long as o is 
supposed a real quantity? I cannot indeed say you are 
scrupulous about your affirmations, and yet I believe that 
even you will not affirm this ; it being most evident, that 
the product of two real quantities is something real ; and 
that nothing real can be rejected either according to the 
aKpifieia of geometry, or according to Sir Isaac s own 
Principles ; for the truth of which I appeal to all who 
know anything of these matters. Further, by evanescant 
must either be meant, let them (the increments) vanish 
and become nothing, in the obvious sense, or else let 
them become infinitely small. But that this latter is not 
Sir Isaac s sense is evident from his own words in the 
very same page, that is, in the last of his Introduction to 
the Quadratures, where he expressly saith, volui ostendere 
quod in methodo fluxionum non opus sit figuras infinite 
parvas in geometriam introducere. Upon the whole, you 

1 [Sect. 13, 14, &c.] AUTHOR. 



seem to have considered this affair so very superficially as 
greatly to confirm me ,in the opinion you are so angry 
with, to wit, that Sir Isaac s followers are much more 
eager in applying his method than accurate in examining 
his principles. You raise a dust about evanescent aug 
ments, which may perhaps amuse and amaze your reader, 
but I am much mistaken if it ever instructs or enlightens 
him. For, to come to the point, those evanescent aug 
ments either are real quantities, or they are not. If you 
say they are ; I desire to know how you get rid of the 
rejectaneous quantity ? If you say they are not ; you 
indeed get rid of those quantities in the composition where 
of they are coefficients ; but then you are of the same 
opinion with me, which opinion you are pleased to call 
(p. 58) a most palpable, inexcusable, and unpardonable 
blunder, although it be a truth most palpably evident. 

34. Nothing, I say, can be plainer to any impartial 
reader than that by the evanescence of augments in the 
above-cited passage, Sir Isaac means their being actually 
reduced to nothing. But, to put it out of all doubt that 
this is the truth, and to convince even you, who shew so 
little disposition to be convinced, I desire you to look into 
his Analysis per sEquationes Infmitas (p. 20), where, in his 
preparation for demonstrating the first rule for the squaring 
of simple curves, you will find that, on a parallel occasion, 
speaking of an augment which is supposed to vanish, he 
interprets the word cvanesccrc by esse nihil. Nothing can 
be plainer than this, which at once destroys your defence. 
And yet, plain as it is, I despair of making you acknow 
ledge it ; though I am sure you feel it, and the reader if 
he useth his eyes must see it. The words cvanescerc sivc 
esse nihil do (to use your own expression) stare us in the 
face. Lo ! This is what you call (p. 56) so great, so 
unaccountable, so horrid, so truly Boeotian a blunder, 
that, according to you, it was not possible Sir Isaac 
Newton could be guilty of it. For the future, I advise 
you to be more sparing of hard words; since, as you 
incautiously deal them about, they may chance to light on 
your friends as well as your adversaries. As for my part, 
I shall not retaliate. It is sufficient to say you are mistaken. 
But I can easily pardon your mistakes. Though, indeed, 
you tell me, on this very occasion, that I must expect no 


quarter from Sir Isaac s followers. And I tell you that 
I neither expect nor desire any. My aim is truth. My 
reasons I have given. Confute them, if you can. But 
think not to overbear me either with authorities or harsh 
words. The latter will recoil upon yourselves. The 
former, in a matter of science, are of no weight with 
indifferent readers ; and, as for bigots, I am not concerned 
about what they say or think. 

35. In the next place you proceed to declaim upon the 
following passage, taken from the seventeenth section of 
the Analyst. Considering the various arts and devices 
used by the great author of the fluxionary method ; in 
how many lights he placeth his fluxions ; and in what 
different ways he attempts to demonstrate the same 
point : one would be inclined to think he was himself 
suspicious of the justness of his own demonstrations. 
This passage you complain of as very hard usage of Sir 
Isaac Newton. You declaim copiously, and endeavour to 
shew that placing the same point in various lights is of 
great use to explain it ; which you illustrate with much 
rhetoric. But the fault of that passage is not the hard 
usage it contains : but, on the contrary, that it is too 
modest, and not so full and expressive of my sense as 
perhaps it should have been. Would you like it better 
if I should say The various inconsistent accounts which 
this great author gives of his momentums and his fluxions 
may convince every intelligent reader that he had no clear 
and steady notions of them, without which there can be no 
demonstration ? I own frankly that I see no clearness 
or consistence in them. You tell me, indeed, in Miltonic 
verse, that the fault is in my own eyes, 

So thick a drop serene has quench d their orbs, 
Or dim suffusion veil d. 

At the same time you acknowledge yourself obliged for 
those various lights which have enabled you to under 
stand his doctrine. But as for me, who do not understand 
it, you insult me, saying : For God s sake, what is it you 
are offended at, who do not still understand him ? May 
not I answer, that I am offended for this very reason 
because I cannot understand him or make sense of what 
he says? You say to me that I am all in the dark. 


I acknowledge it, and entreat you who see so clearly to 
help me out. 

36. You, Sir, with the bright eyes, be pleased to tell 
me, whether Sir Isaac s momentum be a finite quantity, 
or an infinitesimal, or a mere limit ? If you say a finite 
quantity : be pleased to reconcile this with what he saith 
in the scholium of the second lemma of the first section of 
the first book of his Principles : Cave intelligas quantitates 
magnitudine dcterminatas, sed cogita semper diminuendas 
sine limite. If you say, an infinitesimal : reconcile this 
with what is said in his Introduction to the Quadratures : 
Volui ostendere quod in methodo Jluxionum non opus sit 
figuras infinite parvas in geometriam induccre. If you 
should say, it is a mere limit ; be pleased to reconcile this 
with what we find in the first case of the second lemma in 
the second book of his Principles : Ubi de latcribus A et B 
deerant momentorum dimidia, $c. where the moments are 
supposed to be divided. I should be very glad a per 
son of such a luminous intellect would be so good as to 
explain whether by fluxions we are to understand the 
nascent or evanescent quantities themselves, or their 
motions, or their velocities, or simply their proportions : 
and, having interpreted them in what sense you will, that you 
would then condescend to explain the doctrine of second, 
third, and fourth fluxions, and shew it to be consistent 
with common sense if you can. You seem to be very 
sanguine when you express yourself in the following 
terms : I do assure you, Sir, from my own experience, 
and that of many others whom I could name, that the 
doctrine may be clearly conceived and distinctly compre 
hended. (p. 31.) And it may be uncivil not to believe 
what you so solemnly affirm, from your own experience. 
But I must needs own I should be better satisfied of this, 
if, instead of entertaining us with your rhetoric, you would 
vouchsafe to reconcile those difficulties, and explain those 
obscure points above mentioned. If either you, or any 
one of those many whom you could name will but explain 
to others what you so clearly conceive yourselves, I give 
you my word that several will be obliged to you who, 
I may venture to say, understand those matters no more 
than myself. But, if I am not much mistaken, you and 
your friends will modestly decline this task. 


37. I have long ago done what you so often exhort me 
to do diligently read and considered the several accounts 
of this doctrine given by the great author in different parts 
of his writings ; and upon the whole I could never make 
it out to be consistent and intelligible. I was even led to 
say that one would be inclined to think he was himself 
suspicious of the justness of his own demonstrations; and 
that he was not enough pleased with any one notion 
steadily to adhere to it. After which I added, Thus 
much is plain, that he owned himself satisfied concerning 
certain points, which nevertheless he could not undertake 
to demonstrate to others. (See the seventeenth section 
of the Analyst.} It is one thing when a doctrine is placed 
in various lights ; and another when the principles and 
notions are shifted. When new devices are introduced 
and substituted for others, a doctrine instead of being 
illustrated may be explained away. Whether there be 
not something of this in the present case, I appeal to the 
writings of the great author his Mcthodus Rationum 
Primarum ct Ultimarum, his second lemma in the second 
book of his Principles, his Introduction and Treatise of 
the Quadrature of Curves. In all which, it appears to me, 
there is not one uniform doctrine explained and carried 
throughout the whole, but rather sundry inconsistent 
accounts of this new Method, which still grows more 
dark and confused the more it is handled : I could not 
help thinking, the greatest genius might lie under the 
influence of false principles ; and where the object and 
notions were exceeding obscure, he might possibly distrust 
even his own demonstrations. At least thus much seemed 
plain, that Sir Isaac had sometimes owned himself satisfied, 
where he could not demonstrate to others. In proof 
whereof I mentioned his letter to Mr. Collins ; hereupon 
you tell me : there is a great deal of difference between 
saying, I cannot undertake to prove a thing, and I will 
not undertake it. But, in answer to this, I desire you 
will be pleased to consider that I was not making a precise 
extract out of that letter, in which the very words of Sir 
Isaac should alone be inserted. But I made my own 
remark and inference from what I remembered to have read 
in that letter ; where, speaking of a certain mathematical 
matter, Sir Isaac expresseth himself in the following terms : 


It is plain to me by the fountain I draw it from, 
though I will not undertake to prove it to others. Now, 
whether my inference may not be fairly drawn from those 
words of Sir Isaac Newton, and whether the difference 
as to the sense be so great between will and can in 
that particular case, I leave to be determined by the 

38. In the next paragraph you talk big but prove nothing. 
You speak of driving out of intrenchments, of sallying, and 
attacking, and carrying by assault ; of slight and unten 
able works, of a new-raised and undisciplined militia, and 
of veteran regular troops. Need the reader be a mathe 
matician to see the vanity of this paragraph ? After this 
you employ (p. 65) your usual colouring, and represent the 
great author of the Method of Fluxions as a good old 
gentleman fast asleep, and snoring in his easy chair ; 
while dame Fortune is bringing him her apron full of 
beautiful theorems and problems, which he never knows 
or thinks of. This you would have pass for a consequence 
of my notions. But I appeal to all those who are ever so 
little knowing in such matters, whether there are not 
divers fountains of experiment, induction, and analogy, 
whence a man may derive and satisfy himself concerning 
the truth of many points in mathematics and mechanical 
philosophy, although the proofs thereof afforded by the 
modern analysis should not amount to demonstration ? 
I further appeal to the conscience of all the most profound 
mathematicians, whether they can, with perfect acquies 
cence of mind, free from all scruple, apply any proposition 
merely upon the strength of a demonstration involving 
second or third fluxions, without the aid of any such 
experiment, or analogy, or collateral proof whatsoever ? 
Lastly, I appeal to the reader s own heart, whether he 
cannot clearly conceive a medium between being fast 
asleep and demonstrating? But, you will have it that 
I represent Sir Isaac s conclusions as coming out right, 
because one error is compensated by another contrary 
and equal error, which perhaps he never knew himself 
nor thought of: that by a twofold mistake he arrives 
though not at science yet at truth : that he proceeds blind 
fold, &c. All which is untruly said by you, who have 
misapplied to Sir Isaac what was intended for the Marquis 


de 1 Hospital 1 and his followers; for no other end (as 
I can see) but that you may have an opportunity to draw 
that ingenious portraiture of Sir Isaac Newton and dame 
Fortune, as will be manifest to whoever reads the Analyst, 

39. You tell me (p. 70) if I think fit to persist in asserting 
that this affair of a double error is entirely a new dis 
covery of my own, which Sir Isaac and his followers 
never knew or thought of, that you have unquestionable 
evidence to convince me of the contrary, and that all his 
followers are already apprised that this very objection of 
mine was long since foreseen, and clearly and fully re 
moved by Sir Isaac Newton, in the first section of the 
first book of his Principia All which I do as strongly 
deny as you affirm. And I do aver that this is an un 
questionable proof of the matchless contempt which you, 
Pliilalcthcs, have for truth. And I do here publicly call 
upon you to produce that evidence which you pretend to 
have, and to make good that fact which you so confidently 
affirm. And, at the same time, I do assure the reader 
that you never will, nor can. 

40. If you defend Sir Isaac s notions, as delivered in 
his Principia, it must be on the rigorous foot of rejecting 
nothing, neither admitting nor casting away infinitely small 
quantities. If you defend the Marquis, whom you also 
style your Master, it must be on the foot of admitting 
that there are infinitesimals, that they may be rejected, 
that they are nevertheless real quantities, and themselves 
infinitely subdivisible. But you seem to have grown giddy 
with passion, and in the heat of controversy to have 
mistaken and forgot your part. I beseech you, Sir, 
to consider that the Marquis (whom alone, and not Sir 
Isaac, this double error in finding the subtangent doth 
concern) rejects indeed infinitesimals, but not on the foot 
that you do, to wit, their being inconsiderable in practical 
geometry or mixed mathematics. But he rejects them in 
the accuracy of speculative knowledge : in which respect 
there may be great logical errors, although there should 
be no sensible mistake in practice ; which, it seems, is 
what you cannot comprehend. He rejects them likewise 

1 A French mathematician, author of the Analyse des Infmimcnt Pctits, 
born 1661, died 1704. 


in virtue of a postulatum, which I venture to call rejecting 
them without ceremony. And, though he inferreth a con 
clusion accurately true, yet he doth it, contrary to the 
rules of logic, from inaccurate and false premises. And 
how this comes about, I have at large explained in the 
Analyst, and shewed in that particular case of tangents, 
that the rejectaneous quantity might have been a finite 
quantity of any given magnitude, and yet the conclusion 
have come out exactly the same way ; and, consequently, 
that the truth of this method doth not depend on the 
reason assigned by the Marquis, to wit, the postulatum 
for throwing away infinitesimals; and, therefore, that 
he and his followers acted blindfold, as not knowing the 
true reason for the conclusions coming out accurately 
right, which I shew to have been the effect of a double 

41. This is the truth of the matter, which you shame 
fully misrepresent and declaim upon, to no sort of purpose 
but to amuse and mislead your reader. For which conduct 
of yours throughout your remarks, you will pardon me 
if I cannot otherwise account, than from a secret hope that 
the reader of your Defence would never read the Analyst. 
If he doth, he cannot but see what an admirable method 
you take to defend your cause : how, instead of justifying 
the reasoning, the logic, or the theory of the case specified, 
which is the real point, you discourse of sensible and 
practical errors : and how all this is a manifest imposition 
upon the reader. He must needs see that I have expressly 
said, I have no controversy except only about your logic 
and method : that I consider how you demonstrate ; what 
objects you are conversant about ; and whether you con 
ceive them clearly. That I have often expressed myself 
to the same effect, desiring the reader to remember, that 
I am only concerned about the way of coming at your 
theorems, whether it be legitimate or illegitimate, clear 
or obscure, scientific or tentative : that I have, on this 
very occasion, to prevent all possibility of mistake, repeated 
and insisted that I consider the geometrical analyst as 
a logician, i.e. so far forth as he reasons and argues ; and 
his mathematical conclusions, not in themselves but in 
their premises ; not as true or false, useful or insignificant, 
but as derived from such principles, and by such infer- 


cnces V You affirm (and indeed what can you not 
affirm ?) that the difference between the true subtangent 
and that found without any compensation is absolutely 
nothing at all. I profess myself of a contrary opinion. 
My reason is, because nothing cannot be divided into 
parts. But this difference is capable of being divided 
into any, or into more than any given number of parts ; 
for the truth of which consult the Marquis de 1 Hospital. 
And, be the error in fact or in practice ever so small, 
it will not thence follow that the error in reasoning, which 
is what I am alone concerned about, is one whit the less, 
it being evident that a man may reason most absurdly 
about the minutest things. 

42. Pray answer me fairly, once for all, whether it be 
your opinion that whatsoever is little and inconsiderable 
enough to be rejected without inconvenience in practice, 
the same may in like manner be safely rejected and over 
looked in theory and demonstration. If you say No, it 
will then follow that all you have been saying here and 
elsewhere, about yards, and inches, and decimal fractions, 
setting forth and insisting on the extreme smallness of 
the rejectaneous quantity, is quite foreign to the argument, 
and only a piece of skill to impose upon your reader. 
If you say Yes, it follows that you then give up at once 
all the orders of fluxions and infinitesimal differences ; 
and so most imprudently turn all your sallies and attacks 
and veterans to your own overthrow. If the reader is 
of my mind, he will despair of ever seeing you get clear 
of this dilemma. The points in controversy have been 
so often and so distinctly noted in the Analyst that I very 
much wonder how you could mistake, if you had no mind 
to mistake. It is very plain, if you are in earnest, that 
you neither understand me nor your Masters. And what 
shall we think of other ordinary analysts, when it shall 
be found that even you, who like a champion step forth 
to defend their principles, have not considered them ? 

43. The impartial reader is entreated to remark through 
out your whole performance how confident you are in 
asserting, and withal how modest in proving or explaining : 
how frequent it is with you to employ figures and tropes 

1 [Analyst, sect. 20.] AUTHOR. 


instead of reasons : how many difficulties proposed in the 
Analyst are discreetly overlooked by you, and what strange 
work you make with the rest : how grossly you mistake 
and misrepresent, and how little you practise the advice 
which you so liberally bestow. Believe me, Sir, I had 
long and maturely considered the principles of the modern 
analysis, before I ventured to publish my thoughts there 
upon in the Analyst. And, since the publication thereof, 
I have myself freely conversed with mathematicians of 
all ranks, and some of the ablest professors, as well as 
made it my business to be informed of the opinions 
of others, being very desirous to hear what could be 
said towards clearing my difficulties or answering my 
objections. But, though you are not afraid or ashamed 
to represent the analysts as very clear and uniform in 
their conception of these matters, yet I do solemnly affirm 
(and several of themselves know it to be true) that I found 
no harmony or agreement among them, but the reverse 
thereof the greatest dissonance, and even contrariety of 
opinions, employed to explain what after all seemed 

44. Some fly to proportions between nothings. Some 
reject quantities because infinitesimal. Others allow only 
finite quantities, and reject them because inconsiderable. 
Others place the method of fluxions on a foot with that 
of exhaustions, and admit nothing new therein. Some 
maintain the clear conception of fluxions. Others hold 
they can demonstrate about things incomprehensible. 
Some would prove the algorism of fluxions by reductio ad 
absurdum ; others a priori. Some hold the evanescent 
increments to be real quantities, some to be nothings, 
some to be limits. As many men, so many minds : each 
differing one from another, and all from Sir Isaac Newton. 
Some plead inaccurate expressions in the great author, 
whereby they would draw him to speak their sense ; not 
considering that if he meant as they do, he could not 
want words to express his meaning. Others are magis 
terial and positive, say they are satisfied, and that is all ; 
not considering that we, who deny Sir Isaac Newton s 
authority, shall not submit to that of his disciples. Some 
insist that the conclusions are true, and therefore the 
principles ; not considering what hath been largely said 


in the Analyst 1 on that head. Lastly, several (and those 
none of the meanest) frankly owned the objections to 
be unanswerable. All which I mention by way of antidote 
to your false colours : and that the unprejudiced inquirer 
after truth may see it is not without foundation that I call 
on the celebrated mathematicians of the present age to 
clear up these obscure analytics, and concur in giving 
to the public some consistent and intelligible account of 
their great Master : which if they do not, I believe the 
world will take it for granted that they cannot. 

45. Having gone through your defence of the British 
mathematicians, I find, in the next place, that you attack 
me on a point of metaphysics, with what success the reader 
will determine. I had upon another occasion many years 
ago wrote against abstract general ideas 2 . In opposition 
to which, you declare yourself to adhere to the vulgar 
opinion, that neither geometry nor any other general 
science can subsist without general ideas fp. 74). This 
implies that I hold there are no general ideas. But 
I hold the direct contrary that there are indeed general 
ideas, but not formed by abstraction, in the manner set 
forth by Mr. Locke. To me it is plain there is no con 
sistent idea the likeness whereof may not really exist : 
whatsoever therefore is said to be somewhat which cannot 
exist, the idea thereof must be inconsistent. Mr. Locke 
acknowledged it doth require pains and skill to form 
his general idea of a triangle. He farther expressly saith 
it must be neither oblique nor rectangular, neither equi 
lateral nor scalenum ; but all and none of these at once. 
He also saith it is an idea wherein some parts of several 
different and inconsistent ideas are put together :! . All 
this looks very like a contradiction. But, to put the matter 
past dispute, it must be noted that he affirms it to be some 
what imperfect that cannot exist; consequently, the idea 
thereof is impossible or inconsistent. 

1 [Sect. 19, 20, &c.] AUTHOR. and his withdrawal in the third 

2 [Introduction to the Treatise edition against abstract general 
concerning the Principles of Human ideas. 

KtioivledgeJ] AUTHOR. Note also 3 [Essay on Human Undcrstand- 

Berkeley s reasonings in the first ing, Bk. IV. ch. vii. 9.] AUTHOR. 
and second editions of Alciphron, 


46. I desire to know whether it is not possible for any 
thing to exist which doth not include a contradiction : 
and, if it is, whether we may not infer that what cannot 
possibly exist, the same doth include a contradiction ? 
I further desire to know, whether the reader can frame 
a distinct idea of anything that includes a contradiction ? 
For my part, I cannot, nor consequently of the above- 
mentioned triangle ; though you (who it seems know 
better than myself what I can do) are pleased to assure 
me of the contrary. Again, I ask whether that which 
it is above the power of man to form a complete idea of 
may not be called incomprehensible ? And whether the 
reader can frame a complete idea of this imperfect im 
possible triangle ? And, if not, whether it doth not follow 
that it is incomprehensible ? It should seem that a dis 
tinct aggregate of a few consistent parts was nothing 
so difficult to conceive or impossible to exist ; and that, 
therefore, your comment must be wide of the author s 
meaning. You give me to understand (p. 82) that this 
account of a general triangle was a trap which Mr. Locke 
set to catch fools. Who is caught therein let the reader 

47. It is Mr. Locke s opinion that every general name 
stands for a general abstract idea, which prescinds from 
the species or individuals comprehended under it. Thus, 
for example, according to him, the general name colour 
stands for an idea which is neither blue, red, green, nor 
any other particular colour, but somewhat distinct and 
abstracted from them all. To me it seems the word 
colour is only a more general name applicable to all and 
each of the particular colours : while the other specific 
names, as blue, red, green, and the like, are each restrained 
to a more limited signification. The same may be said 
of the word triangle. Let the reader judge whether this 
be not the case ; and whether he can distinctly frame 
such an idea of colour as shall prescind from all the 
species thereof, or of a triangle which shall answer 
Mr. Locke s account, prescinding and abstracting from 
all the particular sorts of triangles, in the manner afore 

48. I entreat my reader to think. For, if he doth not, 
he may be under some influence from your confident and 


positive way of talking. But any one who thinks may, 
if I mistake not, plainly perceive that you are deluded, 
as it often happens, by mistaking the terms for ideas. 
Nothing is easier than to define in terms or words that 
which is incomprehensible in idea ; forasmuch as any 
words can be either separated or joined as you please, 
but ideas always cannot. It is as easy to say a round 
square as an oblong square, though the former be incon 
ceivable. If the reader will but take a little care to 
distinguish between the definition and the idea, between 
words or expressions and the conceptions of the mind, 
he will judge of the truth of what I now advance, and 
clearly perceive how far you are mistaken in attempting 
to illustrate Mr. Locke s doctrine, and where your mistake 
lies. Or, if the reader is minded to make a short work, 
he needs only at once to try whether, laying aside the 
words, he can frame in his mind the idea of an impossible 
triangle ; upon which trial the issue of this dispute may 
be fairly put. This doctrine of abstract general ideas 
seemed to me a capital error, productive of numberless 
difficulties and disputes, that runs not only throughout 
Mr. Locke s book, but through most parts of learning. 
Consequently, my animadversions thereupon were not 
an effect of being inclined to carp or cavil at a single 
passage, as you would wrongfully insinuate, but proceeded 
from a love of truth, and a desire to banish, so far as 
in me lay, false principles and wrong ways of thinking, 
without respect of persons. And, indeed, though you and 
other party-men are violently attached to your respective 
Masters, yet I, who profess myself only attached to truth, 
see no reason why I may not as freely animadvert on 
Mr. Locke or Sir Isaac Newton, as they would on Aris 
totle or Des Cartes. Certainly the more extensive the 
influence of any error, and the greater the authority 
which supports it, the more it deserves to be considered 
and detected by sincere inquirers after knowledge. 

49. In the close of your performance, you let me under 
stand that your zeal for truth and the reputation of your 
Masters have occasioned your reprehending me with the 
utmost freedom. And it must be owned you have shewn 
a singular talent therein. But I am comforted under the 


severity of your reprehensions, when I consider the weak 
ness of your arguments, which, were they as strong as 
your reproofs, could leave no doubt in the mind of the 
reader concerning the matters in dispute between us. 
As it is, I leave him to reflect and examine by your light 
how clearly he is enabled to conceive a fluxion, or the fluxion 
of a fluxion, a part infinitely small subdivided into an infinity 
of parts, a nascent or evanescent increment, that which is 
neither something nor nothing, a triangle formed in a point, 
velocity without motion, and the rest of those arcana of 
the modern analysis. To conclude, I had some thoughts 
of advising you how to conduct yourself for the future, 
in return for the advice you have so freely imparted to 
me : but, as you think it becomes me rather to inform 
myself than instruct others, I shall, for my farther informa 
tion, take leave to propose a few Queries to those learned 
gentlemen of Cambridge, whom you associate with your 
self and represent as being equally surprised at the 
tendency of my Analyst. 

50. I desire to know whether those who can neither 
demonstrate nor conceive the principles of the modern 
analysis, and yet give in to it, may not be justly said 
to have Faith, and be styled believers of Mysteries ? 
Whether it is impossible to find among the physicians, 
mechanical philosophers, mathematicians, and philomathe- 
maticians, of the present age, some such believers, who 
yet deride Christians for their belief of mysteries ? 
Whether with such men it is not a fair, reasonable, and 
legitimate method to use the argumentum ad hominem ? 
And, being so, whether it ought to surprise either Chris 
tians or scholars ? Whether in an age wherein so many 
pretenders to science attack the Christian religion, we 
may not be allowed to make reprisals, in order to shew 
that the irreligion of those men is not to be presumed 
an effect of deep and just thinking? Whether an attempt 
to detect false reasonings, and remedy defects in mathe 
matics, ought to be ill received by mathematicians? 
W 7 hether the introducing more easy methods, and more 
intelligible principles in any science should be discounten 
anced ? Whether there may not be fair objections as 
well as cavils ? And whether to inquire diligently into 


the meaning of terms and the proof of propositions, not 
excepting against anything without assigning a reason, 
nor affecting to mistake the signification of words, or 
stick at an expression where the sense was clear, but 
considering the subject in all lights, sincerely endeavouring 
to find out any sense or meaning whatsoever, candidly 
setting forth what seems obscure and what fallacious, 
and calling upon those who profess the knowledge of 
such matters to explain them ; whether, I say, such a 
proceeding can be justly called cavilling ? Whether there 
be an ipse dixit erected ? And, if so, when, where, by 
whom, and upon what authority ? Whether, even where 
authority was to take place, one might not hope the mathe 
matics, at least, would be excepted ? Whether the chief 
end, in making mathematics so considerable a part of 
academical education, be not to form in the minds of 
young students habits of just and exact reasoning? And 
whether the study of abstruse and subtle matters can 
conduce to this end, unless they are well understood, 
examined, and sifted to the bottom ? Whether, therefore, 
the bringing geometrical demonstrations to the severest 
test of reason should be reckoned a discouragement to the 
studies of any learned society ? Whether, to separate 
the clear parts of things from the obscure, to distinguish 
the real principles whereon truths rest and whence they 
are derived, and to proportion the just measures of assent 
according to the various degrees of evidence, be a useless 
or unworthy undertaking? Whether the making more 
of an argument than it will bear, and placing it in an 
undue rank of evidence, be not the likely way to dis 
parage it ? Whether it may not be of some use, to pro 
voke and stir up the learned professors to explain a part 
of mathematical learning which is acknowledged to be 
most profound, difficult, and obscure, and at the same 
time set forth by Philakthes and many others as the 
greatest instance that has ever been given of the extent 
of human abilities? Whether, for the sake of a great 
man s discoveries, we must adopt his errors ? Lastly, 
whether in an age wherein all other principles are can 
vassed with the utmost freedom, the principles of Fluxions 
are to be alone excepted ? 




1. I HAD no sooner considered the performance of 
Philaldhcs, but Mr. Walton s Vindication of Fluxions was 
put into my hands. As this Dublin professor gleans after 
the Cantabrigian", only endeavouring to translate a few 
passages from Sir Isaac Newton s Principia, and enlarge 
on a hint or two of Philalcthes, he deserves no particular 
notice. It may suffice to advertise the reader that the 
foregoing Defence contains a full and explicit answer to 
Mr. Walton, as he will find, if he thinks it worth his pains 
to read what this gentleman hath written, and compare 
it therewith : particularly with sect. 18, 20, 30, 32-36, 43. 
It is not, I am sure, worth mine to repeat the same things, 
or confute the same notions twice over, in mere regard 
to a writer who hath copied even the manners of Phila 
lcthes, and whom in answering the other I have, if I am 
not much mistaken, sufficiently answered. 

2. Mr. Walton touches on the same points that the 
other had touched upon before him. He pursues a hint 
which the other had given * about Sir Isaac s first section 
concerning the rationes primce ct ultima;. He discreetly 
avoids, like the other, to say one syllable of second, third, 
or fourth fluxions, and of divers other points mentioned 

1 A Vindication of Sir Isaac New- dix is a reply to Walton, added in 

ton s Principles of Fluxions, by J. a second issue of the Defence. I 

Walton of Dublin, was published in regret that I have not found any 

Dublin and London, early in 1735, record of him. 

in which the argument of the - Dr. Jurin. 

Analyst is criticised. This Appen- 3 [Philalethes, p. 32.] AUTHOR. 



in the Analyst, about all which I observe in him a most 
prudent and profound silence. And yet he very modestly 
gives his reader to understand that he is able to clear 
up all difficulties and objections that have ever been made 
(p. 5). Mr. Walton, in the beginning, like Philalethcs, 
from a particular case makes a general inference ; sup 
posing that Infidelity to be imputed to mathematicians 
in general which I suppose only in the person to whom 
the Analyst was addressed, and certain other persons of 
the same mind with him. Whether this extraordinary 
way of reasoning be the cause or effect of his passion, 
I know not : but before I had got to the end of his Vindica 
tion, I ceased to be surprised at his logic and his temper in 
the beginning. The double error, which in the Analyst 
was plainly meant to belong to others, he with Philalcthes 
(whose very oversight he adopts) supposeth to have been 
ascribed to Sir Isaac Newton (p. 36). And this writer 
also, as well as the Cantabrigian, must needs take upon 
him to explain the motive of my writing against fluxions ; 
which he gives out, with great assurance, to have been 
because Sir Isaac Newton had presumed to interpose 
in prophecies and revelations, and to decide in religious 
affairs (p. 4) ; which is so far from being true that, on 
the contrary, I have a high value for those learned 
remains of that great man, whose original and free genius 
is an eternal reproach to that tribe of followers who are 
always imitating but never resemble him. This specimen 
of Mr. Walton s truth will be a warning to the reader 
to use his own eyes, and in obscure points never to trust 
the gentleman s candour, who dares to misrepresent the 

3. I was thinking to have said no more concerning this 
author s performance, but, lest he should imagine himself 
too much neglected, I entreat the reader to have the 
patience to peruse it ; and if he finds any one point of 
the doctrine of fluxions cleared up, or any one objection 
in the Analyst answered, or so much as fairly stated, let 
him then make his compliments to the author. But, it 
he can no more make sense of what this gentleman has 
written than I can, he will need no answer to it. Nothing 
is easier than for a man to translate, or copy, or compose 
a plausible discourse of some pages in technical terms, 


whereby he shall make a shew of saying somewhat, although 
neither the reader nor himself understand one tittle of 
it. Whether this be the case of Mr. Walton, and whether 
he understands either Sir Isaac Newton, or me, or him 
self (whatever I may think), I shall not take upon me 
to say. But one thing I know, that many an unmeaning 
speech passeth for significant by the mere assurance of 
the speaker, till he cometh to be catechised upon it ; and 
then the truth sheweth itself. This Vindicator, indeed, 
by his dissembling nine parts in ten of the difficulties 
proposed in the Analyst, sheweth no inclination to be 
catechised by me. But his scholars have a right to be 
informed. I therefore recommend it to them not to 
be imposed on by hard words and magisterial assertions, 
but carefully to pry into his sense, and sift his meaning, 
and particularly to insist on a distinct answer to the 
following Questions. 

4. Let them ask him Whether he can conceive velocity 
without motion, or motion without extension, or extension 
without magnitude? If he answers that he can, let him 
teach them to do the same. If he cannot, let him be 
asked, how he reconciles the idea of a fluxion which 
he gives (p. 13) with common sense ? Again, let him be 
asked, Whether nothing be not the product of nothing 
multiplied by something ; and, if so, when the difference 
between the gnomen and the sum of the rectangles * 
vanisheth, whether the rectangles themselves do not also 
vanish? i.e. when ab is nothing, whether Ab + Ba be not 
also nothing ? i. e. whether the momentum of AB be not 
nothing? Let him then be asked, what his momentums 
are good for, when they are thus brought to nothing? 
Again, I wish he were asked to explain the difference 
between a magnitude infinitely small and a magnitude 
infinitely diminished. If he saith, there is no difference, 
then let him be farther asked, how he dares to explain 
the method of fluxions, by the ratio of magnitudes infinitely 
diminished (p. 9), when Sir Isaac Newton hath expressly 
excluded all consideration of quantities infinitely small 2 ? If 

1 [See Vindication, p. 17.] AUTHOR. 

- [See his Introduction to the Quadratures.] AUTHOR. 


this able vindicator should say that quantities infinitely 
diminished are nothing at all, and consequently that, ac 
cording to him, the first and last ratios are proportions 
between nothings ; let him be desired to make sense of 
this, or explain what he means by proportion between 
nothings. If he should say, the ultimate proportions are 
the ratios of mere limits, then let him be asked how the 
limits of lines can be proportioned or divided ? After all, 
who knows but this gentleman, who hath already com 
plained of me for an uncommon way of treating mathema 
tics and mathematicians (p. 5), may (as well as the Canta 
brigian] cry out Spain and the inquisition ! when he 
finds himself thus closely pursued and beset with interro 
gatories ? That we may not, therefore, seem too hard on 
an innocent man, who probably meant nothing, but was 
betrayed by following another into difficulties and straits 
that he was not aware of, I shall propose one single ex 
pedient, by which his disciples (whom it most concerns) 
may soon satisfy themselves whether this Vindicator really 
understands what he takes upon him to vindicate. It is, 
in short, that they would ask him to explain the second, 
third, or fourth fluxions upon his principles. Be this the 
touchstone of his Vindication. If he can do it, I shall own 
myself much mistaken : if he cannot, it will be evident 
that he was much mistaken in himself, when he presumed 
to defend fluxions without so much as knowing what they 
are. So, having put the merits of the cause on this issue, 
I leave him to be tried by his scholars. 







The Minute Philosopher 

Ex Fumo luccm 

First published in 1 735 




r. THERE are some men that can neither give nor take 
an answer, but, writing merely for the sake of writing, 
multiply words to no purpose. There are also certain 
careless writers that, in defiance of common sense, publish 
such things as, though they are not ashamed to utter, yet, 
other men may well be ashamed to answer. Whether 
there be anything in Mr. Walton s method of vindicating 
Fluxions, that might justify my taking no farther notice of 
him, on the above-mentioned considerations, I leave you 
and every other reader to judge. But those, Sir, are not 
the reasons I shall assign for not replying to Mr. Walton s 
full answer. The true reason is, that he seems at 
bottom a facetious man, who, under the colour of an 
opponent, writes on my side of the question, and really 
believes no more than I do of Sir Isaac Newton s doctrine 
about fluxions, which he exposes, contradicts, and con 
futes, with great skill and humour, under the mask of 
a grave vindication. 

2. At first I considered him in another light, as one 
who had good reason for keeping to the beaten track, who 

1 In 1735 Walton resumed the answer to Berkeley s Reasons, to 

controversy, in his Catechism of the which Berkeley made no reply. 

Author of the Minute Philosopher This tract is his last in the contro- 

fttlly considered, which appeared versy occasioned by the Analyst, 

at Dublin in that year, printed by which thereupon became exclu- 

M. Rhames, for R. Gunne, book- sively mathematical and so more 

seller in Capel Street. Berkeley remote from the metaphysical 

retorted with vigour in this tract. foundations alike of mathematics 

A second edition of Walton s Cafe- and religion, in which Berkeley 

chisui contains an Appendix in was chiefly interested. 


had been used to dictate, who had terms of art at will, but 
was indeed at small trouble about putting them together, 
and perfectly easy about his readers understanding them. 
It must be owned, in an age of so much ludicrous humour, 
it is not every one can at first sight discern a writer s real 
design. But, be a man s assertions ever so strong in 
favour of a doctrine, yet if his reasonings are directly 
levelled against it, whatever question there may be about 
the matter in dispute, there can be none about the intention 
of the writer. Should a person, so knowing and discreet 
as Mr. Walton, thwart and contradict Sir Isaac Newton, 
under pretence of defending his fluxions, and should he 
at every turn say such uncouth things of these same 
fluxions, and place them in such odd lights as must set all 
men in their wits against them, could I hope for a better 
second in this cause ? Or could there remain any doubt 
of his being a disguised Free-thinker in mathematics, who 
defended fluxions just as a certain Free-thinker in religion 
did the rights of the Christian church 1 ? 

3. Mr. Walton indeed after his free manner calls my 
Analyst a libel 2 . But this ingenious gentleman well 
knows a bad vindication is the bitterest libel. Had you 
a mind, Sir, to betray and ridicule any cause under the 
notion of vindicating it, would you not think it the right 
way to be very strong and dogmatical in the affirmative, 
and very weak and puzzled in the argumentative parts 
of your performance ? To utter contradictions and para 
doxes without remorse, and to be at no pains about recon 
ciling or explaining them ? And with great good-humour, 
to be at perpetual variance with yourself and the author 
you pretend to vindicate ? How successfully Mr. Walton 
hath practised these arts, and how much to the honour of 
the great client he would seem to take under his pro 
tection, I shall particularly examine throughout every 
article of his full answer. 

4. First, then, saith Mr. Walton, I am to be asked, 
whether I can conceive velocity without motion, or motion 
without extension, or extension without magnitude ? To 
which he answereth in positive terms, that he can conceive 

1 The reference is to Tindal s Rights of the Christian Church. 
- [Vindication, p. i.] AUTHOR. 


velocity and motion in a point (p. 7). And to make out 
this he undertakes to demonstrate, that if a thing be 
moved by an agent operating continually by the same 
force, the velocity will not be the same in any two different 
points of the described space ; but that it must vary upon 
the least change of space. Now, admitting thus much 
to be demonstrated, yet I am still at a loss to conceive 
how Mr. Walton s conclusion will follow, to wit, that I 
am greatly mistaken in imagining there can be no motion, 
no velocity, in a point of space (p. 10). Pray, Sir, con 
sider his reasoning. The same velocity cannot be in two 
points of space ; therefore velocity can be in a point of 
space. Would it not be just as good reasoning to say, 
the same man cannot be in two nutshells ; therefore a 
man can be in a nutshell ? Again, velocity must vary 
upon the least change of space ; therefore there may be 
velocity without space. Make sense of this if you can. 
What have these consequences to do with their premises ? 
Who but Mr. Walton could have inferred them ? Or 
how could even he have inferred them had it not been in 

5. Suppose the centre of a falling body to describe 
a line ; divide the time of its fall into equal parts, for 
instance, into minutes. The spaces described in those 
equal parts of time will be unequal. That is, from what 
soever points of the described line you measure a minute s 
descent, you will still find it a different space. This is 
true. But how or why from this plain truth a man should 
infer, that motion can be conceived in a point, is to me as 
obscure as any the most obscure mysteries that occur in 
this profound author. Let the reader make the best of 
it. For my part, I can as easily conceive Mr. Walton 
should walk without stirring, as I can his idea of motion 
without space. After all, the question was not whether 
motion could be proved to exist in a point, but only whether 
it could be conceived in a point. For, as to the proof of 
things impossible, some men have a way of proving that 
may equally prove anything. But I much question whether 
any reader of common sense will undertake to conceive 
what this pleasant man at inference undertakes to prove. 

6. If Mr. Walton really meant to defend the author of 
the fluxionary method, would he not have done it in a 


way consistent with this illustrious author s own principles? 
Let us now see what may be Sir Isaac s notion about this 
matter. He distinguisheth two sorts of motion, absolute 
and relative. The former he defineth to be a translation 
from absolute place to absolute place, the latter from one 
relative place to another \ Mr. Walton s is plainly neither 
of these sorts of motion. But some third kind, which 
what it is, I am at a loss to comprehend. But I can 
clearly comprehend that, if we admit motion without space, 
then Sir Isaac Newton s account of it must be wrong : for 
place by which he defines motion is, according to him, 
a part of space. And if so, then this notable defender 
hath cut out new work for himself to defend and explain. 
But about this, if I mistake not, he will be very easy. For, 
as I said before, he seems at bottom a back friend to that 
great man ; which opinion you will see farther confirmed 
in the sequel. 

7. I shall no more ask Mr. Walton to explain anything : 
for I can honestly say, the more he explains, the more 
I am puzzled. But I will ask his readers to explain, 
by what art a man may conceive motion without space. 
And, supposing this to be done, in the second place to 
explain, how it consists wdth Sir Isaac Newton s account 
of motion. Is it not evident that Mr. Walton hath deserted 
from his old master, and been at some pains to expose 
him, while he defends one part of his principles by over 
turning another? Let any reader tell me, what Mr. 
Walton means by motion, or, if he can guess, what this 
third kind is, which is neither absolute nor relative, which 
exists in a point, which may be conceived without space. 
This learned professor saith, I have no clear conception 
of the principles of motion (p. 24). And in another place 
(p. 7) he saith, I might have conceived velocity in a point, 
if I had understood and considered the nature of motion. 
I believe I am not alone in not understanding his prin 
ciples. For myself, I freely confess the case to be despe 
rate. I neither understand them, nor have any hopes of 
ever being able to understand them. 

8. Being now satisfied that Mr. Walton s aim is not 
to clear up or defend Sir Isaac s principles, but rather to 

1 [Sec Schol. dcf. VIII. Philos. Nat. Pnndp. Math. ] AUTHOR. 


contradict and expose them, you will not, I suppose, think 
it strange, if instead of putting questions to this intrepid 
answerer, who is never at a loss, how often soever his 
readers may I entreat you, or any other man of plain 
sense, to read the following passage, cited from the thirty- 
first section of the Analyst, and then try to apply Mr. 
Walton s answer to it : whereby you will clearly perceive 
what a vein of raillery that gentleman is master of. 
Velocity necessarily implies both time and space, and 
cannot be conceived without them. And if the velocities of 
nascent or evanescent quantities, i.e. abstracted from time 
and space, may not be comprehended, how can we com 
prehend and demonstrate their proportions? Or con 
sider their rationcs primcc et ultima. For, to consider the 
proportion or ratio of things implieth that such things have 
magnitude : that such their magnitudes may be measured, 
and their relations to each other known. But, as there 
is no measure of velocity except time and space, the pro 
portion of velocities being only compounded of the direct 
proportion of the spaces and the reciprocal proportion of 
the times ; doth it not follow, that to talk of investigating, 
obtaining, and considering the proportions of velocities, 
exclusively of time and space, is to talk unintelligibly? 
Apply now, as I said, Mr. Walton s full answer, and you 
will soon find how fully you are enlightened about the nature 
of fluxions. 

9. In the following article of Mr. Walton s full answer, 
he saith divers curious things, which being derived from 
this same principle that motion may be conceived in a 
point are altogether as incomprehensible as the origin 
from whence they flow. It is obvious and natural to 
suppose Ab and Ba ] to be rectangles produced from finite 
lines multiplied by increments. Mr. Walton indeed sup- 
poseth that when the increments vanish or become nothing 
the velocities remain, which being multiplied by finite 
lines produce those rectangles (p. 13). But, admitting the 
velocities to remain, yet how can any one conceive a 
rectangular surface to be produced from a line multiplied 
by velocity, otherwise than by supposing such line multi 
plied by a line or increment which shall be exponent of 

1 [See Nat. Phil. Princip. Math. 1. II. lem. 2.] AUTHOR. 


or proportional to such velocity ? You may try to con 
ceive it otherwise. I must own I cannot. Is ftot the 
increment of a rectangle itself a rectangle ? must not then 
Ab and Ba be rectangles ? and must not the coefficients or 
sides of rectangles be lines ? Consequently are not b and 
a lines, or (which is the same thing) increments of lines ? 
These increments may indeed be considered as propor 
tional to and exponents of velocity. But exclusive of 
such exponents to talk of rectangles under lines and 
velocities is, I conceive, to talk unintelligibly. And yet 
this is what Mr. Walton doth, when he maketh b and a in 
the rectangles Ab and Ba to denote mere velocities. 

10. As to the question, whether nothing be not the 
product of nothing multiplied by something, Mr. Walton 
is pleased to answer in the affirmative. And nevertheless, 
when ab is nothing, that is, when a and b are nothing, he 
denies that Ab + Ba is nothing. This is one of those 
many inconsistencies which I leave the reader to reconcile. 
But, saith Mr. Walton, the sides of the given rectangle 
still remain, which two sides according to him must form 
the increment of the flowing rectangle. But in this he 
directly contradicts Sir Isaac Newton, who asserts that 
Ab + Ba and not A + B is the increment of the rectangle 
A. B. And, indeed, how is it possible a line should be 
the increment of a surface? Latcruin incrcmcntis foil s a ct 
b gcncratur rcctanguli incrcmcntum Ab + Ba, are the words 
of Sir Isaac 1 , which words seem utterly inconsistent with 
Mr. Walton s doctrine. But no wonder that gentleman 
should not agree with Sir Isaac, since he cannot agree- 
even with himself; but contradicts what he saith elsewhere, 
as the reader may see, even before he gets to the end of 
that same section, wherein he hath told us, that the 
gnomon and the sum of the two rectangles are turned 
into those two sides by a retroverted motion (pp. n and 
12). Which proposition, if you or any other person 
should try to make sense of, you may possibly be con 
vinced that this profound author is as much at variance 
with common sense as he is with himself and Sir Isaac 

11. Mr. Walton, in the ninth page of his Vindication, in 

1 [Sec Nat. Phil. Prindp. Math. 1. II. 1cm. 2.] AUTHOR. 


order to explain the nature of fluxions, saith that to 
obtain the last ratio of synchronal increments, the magni 
tude of those increments must be infinitely diminished. 
Notwithstanding which, in the twenty-third page of his full 
answer, he chargeth me as greatly mistaken, in supposing 
that he explained the doctrine of fluxions by the ratio of 
magnitudes infinitely diminished. It is an easy matter 
for any author to write so as to betray his readers into 
mistakes about his meaning. But then it is not easy to 
conceive what right he hath to upbraid them with such 
their mistakes. If I have mistaken his sense, let any one 
judge if he did not fairly lead me into the mistake. When 
a man puzzleth his reader, saith and unsaith, useth 
ambiguous terms and obscure terms, and putteth them 
together in so perverse a manner that it is odds you can 
make out no sense at all, or, if any, wrong sense ; pray 
who is in fault but the writer himself? Let any one 
consider Mr. Walton s own words, and then say whether 
I am not justified in making this remark. 

12. In the twentieth page of his full answer, Mr. Walton 
tells us that fluxions are measured by the first or last 
proportions of isochronal increments generated or de 
stroyed by motion. A little after he saith, these ratios 
subsist when the isochronal increments have no magni 
tude. Now, I would fain know whether the isochronal 
increments themselves subsist when they have no magni 
tude ? Whether by isochronal increments we are not to 
understand increments generated in equal times ? Whether 
there can be an increment where there is no increase, 
or increase where there is no magnitude? Whether if 
magnitudes are not generated in those equal times, what 
else is generated therein, or what else is it that Mr. 
Walton calls isochronal ? I ask the reader these ques 
tions. I dare not ask Mr. Walton. For, as I hinted 
before, the subject grows still more obscure in proportion 
as this able writer attempts to illustrate it. 

13. We are told (p. 22) that the first or last ratio of the 
isochronal spaces hath a real existence, forasmuch as it is 
equal to the ratio of the two motions of two points ; which 
motions, subsisting when the isochronal spaces are nothing, 
preserve the existence of the first or last ratio of these 
spaces, or keep it from being a ratio of nothings. In 


order to assist your understanding, it must not be omitted 
that the said two points are supposed to exist at the same 
time in one point, and to be moved different ways without 
stirring from that point. Mr. Walton hath the conscience 
to call this riddle a full and clear answer : to make sense 
of which you must suppose it one of his ironies. In the 
next and last article of his performance, you still find him 
proceed in the same vein of raillery upon fluxions. 

14. It will be allowed that whoever seriously undertook 
to explain the second, third, and fourth fluxions of Sir 
Isaac Newton would have done it in a way agreeable to 
that great man s own doctrine. What Sir Isaac s precise 
notion is I will not pretend to say. And yet I will venture 
to say, it is something that cannot be explained by the 
three dimensions of a cube. I frankly own, I do not 
understand Sir Isaac s doctrine so far as to frame a posi 
tive idea of his fluxions. I have, nevertheless, a negative 
conception thereof, so far as to see that Mr. Walton is in 
jest, or (if in earnest) that he understands it no more 
than I do. 

15. Sir Isaac tells us that he considers indeterminate 
quantities as flowing, or in other words, as increasing or 
decreasing by a perpetual motion. Which quantities he 
denotes by the latter letters of the alphabet, and their 
fluxions or celerities of increasing by the same letters 
pointed over head, and the fluxions of fluxions or second 
fluxions, i. e. the mutations more or less swift of the first 
celerities, by the same letters pointed with double points ; 
and the mutations of those mutations of the first mutations 
or fluxions or celerities of increasing, which he calls 
fluxions of fluxions of fluxions, or third fluxions, by 
three points ; the fourth fluxions by four points ; the fifth 
by five; and so on 1 . Sir Isaac, you see, speaks of 
quantity in general. And in the Analyst the doctrine 
is exemplified and the case is put in lines. Now in lines, 
where there is only one dimension, how are we enabled to 
conceive second, third, or fourth fluxions, by conceiving 
the generation of three dimensions in a cube ? Let any 
one but read what Sir Isaac Newton or what I have said, 
and then apply what Mr. Walton hath written about the 

1 [See his Treatise DC Ouadratum Curvamm.~\ AUTHOR. 


three dimensions of a cube, and see whether the difficulties 
are solved, or the doctrine made one whit the clearer by 
this explication. 

16. That you may the better judge of the merit of this 
part of Mr. Walton s performance, I shall beg leave to set 
down a passage or two from the Analyst. As it is 
impossible to conceive velocity without time or space, 
without either finite length or finite duration, it must 
seem above the power of man to comprehend even the 
first fluxions. And if the first are incomprehensible, what 
shall we say of the second and third fluxions, &c. ? He 
who can conceive the beginning of a beginning, or the end 
of an end, somewhat before the first or after the last, may 
perhaps be sharp-sighted enough to conceive these things. 
But most men, I believe, will find it impossible to under 
stand them in any sense whatsoever. One would think 
that men could not speak too exactly on so nice a subject. 
And yet we may often observe that the exponents of 
fluxions, or notes representing fluxions are confounded 
with the fluxions themselves. Is not this the case when, 
just after the fluxions of flowing quantities were said to be 
the celerities of their increasing, and the second fluxions 
to be the mutations of the first fluxions or celerities, we 

are told that z. z. z. z. z. z\ represents a series of quantities, 
whereof each subsequent quantity is the fluxion of the pre 
ceding ; and each foregoing is a fluent quantity having 
the following one for its fluxion ? Divers series of 
quantities and expressions, geometrical and algebraical, 
may be easily conceived, in lines, in surfaces, in species, 
to be continued without end or limit. But it will not be 
found so easy to conceive a series, either of mere velocities 
or of mere nascent increments, distinct therefrom and 
corresponding thereunto V Compare what is here said 
with Mr. Walton s genesis of a cube, and you will then 
clearly see how far this answerer is from explaining the 
nature of second, third, and fourth fluxions : and how 
justly I might repay that gentleman in kind, and tell him 
in his own language, that all his skill is vain and im 
pertinent. (Vinci, p. 36.) 

17. But it doth not become me to find fault with this 

1 [Analyst, sect. 44-46.] AUTHOR. 


learned professor, who at bottom militates on my side, 
and in this very section makes it his business directly to 
overthrow Sir Isaac Newton s doctrine. For he saith in 
plain terms that there can be no fourth fluxion of a cube 
(p. 25), that is, there can be no second fluxion of a line, 
and a fortiori , no third, fourth, fifth, &c. Insomuch that, 
with one single dash of his pen, Mr. Walton destroys, 
to the great relief of the learned world, an indefinite rank 
of fluxions of different orders that might have reached 
from pole to pole. I had distinctly pointed out the 
difficulties, in several parts both of my Analyst and De 
fence, and I leave you to judge whether he explains, or 
even attempts to explain, one of them. Instead thereof 
he tells us of the trine dimension of a cube generated by 
motion : whence he takes occasion, as hath been observed, 
to explode Sir Isaac s own doctrine, which is utterly 
inconsistent with Mr. Walton s. And can you now doubt 
the real design of this egregious vindicator? 

18. Before ever Sir Isaac Newton thought of his 
fluxions, everybody knew there were three dimensions 
in a cube, and that a solid might be generated by the 
motion of a surface, a surface by the motion of a line, 
and a line by the motion of a point. And this in effect is 
all we know from Mr. Walton s explication. As for his 
dwelling so minutely on the genesis of the solid parts of 
a cube, a thing so foreign from the purpose, the only 
rational account I can give of it is that Mr. Walton, by 
puzzling the imagination of his vulgar readers, hoped 
the better to disguise his betraying the doctrine of his 
great client, which to a discerning eye he manifestly 
gives up ; and instead thereof humorously substitutes 
what all the world knew before Sir Isaac was born, to 
wit, the three dimensions of a cube and the genesis thereof 
by motion. 

19. Upon the whole, I appeal to you and every intelli 
gent reader, whether this thing, which Mr. Walton is pleased 
ironically to call a full answer, doth not carry through 
out a sly insinuation that the profound science of fluxions 
cannot be maintained but by the help of most unintelligible 
paradoxes and inconsistencies ? So far, indeed, as affirma 
tions go, he sheweth himself an able support of Sir Isaac 
Newton. But then in his reasonings he drops that great 


man upon the most important points, to wit, his doctrine 
of motion and his doctrine of fluxions ; not regarding how 
far the demonstration of his famous Principia is interested 
therein. To convince you still more and more of the 
truth hereof, do but reflect a little on Mr. Walton s con 
duct. Can you think it probable that so learned and 
clear-headed a writer would have laid down such a direct 
repugnancy to common sense, as his idea of motion in 
a point, for the groundwork of his explanation, had it been 
his real intention to explain ? Or, can you suppose he 
would have been absolutely silent on so many points 
urged home both in the Analyst and Defence, which it 
concerned a vindicator of Sir Isaac not to have over 
looked ? Can you imagine that if he meant seriously to 
defend the doctrine of fluxions, he would have contented 
himself with barely asserting that Sir Isaac Newton in 
the introduction to his Quadrature of Curves, in the 
second lemma of the second book, and in the scholium 
to the first section of the first book of his Principles of 
Philosophy, hath delivered his doctrine of fluxions in so 
clear and distinct a manner, without the least inconsistency 
in terms or arguments, that one would have thought it 
impossible for any person not to have understood him? 

(P- 3-) 

20. Is it possible, I say, that Mr. Walton could in 
earnest hope we should take his bare word, as so much 
more credible than Sir Isaac s, and not rather have 
endeavoured to answer the questions, and reconcile the 
difficulties set forth in my Defence of Free-thinking; for 
instance, in sect. 36? Wherein I entreat my antagonist 
to explain whether Sir Isaac s momentum be a finite 
quantity, or an infinitesimal, or a mere limit, adding, If 
you say a finite quantity, be pleased to reconcile this with 
what he saith in the scholium of the second lemma of 
the first section of the first book of his Principles Cave 
intclligas quantitales magnititdine determinates, sed cogita 
semper diminuendas sine litnite. If you say, an infinite 
simal : reconcile this with what is said in his introduction 
to the Quadratures Volniostendcre quod in mctliodo fluxio- 
nuni non opus sit figuras infinite parvas in geometriain 
indnccrc. If you should say, it is a mere limit, be pleased 
to reconcile this with what we find in the first case of the 



second lemma in the second book of his Principles Uln 
dc later ibus A ct B dcerant moinentoruin dimidia, $c., where 
the moments are supposed to be divided. I shall scarce 
think it worth my while to bestow a serious thought on 
any writer who shall pretend to maintain Sir Isaac s 
doctrine, and yet leave this passage without a reply. And 
the reader, I believe, will think with me that, in answer to 
difficulties distinctly proposed and insisted on, to offer 
nothing but a magisterial assertion is a mere grimace of 
one who made merry with fluxions, under the notion 
of defending them. And he will be farther confirmed in 
this way of thinking, when he observes that Mr. Walton 
hath not said one syllable in reply to those several sections 
of my Defence which I had particularly referred to, as 
containing a full answer to his Vindication. But it is no 
wonder if, with Sir Isaac s doctrine, he should drop also 
his own arguments in favour thereof. 

21. I have been at the pains once for all to write this 
short comment on Mr. Walton, as the only way I could 
think of for making him intelligible, which will also serve 
as a key to his future writings on this subject. And I was 
the rather inclined to take this trouble, because it seemeth 
to me there is no part of learning that wants to be cleared 
up more than this same doctrine of fluxions, which hath 
hitherto walked about in a mist to the stupefaction of the 
literati of the present age. To conclude, I accept this 
professor s recantation ; nor am at all displeased at the 
ingenious method he takes to disguise it. Some zealous 
fluxionists may perhaps answer him. 







As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men. GAL. vi. 10. 
Hoc opus, hoc studium, parvi propcrcmus et ampli. HOR. 

First published in 1 744 

1 The words within brackets were added in the second edition. 

I 2 


SlRIS Berkeley s Chain of philosophical reflexions 
and inquiries presents his metaphysical philosophy in 
its latest form, as it was when he was about sixty years 
of age. More than thirty years had then elapsed since 
he had evolved the meaning of the words Reality and 
Externality, in the Principles of Human Knowledge] and 
more than twenty since he had unfolded, in the DC Motu, 
thoughts about Causation, which suggest the Chain that 
here connects the supposed medicinal virtues of Tar- 
water with Omnipotent Intelligence immanent in the 
universe. In the interval, more than ten years before 
the date of Sin s, he had defended his early philosophy, 
in defending his theory of Vision ; and he had in Alciphron 
applied the same philosophy in vindication of Christian 
theism. Now, in 1744, his philosophy, developed and 
enriched by much reading and meditation, is made to 
crown a philanthropic treatise in medical metaphysics. 
It was printed in Dublin, and reprinted in London, for 
W. Innys and C. Hitch, in Paternoster Row, and C. Davis 
in Holbourn. Price two shillings. 

Siris, regarded as a philosophical essay, is the con 
summation, on the basis of Ancient Philosophy, of Berke 
ley s conception of the concrete universe, past, present, and 
future, as in necessary dependence upon all-constitutive 
Intelligence. Its chain of philosophical reflexions and 
inquiries is the most curious and profound of Berkeley s 


works. The scanty metaphysical literature of these islands 
in the last century contains no other book so remark 
able ; although it has been overlooked even by those 
learned in the history and bibliography of philosophy. 
Every time we open its pages we find fresh seeds of 
thought. There is the unexpectedness of genius in its 
whole movement. It breathes the spirit of Plato and the 
Neoplatonists in the least Platonic generation of English 
history since the revival of letters, and it extracts this 
Platonic spirit from a thing of sense so commonplace as 
tar. It connects tar with the highest thoughts about 
things, by links which involve botanical, chemical, physio 
logical, and metaphysical speculations that are subtle and 
mystical. Its immediate aim is to confirm the benevolent 
conjecture, that tar may be made to yield a water of 
health, fitted to remove, or at least mitigate, all the 
diseases of the human organism in this mortal state, and 
to carry fresh supplies of the very essence of life into the 
whole animal creation. Its successive links of ascending 
science are connected, by a gradual evolution, first, with 
ancient and modern literature concerning Fire; and, next, 
with the meditations of the greatest of the ancients, about 
the substantial and causal dependence of the universe 
upon active Mind. In one view Strts may be looked 
at as a classic Commonplace Book, into which the fruits 
of the learned meditation of Berkeley s life, regarding 
the universe in which we find ourselves, and the universal 
omnipresent Power, were gathered, and in which, with 
eloquent reiteration, they are expressed in a contempla 
tive rather than in an argumentative form. It is a chain 
of aphorisms, in which the connexion is produced by 
quaint and subtle associations. Speculations of thinkers, 
ancient and modern, blend themselves with the links, and 
the whole forms a series of studies, as well in science 
of nature as in Greek and Eastern theosophy and meta 


When we pass into Sin s from the book of Principles, 
in which, more than thirty years before, Berkeley had 
reasoned out, with an enthusiasm more subdued in his 
advanced age, his new conception of external nature, we 
are transported from Locke to Plato, and find revived 
the ancient conception of gradation in existence, and of 
the constant animation of the universe. We exchange the 
young Dublin enthusiast, joyfully awakened to a great 
discovery, which was for ever to dispel empty abstractions 
in the light of concrete realities, for the companion of 
ancient sages, who had been taught by experience that 
one who would make a real progress in knowledge, must 
dedicate his age as well as youth, the later growth as well 
as the first fruits, at the altar of truth ; and who had 
gradually learned that through the dusk of our gross 
atmosphere, in this life of sense, the sharpest eye cannot 
see clearly. 

This modification of philosophic thought and tone, as 
well as the singular occasion of its manifestation in a 
medical tract on tar-water, are explained when we review 
the circumstances in which Siris was composed. During 
the sixteen years which preceded its publication, Berkeley 
had lived much alone, among his books, first in Rhode 
Island, and afterwards in his secluded diocese of Cloyne ; for 
the most part in indifferent health. Books, especially Plato 
and the Neoplatonists, became his favourite companions ; 
while out of doors, among the poor of his diocese, he was, 
in the early years of his residence, as we gather from his 
correspondence, surrounded in an unusual degree by suf 
fering and disease. We find him in every period of his 
life fond of natural science, and apt to yield to uncommon 
trains of thought which physical facts were apt to raise 
in his mind. In his remote corner at Cloyne, the 
sufferings of his neighbours suggested the remedy of tar- 
water, of which he had heard much in Rhode Island, 
and which, when tried in different diseases, seemed to 


grow under his hand into a Universal Medicine. I do not, 
he modestly conjectures 1 , I do not say that it is a Pana 
cea; I only suspect it to be so : time and trial will shew. 

The mere suspicion of a discovery so wonderful, sus 
tained by alleged facts and by ingenious speculation in the 
119 opening sections of Sin s, was enough to set Berke 
ley s thoughts a-going about the Ultimate Cause of tar- 
water being a cure for all corporeal ills in this prison of 
the body. Tar, to begin with, is drawn from the vegetable 
world, in modes which he describes (sect. 10-28). This 
leads to an inquiry into Vegetable Life ; especially in 
organisms, such as pines, from which tar is readily pro 
duced (sect. 29-38). So we are, in the opening part of 
Sin s, conducted through regions of vegetable physiology 
and botany, in company with Theophrastus and Pliny, 
Jonstonus, John Evelyn, and that curious anatomist of 
plants, Dr. Nehemiah Grew. Firs and pines, we are 
told, secrete an alimentary juice, which consists of oily, 
aqueous, and saline particles. This, by the economy 
of the plant, and the action of the sun, is strained and 
concocted into an inspissated oil or balsam ; this oil 
being in those trees unusually abundant ; also tenacious 
of acid spirit or vegetable soul : therefore when exalted 
and enriched by the solar action, it is found to be charged 
with a most noble medicine, the last and best product 
of a tree perfectly maturated by time and sun (sect. 38). 
Cures, in an immense variety of diseases, are accordingly 
attributed to this acid, when it has been drawn from tar 
by the menstruum of water (sect. 2-7, 60-119). 

Meditation upon the acid spirit or vegetable soul, 
sheathed in its thin volatile oil, and readily withdrawn 
from tar by water, opens the way to more general questions 
about acids and volatile salts. We are thus carried on 

First Letter to Thomas Prior, on the Virtues of Tar-water. Sect. 22. 


(sect. 120) to chemical phenomena and their laws, and are 
led in the following sections to speculate in Chemistry. 
Appeals are made to Newton, Boerhaave, Homberg, and 
Boyle, the chief authorities on acids, alkalis, and salts 
(sect. 126-136). Some curious, old-fashioned chemistry, 
derived from Homberg, is served up in this part of St n s. 

As the acid spirit or salt, that mighty instrument in 
the hand of nature, is supposed to reside in Air, and 
to be diffused through that element, the train of thought 
is next directed to the atmosphere (sect. 137-151) the 
receptacle as well as source of all sublunary forms 
the common seminary of all vivifying principles. Air 
is assumed, according to an ancient opinion, to be a 
collection or treasury of active principles, through which 
a latent vivifying spirit is diffused ; the unique ingredient 
on which life immediately depends. Its heterogeneous 
elements are, it is alleged, united under a subtle sort 
of Fire, Light, or ^Ether, the Vital Spirit of the Universe, 
with which the Acid extracted by water from tar is charged. 

We pass, accordingly (sect. 152) from crude chemistry 
of Air to physical and metaphysical speculation about 
this invisible Fire ; the vital spirit of the sensible world ; 
the principle which corresponds in Nature, the Macrocosm, 
to the animal spirit in Man, the microcosm (sect. 152-165). 
The ancient biological conception of the universe, with 
its universal soul (anima mundi), is accommodated to 
this fire-philosophy, and contrasted with the lifeless, 
mechanical science against which Berkeley everywhere 
protests. His curious learning is employed (sect. 166-205) 
in defending a science of Vitalized Fire. Some of the 
highest authorities are adduced : Heraclitus (its chief 
source in Greece), Plato, the Peripatetics, Theophrastus, 
the Stoics, Plotinus, the Hermic writers, and Hippo 
crates, not to speak of the Eastern philosophers, among 
the ancients ; Newton, Homberg, Boerhaave, Hales, 
Nieuwentyt, and Willis, among moderns. Berkeley tells 


elsewhere 1 that he had for a long time entertained the 
opinion, agreeable to many ancient philosophers that 
Fire may be regarded as the Animal Spirit of this visible 
world. When he came to entertain this opinion he does 
not say. It is in Sin s that it first distinctly appears. 
Vital Fire is there the ultimate link in the physical chain 
by which changes in nature are concatenated. 

This Vital Fire is physical, not metaphysical (sect. 
206-213) ; although it is all-pervading, and governed by 
wonderful laws, assigned to it by ancient and modern 
authorities. In various modes and degrees, it is diffused 
through plants ; and, especially after lodgment in the 
native balsam of pines and firs/ it finds its way benignly 
and beneficially into the human organism, so as to warm 
without heating, to cheer but not inebriate (sect. 217). 
We are warned that Newton s elastic ^Ether is not to 
be confounded with this invisible animated Fire ; nor 
is it subject to those laws of attraction and repulsion 
which play the governing part in Newtonian physics (sect. 

Thus far Berkeley s Chain is physical. But a chain 
that is only physical cannot support itself. It is no final 
explanation of natural changes, whether mechanical, 
chemical, or vital. All sensible phenomena, with their 
natural causes, which are only natural signs, presuppose 
the perpetual operation of Active Reason (sect. 231-238; 
see also sect. 153, 155, 160, 161). Philosophy proper must 
be spiritual, not mechanical ; the facts and laws of physical 
science are but the sensible expression of Divine Agency 
(sect. 251-264). Active Intelligence is the only summary 
explanation of the universe. In Active Reason alone is 
found the golden chain of intelligible reality. 

The last hundred sections of Siris accumulate authorities 
1 See First Letter to Thomas Prior, on the Virtues of Tar-ivater. Sect. 16, 


on behalf of this spiritual philosophy, which, in its eccen 
tric transformations, here appears reflected through the 
greatest minds of the ancient world. Those sections con 
nect, by suggestion, early with recent speculation the an 
ticipations of Pythagoras, Parmenides, Plato, and Plotinus 
with developments in the German thought of Leibniz, and, 
after Berkeley, in Schelling and Hegel. This portion 
of Sin s is probably the nearest approach in English 
philosophy of the eighteenth century to German construc 
tive Idealism of the nineteenth. In each section gold 
may be found. 

Perceived Space and absolute Space blind Fate and 
spiritual FateAnwm Mundi Pantheism and Atheism 
the antithesis and synthesis of Sense and Intelligence 
the actual and the potential existence of Matter Deity 
the origin and various phases of theistic conception 
divine and human Personality the Divine Ideas of Pla- 
tonism the Divine Trinity of Personality, Reason, and Life 
are all pondered in succession ; along with the reported 
thought, on those deep themes, of Pythagoras, Plato, 
Aristotle, Theophrastus, Plotinus, Jamblicus, Proclus, 
Themistius, Simplicius, and the Hermic writers. 

Berkeley discerns outlines of his own spiritual concep 
tion of nature in the dim intuitions of Greek and Egyptian 
philosophy (sect. 266-269), w i tn a ^ which he is more in 
sympathy than with the prevailing mechanical and mate 
rialistic science. Ancient notions of Space and Fate seem 
to him deeper than the modern, and more readily open 
to a spiritual interpretation (sect. 270-273). 

In the modern phantom of uncreated Space, as distin 
guished from visible and tangible extension derived 
neither from sense nor intellect (sect. 271-318), and there 
fore with Berkeley a phantom negation, the result of 
AoyioyAos 1/0005 (sect. 306, 318) he sees the source of other 
phantoms dead Matter, and blind Fate children of 
imagination grafted upon sense (sect. 292) with their 


sceptical consequences. He even prefers, as more spiritual, 
the inclination of some early thinkers to represent the 
universe as an Animal (sect. 273-287) ; seeing in this 
at the worst a one-sided expression of immediate and 
perpetually acting Deity at the heart of all change. 
Anima Mwtdi, held in various forms in Egypt, Greece, 
and Alexandria, harmonized with his animating Fire, 
the living, omniform, seminary of the world ; and also 
with the uniform teaching of his life, as to the dependent 
reality of Matter, and the need for referring change 
to the agency of Mind. God is thus (as it were) the 
Intelligible Soul of the world, by whose perpetual and 
pervading activity all things are connected in the unity 
of the Golden Chain ; the complicated links of which 
human science, with weak and faltering hand, tries to 
display in true scientific order. 

So all things finally centre in the unity of Mind, which 
substantiates all and causes all. This is ro"Ei/ the ONE 
of Egyptians and Greeks (sect. 287-295) ; to all created 
beings the source of unity and identity, of harmony and 
order, existence and stability. It is neither acid nor 
salt, nor sulphur, nor air, nor aether, nor visible corporeal 
fire, much less the phantom fate or necessity, that is the 
real Agent ; but, by a certain analysis, a regular connexion 
and climax, we ascend through all these mediums to 
a glimpse of the First Mover, invisible, incorporeal, un- 
extended, intellectual source of life and being (sect. 296). 

Thus, by a Chain of innumerable links, we pass from 
the extreme of Sense, to the extreme of Intelligence ; the 
truths of which last are the really divine science. Ac 
cordingly, after great examples among the ancients, ill 
relished perhaps by modern readers, in an age of minute 
philosophy, Berkeley draws his reader, by insensible 
transitions, into remote inquiries and speculations, that 
were perhaps not thought of, either by him or by the 
author, at first setting out (sect. 297). 


Theology and Philosophy gently unbind the ligaments 
that chain the soul down to the earth, and assist her flight 
toward the sovereign good (sect. 302). Let us then, 
Berkeley says in effect, let us rise from our fallen state, 
by meditating in religious thought upon that contrast yet 
correlation of Sense and Intelligence, Being and Knowing, 
the Many and the One, Change and the Eternal, the 
Individual and the Universal, which lies at the root of 
whatever is, and which, in these and like modes of con 
ception, has engaged the genuine thinkers in all ages 
(sect. 301-310). Plato and Aristotle, as he interprets 
them, did not assign to sensible things an absolute reality, 
abstracted from percipient Mind. With those ancient 
sages, unperceived Matter was a dark, indefinable nega 
tion, which, with Aristotle, has only potential, not actual 
existence (sect. 311-319). Neither Plato nor Aristotle 
by Matter understood corporeal substance as we see it. 
To them it signified no real, positive being. With the 
Greeks, Matter was only pura potentia, a mere possibility 
and defect ; and, since God is absolute perfection and 
act, it follows that there is the greatest opposition and 
distance imaginable between God and Matter (sect. 319). 

What then is God ? That is the great question which 
this train of thought suggests. It leads (sect. 320-329) 
to a restatement of the ultimate conception of Causation 
which runs through his philosophy. A cause is distin 
guished from its effects ; and the Supreme Power, how 
ever involved in the universe in which the Divine Ideas 
are expressed, is not to be confounded with the universe. 
The Universal Power is a really existing Spirit, trans 
cending all corporeal and sensible things (sect. 323). 
A liberal toleration is indeed conceded to the varied 
language which religious thought employs to express 
the relation of God to the universe. If we should even 
say that all concrete things make one God, this would, 


he thinks, be an inapt way of expressing a deep truth ; 
but should not be regarded as atheistic, so long as Mind 
or Intellect is admitted to be TO ^ye/xovtKov, the governing 
part (sect. 288). It is nevertheless more respectful, and 
consequently the truer notion of God, to suppose Him 
neither made up of parts, nor to be Himself a part of any 
Whole whatever. When we find Platonic and Aristo 
telian philosophers speaking of God as mixing with 
nature, or pervading * nature, he explains this as referring 
not to mixture in the way of space or extension, but in 
the way of all-present power, and universal Providence. 
For extension is never applied to mind by Plato and 
Aristotle; and spiritual things are distant from one 
another not by place but, as Plotinus says, by alterity 
(sect. 329). 

As a help in the endeavour to rise in contemplation 
above the selfish feeling and mechanical habit which 
exclusive study of sensible things is apt to generate, 
Berkeley, with earnest eloquence, points to the books 
of ancient philosophers ; above all to Plato, whose 
writings are the touchstone of a hasty and shallow mind 
(sect. 332). In the remaining aphorisms of Sir is, he 
moves in company with him, also with Parmenides, 
Plotinus, and Proclus, not forgetting the curious Hermic 
lore which somehow fascinated him in his old age. 

In the Ideas of Plato he thinks he finds the beginnings 
of a reconciliation of philosophy with religion (sect. 335- 
338). His early sensuous Nominalism is now modi 
fied and supplemented by a transcendental Idealism, in 
which are discerned uncreated necessities of reason that 
cannot be pictured in sensuous imagination, but by which 
the evolutions of the world, and the individual mind, 
should be regulated. This Idealism is dimly present in 
Sins. Here the Ideas are not, like those of Locke, or 
like the sensuous ideas of the Principles and Dialogues, 
inert, inactive objects of perception. They are self- 


existent, necessary, uncreated. Nor are they the abstract 
general ideas against which he had argued Jong before 
so emphatically. On the contrary they are the most real 
beings, intellectual and unchangeable ; and therefore more 
real than the fleeting, transient objects of sense ; which, 
wanting stability, cannot be objects of science, much less 
of intellectual knowledge (sect. 335). The most refined 
human intellect, exerted to its utmost reach, can only 
seize some imperfect glimpses of the Divine Ideas ; ab 
stracted from all things corporeal, sensible, and imaginable. 
Therefore Pythagoras and Plato treated them in a mys 
terious manner, concealing rather than exposing them to 
vulgar eyes ; so far were they from thinking that those 
abstract things, although the most real, were the fittest 
to influence common minds, or become principles of know 
ledge, not to say duty and virtue, to the generality of 
mankind (sect. 337). Nevertheless, as the mind gathers 
strength by repeated acts, we should not despond, but 
continue to exert the prime and flower of our faculties, 
still recovering and reaching on, and struggling into the 
upper region (sect. 341). 

We are asked to try, in this manner, to rise even above 
the thought of the Universal Spirit, enlightening and order 
ing all things ; and to enter into the meaning of the ancient 
tenet of TO "Ev or TO AyafloV, thefons Dcitatis, by participa 
tion in which all exists that exists really, the finite spirits 
of men included. For Plato thought that in the soul of 
man, prior and superior to intellect, there is Somewhat 
of a higher nature, by virtue of which we are One ; and 
that, by virtue of our One, we are most closely joined to 
Deity (sect. 345). 

What is TO "Ev, thus in a manner common to ourselves, 
the world, and God ? Is it not PERSONALITY ? Is not 
personality the indivisible centre of the human soul, 
which is a monad so far forth as a person ? Person is 


really that which exists ; inasmuch as it alone participates 
of the divine Unity. Upon mature reflexion the Person 
or Mind of all created beings seemeth alone indivisible, 
and to partake most of unity. Sensible things are rather 
considered one (by an act of intelligence) than truly so ; 
they being in a perpetual flux or succession, ever differing 
and various (346,347). Here we find Berkeley s early 
philosophy a universe of ideas or phenomena/ realised 
in living Persons. 

But TO "Ev the ONE this abstract personality seems, 
as prior to consciousness, to exclude conscious life in God. 
What is it more than the Trpomy { Ar/ of Aristotle ? 

Berkeley argues (sect. 352) that the ultimate One is 
necessarily connected with vov-s or Ao yos, as a Second 
Hypostasis. These two Hypostases are inseparable in 
Absolute Being or Deity. There never was a time 
supposed wherein TO "Ev subsisted without Intellect (Ao yos) ; 
the priority having been understood as a priority of 
order or conception, but not a priority of age (sect. 
352). And whoever recognises that the universe is 
thus grounded in Intellect cannot be justly deemed an 

Intellect (vovs or Ao yos), abstracted from Life, is, however, 
as barren as the One (TO "Ev), abstracted from intellect. 
Both must participate in Life. Intellect must be living 
Spirit. Life (i/^x 7 ?) is accordingly the Third Hypostasis in 
the Trinity of the ultimate One. Certain it is that the 
notion of this Trinity is to be found in the writings of 
many old heathen philosophers ; that is to say, a notion of 
Three Divine Hypostases. Authority, Light, and Life did, 
to the eye of reason, plainly appear to support, pervade, 
and animate the mundane system or Macrocosm. The 
same appeared in the microcosm; preserving soul and body, 
enlightening the mind, and moving the affections. And 
these were conceived to be necessary, universal principles; 
co-existing and co-operating, in such sort as never to exist 

I2 9 

asunder, but on the contrary to constitute One Sovereign 
of all things. And, indeed, how could Power or Authority 
avail or subsist without Knowledge? or either without Life 
and Action ? (sect. 361). 

The One must be Thought eternally Living. With this 
Trinity in the essence of Being Sin s concludes. Its clos 
ing sentences concentrate the protest against selfish and 
degrading Materialism which eloquently runs through it, 
and speak in favour of the deeper and therefore truer life 
that arises amidst the glimpses of the Divine that are 
open to us, but which our limited and sense-clogged reason 
can only imperfectly comprehend. 

Thus in Sin s physics continuously pass into meta 
physics : the universe is spiritually united in God. Mis 
interpretation of nature in the physical chain need not 
intercept the metaphysical or religious light which reveals 
a divine concatenation of Reason in all things. Sin s, in 
this, recalls the Timceus of Plato, so often referred to in 
its aphorisms. Its sense-universe, substantiated in and 
causally animated by God, of whose Ideas the natural laws 
of the sensible world are an expression, does not disappear 
in its errors of therapeutics. Mistaken interpretations of 
the divine physical meaning do not imply that there is no 
higher divine meaning. 

The suggestive title Sin s 1 (cmpa, a chain) was prefixed 

1 Set ris, De Quincey says, Queries, Second Series, vol. III. pp. 

ought to have been the name. 63-65, 81-84, 104-107, in an essay 

The notion of universal divine con- on the Anna Catena Homeri, a 

catenation in Nature is one which rare work published in Germany 

runs through ancient and modern early in the eighteenth century, 

philosophy, from Homer and Pytha- Its author follows the Egyptians 

goras, through Plato and Proclus, and most ancient sages in re- 

into Bacon, Leibniz, and Berkeley. garding Nature as a series of 

It is prominent in the Hermic rings or revolving circles, forming 

writings and in Paracelsus, being a vast Chain, which links God with 

a favourite with the alchemists. His humblest creature. The affi- 

Some curious gleanings on this nity between the Universal Chain 

subject may be found in Notes and and the notions of Paracelsus is 



to the second edition, published a few weeks after the first. 
The first edition appeared in April, 1744, in London, 
printed for C. Hitch, in Pater-noster-row ; and C. Davis, 
against Gray s Inn, Holbourn. 

The medical celebrity of the work was extraordinary for 
some years after its appearance. Three editions were 
called for in 1744. Others succeeded in 1746 and 1748. 

A French translation of St ris appeared at Amsterdam in 
1745. It is entitled Recherches sur les Vertus de Tean de 
Goudron, oil I on a joint des Reflexions Philosophiques sur 
divers autres sujets importans. Berkeley s First Letter to 
Prior is translated in this volume, which also includes a 
letter addressed to the author of the German translation 
of Sin s. The French translation is referred to in the Ada 
Eruditorum, Leips. 1746, pp. 446-449. 

Part of Siris was translated into German at Gottingen 
in 1746; but only the parts which relate to the preparation 
and medicinal properties of tar-water, along with several 
tracts on the subject, including Berkeley s Letters to Prior, 
and the volume contains an account of some German 
analyses of tar-water 1 . 

obvious. Berkeley repeatedly in successively ascending circles, 

refers in Siris to the Paracelsic from tar-water to Supreme Mind, 

chemistry. of which physical causes are merely 

The subject is pursued in Notes the passive instruments and inter- 

and Queries, Second Series, vol. pretable signs. According to Siris, 

XII. 161-163, 181-183. The writer this chain of physical causes, which 

(p. 163) suggests that it was with are all in turn effects, is at last 

reference to the Aurea Catena physically enchained by invisible 

Homeri, that Bishop Berkeley Fire, itself immediately depen- 

wrote and named that most strange dent on Supreme Active Reason, 

yet most choice composition, his So Bacon : When a man seeth 

Siris ; which, announced as an the dependence of causes, and the 

Essay on Tar-water, begins with works of Providence, then, ac- 

Tar and ends with the Trinity, the cording to the allegory of the 

omne scibile forming the inter- poets, he will easily believe that 

space ; an essay which, in spite the highest link of Nature s Chain 

of the Tar- water, must delight the must needs be tied to the foot of 

heart of every Platonist. Jupiter s chair. (Adv. of Learn- 

Berkeley s Chain or Scale in ing, p. 12.) 

Siris is the gradation of physical I have not seen this transla- 

effects linked to physical causes, tion. I am indebted for an account 


Prior mentions translations of Sin s into Low Dutch and 
Portuguese, which, as well as the French and German 
translations, must have been in circulation in 1746. The 
Dutch version was published at Amsterdam in 1745. Of 
the Portuguese one I have not been able to obtain any 
further account. 

The use of tar-water as a medicine soon became widely 
known in Europe. No work of Berkeley s produced so 
extensive and sudden a sensation as Sin s. This was not 
on account of the uncommon metaphysical thought by 
which it was pervaded, but because it offered a Catholic 
remedy for the diseases of mankind. The use of tar-water 
as a medicine became fashionable for a time. It is 
impossible/ says Mr. Duncombe, writing to Archbishop 
Herring in June, 1744, it is impossible to write a letter 
now without tincturing the ink with tar-water. This is the 
common topic of discourse, both among the rich and poor, 
high and low ; and the Bishop of Cloyne has made it as 
fashionable as going to Vauxhall or Ranelagh. However, 
the faculty in general and the whole posse of apothecaries 
are very angry both with the author and the book ; which 
makes many people suspect it is a good thing. To which 
Herring writing a few days after from York, rejoins : 
Though we are so backward in some sorts of intelligence, 
we are perfectly acquainted with the virtues of tar-water ; 
some have been cured as they think, and some made sick 
by it : I do think it is a defect in the good bishop s 
recommendation of it, that he makes it a Catholicon ; but 
I daresay he is confident he believes it such. 

of it to Dr. Ueberweg, the late dis- recognised as representingthe later, 

tinguished Professor of Logic and as distinguished from the earlier, 

Metaphysics at KCnigsberg. It is Idealism of Berkeley. The relation 

curious that the metaphysical part between the two is well unfolded 

of Siris, having affinities both with in an essay by Dr. Carl V. Tower, 

ancient Greek and modern German Instructor in Philosophy in the 

speculation, has not been trans- University of Michigan (Ann 

lated into German, nor adequately Arbor., 1899). 

K 2 


Sin s was the occasion of a considerable mass of con 
troversial tracts in the last years of Berkeley s life. 
Controversy was confined to the healing virtues of the 
proposed Panacea ; the divine philosophy with which Siris 
is charged was wholly neglected. Some gave vent to the 
anger of the faculty with an ecclesiastical intruder, whose 
Universal Medicine threatened to supersede them in their 
own province. 

Berkeley further illustrated the medicinal virtues of tar- 
water in the three Letters to his friend Thomas Prior, 
in 1744, 1746, and 1747 ; the Letter to Dr. Hales, in 
1747 ; and in the Further Thoughts on Tar Water, in 1752, 
which are appended to Siris in this edition. 

Prior was as unwearied as the author of Siris himself 
in vindicating the new medicine, and in proclaiming its 
virtues. He communicated many cases of supposed cures to 
the Dublin Journal and the Gentleman s Magazine. In July, 
1744, he published An Authentic Narrative, containing 
a record of various Cases illustrative of the Virtues of Tar 
Water. This was the germ of his larger work An 
Authentic Narrative of the Success of Tar Water in 
curing a great number and variety of Distempers; with 
Remarks and Occasional Papers relative to the Subject, which 
appeared in 1746. It was dedicated to the well-known 
Earl of Chesterfield, who was then Lord-Lieutenant of 

About two months after Siris appeared, a Tar-water 
Dispensary was opened in London ; as announced in a 
tract for the direction of patients in different diseases, 
published by the Proprietors of the Tar-water Warehouse, 
behind the Thatched House Tavern, in St. James s 
Street, entitled, The Medical Virtues of Tar- Water 
fully explained, by the Right Rev. Dr. George Berkeley, 
Lord Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland. To which is added, 
the Receipt for making it, and Instructions to know by 
the colour and taste of the Water when the Tar is good 


and of the right sort. Together with a plain Explana 
tion of the Bishop s physical Terms. Dublin and London, 

Amongst the more important tracts in the controversy 
to which the medicinal portion of Sin s gave rise are the 
following : 

1. Anti-Sins; or English Wisdom exemplified by various 
examples, but particularly the present demand for Tar-water, 

on so unexceptionable authority as that of a R 1 R d 

itinerant Chemist, and Graduate in Divinity and Metaphysics. 
In a Letter from a Foreign Gentleman at London to his 
Friend abroad. This tract of 80 pp., which appeared in 
May, 1744, was one of the earliest attacks upon the new 

2. A Letter to the Right Rev. the Bishop of Cloyne, 
occasioned by His Lordship s Treatise on the Virtues of 
Tar-water. Impartially examining how far that medicine 
deserves the character his Lordship has given of it. London, 
June, 1744. A second edition appeared later in the same 
year. It was criticised in 

3. Remarks on a Letter to the Right Rev. the Bishop 
of Cloyne, occasioned by his Treatise of Tar-water. July, 

4. Reflections concerning the Virtues of Tar-water. Where 
in it is proved by experience that the present preparation is 
not founded on philosophical principles, and that, as now 
prepared, it may probably occasion more disease than it can 
possibly cure. With hints for its improvement, so as to make 
it a pleasant and efficacious medicine. By H. Jackson, 
chemist. London, June, 1744. 

5. Siris in the Shades : A Dialogue concerning Tar- 
Water. July, 1744. 

6. A Cure for the Epidemical Madness of drinking Tar- 
water, lately imported from Ireland by a certain R / 

R d Doctor. In a Letter to his Lordship. By T. R., 

M.D. London, July, 1744. 


7. The Bishop of Cloyne defended, and Tar-water proved 
useful by theory and experiment. In answer io T. R., M.D. 
By Philanthropes. Eccc vox Naturae, vox Dei. London, 
August, 1744. 

8. Remarks on the Bishop of Cloyne 1 s Sir is. By Risorius, 
M.A., of Oxford. London, November, 1744. 

9. An Account of Some Experiments and Observations on 
Tar-water: wherein is shewn the quantity of Tar that is 
therein. Which was read before the Royal Society. By 
Stephen Hales, D.D., F.R.S. London (December), 1744. 
A second edition of this tract appeared in 1747 (when the 
author of Sin s also addressed his Letter to Hales), having 
appended to it 

10. A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Hales, concerning the 
Nature of Tar, and a Method of obtaining its medical virtues, 

free from its hurtful oils : whereby also the Strength of each 
dose may be the better ascertained. By Andrew Reid, Esq. 
Dated, London, March 25, 1747. 

11. A Proposal for the improvement of the practice of 
Medicine. Illustrated by an example relative to the Small 
Pox. To which is added a Discourse on Medicinal Indica 
tions, Specifics, Panaceas ; wherein arc introduced Some 
Remarks on a book entitled Sin s, or the Properties of Tar- 
luater. By Malcolm Flemyng, M.D. Printed for the 
Author at Hull, by G. Ferriby, 1748. 

12. Reflections upon Catholicons, or Universal Medicines. 
By Thomas Knight, M.D. London, 1749. 

After Berkeley s death, in 1753, the Tar-water con 
troversy, occasioned by Siris, gradually subsided ; but 
medical virtue in tar, less extensive than that claimed 
for it by Berkeley, was still recognised by physicians 1 . 

1 Dr. Cullen, in his Materia often extravagant and ill founded ; 

Medica (vol. II. p. 334), written in but that those who disparaged it, 

1789, when the rage for tar- water while they had some foundation 

had ceased, says that the com- for their opinions, told many false- 

mendations of its patrons were hoods about it. He acknowledges 


The chief interest of Sin s, however, is metaphysical or 
thcosophical, not medical. The claim of tar-water to be 
a Panacea is no longer pressed. The train of thought 
which its supposed virtues awakened in Berkeley s mind 
is of more lasting value ; not only as the culmination of his 
life-long meditations about the Power at work in the uni 
verse in which he found himself, but also from its greater 
affinity with speculation in the century which followed 
that in which he lived. Till lately Sir is has not been 
taken into account in the ordinary philosophical estimate 
of Berkeley, in which his supposed annihilation of the 
material world, on postulates of sensuous empiricism, has 
placed him among paradoxical sceptics, and concealed the 
Constructive Theism in which his thought really centres. 
Its mystical and hardly coherent expression, as it struggles 
through miscellaneous, uncriticised, and learned lore in 
Sin s, in eccentric association with a disputed hypothesis in 
therapeutics, in part accounts for this. The chief lesson of 
Sin s, like that in the Analyst, was lost in controversies which 
were only incidental to the leading conception and design 
of each. That the inevitable presence of mystery in human 
faith need not involve disintegration of faith, which the 
Analyst was intended to teach, fell out of sight in the 
mazes of a seven years controversy in abstract mathe 
matics. And the divine philosophy of Sin s, with its 
suggested resolution of all the so-called forces of physics 
into a single invisible Fire, the immediate physical organ 
of the Universal Power that explains the Whole, failed 

its usefulness in many diseases. ascetic acid, carbolic acid, and 

Its virtues he attributes to the creosote. Tar itself is the volatile 

vegetable acid contained in the tar, matter obtained by the distillation 

and extracted from it by water. of wood, and is a very complex 

This opinion, he says, is confirmed mixture of elements, which differ 

by Reid (in his Letter to Dr. in volatility ; e. g. ascetic acid, 

Hales), who quotes Glauber and light and heavy oil of tar, and 

Boerhaave in support of the virtues pitch. Most of them are insoluble 

of the acid. in water. 
A watery extract of tar contains 


to find its way through experiments and discussions in 
the matcria medica, more practically interesting, as it 
seemed, and at any rate more on the level of ordinary 
intelligence. Berkeley has accordingly been associated 
with the sensuous ideaism l that was prominent in the Prin 
ciples and Dialogues, rather than with the Divine Idealism 
that is latent in the less luminous aphorisms of his later 
3 ears. 

1 Not Idealism. 


TAR-WATER, how made i 

How much to be taken at a time 3,116,217 

How long to be continued ....... no 

How made palatable ........ 115 

A preservative and preparative against the small-pox 

Useful in it 71, 83 

A cure for foulness of blood, ulceration of bowels, lungs, 
consumptive coughs, pleurisy, peripneumony, erysi 
pelas, asthma, indigestion, cachectic and hysteric 

cases, gravel, dropsy, and all inflammations . . .[7 
Answers all the purposes of elixir proprietatis, Stoughton s 
drops, best turpentine, decoction of the woods, and 

mineral waters 53, 61-65 

And of the most costly balsams .... 21,22,62,63 

May be given to children ....... 67 

Of great use in the gout 68, 80 

In fevers 75~77 

Cures a gangrene as well as erysipelas .... 82, 83 

The scurvy, and all hypochondriac maladies . . . 86-109 

Whence this English malady proceeds .... 88, 89 

High food how prejudicial 66, 104 

More particularly spirituous liquors 103-109 

A preservative for the teeth and gums . . . . 114 
Is particularly recommended to seafaring persons, ladies, 

and men of studious and sedentary lives . . . 117-119 

Its specific virtues consist in its volatile salts . . . 8, 123 
Tar preserves trees from the biting of goats and other 

injuries 9 

Its virtues heretofore known, but only in part . . . 9, n, in 

Tar, whence produced ....... 10-17 

Resin, whence 18, 19 

Turpentine, what 20 

Tar mixed with honey, a cure for the cough ... 21 

Resin, an effectual cure for the bloody-flux ... 79 

Recommended to vintners to medicate their wines with . in 

Scotch firs what, and how they might be improved . . 25 

Pine and fir, different species of each .... 26-28 

1 The Contents added in the later editions. 



The wonderful structure of trees 29-38 

Juices produced with the least violence best ... 46 

Myrrh soluble by the human body would prolong life . 49 

Tar-water, by what means and in what manner it 

operates 5-57 

Is a soap at once and a vinegar 59 

Soap, opium, and mercury, though they bid fair for Uni 
versal Medicines, in what respects dangerous . . 69-71 
Aromatic flavours of vegetables depend on light as much as 

colours 40, 162, 214, 215 

Analogy between the specific qualities of vegetable juices 

and colours ........ ^5} J ^ J 

A fine subtle spirit, the distinguishing principle of all 

vegetables 121 

What the principle of vegetation, and how promoted . 126-128 

Theory of acids, salts, and alkalies 129-136,227 

Air the common seminary of all vivifying principles . . 137-144 

Air, of what it consists 145-151,195-197 

Pure aether or invisible Fire, the Spirit of the Universe, 

which operates in everything 152-162 

The world how understood to be an Animal . 152-156, 166, 175, 261, 

262, 273-279 

Opinion of the ancients concerning this Fire . . . 166-179,229 
And of the Chinese, conformable to them .... 180-182 

What meant by the forms of the Peripatetics . . . 167,310 

Fire worshipped among various nations .... 183-185 

Opinion of the best modern chemists concerning it . . 189, 190 

Ultimately the only menstruum in nature .... 191 

Adds to the weight of bodies, and even gold made by the 

introduction of it into quicksilver .... 169,192-196 
Pure elementary Fire, how inherent in bodies without being 

subject to the senses 198-201 

Opinion of Hippocrates and Dr. Willis of a vital flame . 204, 205 
The theory of Ficinus and others concerning light . . 206-213 
Sir Isaac Newton s hypothesis of a subtle aether ex 
amined 221-228, 237, 246 

No accounting for phaenomena, either by attraction and 
repulsion, or by elastic aether, without the presence 
of an incorporeal Agent . . . 231-238, 246-249, 294-297 

The doctrine of all things unfolding themselves from seeds 

ill founded 233 

More ancient than many are aware 282 

Nature better explained by attraction than by Des Cartes 

principles of size and figure ..... 2 43> 244 

Attraction in some degree discovered by Galilaei . . 245 

Phaenomena are but appearances in the soul, not to be ac 
counted for upon mechanical principles . . 251, 252, 310 

The ancients not ignorant of many things in physics and 
metaphysics which we think the discovery of modern 
times 265-269 

Had some advantages beyond us 298 


si i i 

Of Absolute Space, and Fate 270-273 

Of the aninia mundi of Plato ..... 276-284,322 

What meant by the Egyptian Isis and Osiris . . . 268, 299 

Plato and Aristotle s threefold distinction of objects . . 306, 307 

Their opinion of ideas being innate, or not . . . 308, 309 
Neither of them believed the absolute existence of corporeal 

things 311,312,316-318 

The study of the philosophy of Socrates and Pythagoras 
would have secured the minds of men from that 
selfishness which the mechanic philosophy has 

introduced 331, 332 

The study of Plato recommended ..... 33 2 > 338 

Who agrees with Scripture in many particulars . . 339 
His opinion of the Deity, and particularly of a Trinity, 

agreeable to revelation ...... 341365 



FOR Introduction to the following piece, I assure the 
reader that nothing could, in my present situation, have 
induced me to be at the pains of writing it, but a firm belief 
that it would prove a valuable present to the public. What 
entertainment soever the reasoning or notional part may 
afford the Mind, I will venture to say, the other part 
seemeth so surely calculated to do good to the Body that 
both must be gainers. For, if the lute be not well tuned, 
the musician fails of his harmony. And, in our present 
state, the operations of the mind so far depend on the right 
tone or good condition of its instrument, that anything 
which greatly contributes to preserve or recover the health 
of the Body is well worth the attention of the Mind. 
These considerations have moved me to communicate to 
the public the salutary virtues of Tar-water ; to which 
I thought myself indispensably obliged by the duty every 
man owes to mankind. And, as effects are linked with 
their causes, my thoughts on this low but useful theme 
led to farther inquiries, and those on to others ; remote 
perhaps and speculative, but I hope not altogether useless 
or unentertaining. 

i. In certain parts of America 2 , Tar- water is made by 
putting a quart of cold water to a quart of tar, and stirring 
them well together in a vessel, which is left standing till 

1 Added in second edition. 2 Cf. sect. 2, 17. 


the tar sinks to the bottom. A glass of [* clear] water, 
being poured off for a draught, is replaced by the same 
quantity of fresh water, the vessel being shaken and left to 
stand as before. And this is repeated for every glass, so 
long as the tar continues to impregnate the water suffi 
ciently, which [ 2 appears j by the smell and taste. But, as 
this method produceth tar-water of [ 3 a nauseous kind, and] 
different degrees of strength, I choose to make it in the 
following manner : Pour a gallon of cold water on a quart 
of tar, and stir, [ s work,] and mix them thoroughly ["to 
gether], with a [ 3 wooden] ladle or flat stick, for the space 
of [ 4 five or six] minutes; after which the vessel must 
stand [ close covered and unmoved) [ three clays and 
nights], that the tar may have [ :! full] time to subside ; and 
then the clear water, [ 3 having been first carefully skimmed 
without shaking the vessel], is to be poured off, and kept 
[ :i in bottles well stopped] for use , no more being made 
from the same tar, which may still serve for common 
[ 7 uses]. 

2. [ 8 The] cold infusion of tar hath been used in some of 
our Colonies ", as a preservative or preparative against the 

1 Omitted in the later editions. Second Letter, sect. 2-5 ; Letter to 

- will appear in early edi- Dr. Hales ; and Farther Thoughts 

tions. on Tar-water. The variations in the 

3 Added in the later editions. directions given in the successive 

4 three or four in the early editions of Siris, and also of the 
editions. other works, are curious. Estab- 

5 eight and forty hours in lishments for the manufacture of 
the early editions. tar-water, according to Berkeley s 

G [I make this water stronger rules, were opened in London, 

than that first prescribed in Siris, Dublin, Gottingen, and elsewhere, 

having found, on more general soon after the appearance of 

experience, that five or six minutes Siris, 

stirring, when the water is care- * This in the early editions, 

fully cleared and skimmed, agrees He refers to our American 

with most stomachs.] AUTHOR. Colonies (cf. sect. 17), where tar- 

This note was added in the later water was used medicinally among 

editions. the Indians and others, as he 

7 uses purposes, in the seems to have learned in Rhode 

early editions. The manner of Island. His trial of the remedy 

making tar-water, as well as the when small - pox prevailed at 

quality of the tar, is a very impor- Cloyne, and its apparent efficacy in 

tant consideration with Berkeley; various diseases (sect. 4-7), led him 

cf. sect. 115. See also his First to farther reflexion about the princi- 

Letter to Thomas Prior, sect. 2 ; pie of Causation in nature, and the 


small-pox ; which foreign practice induced me to try it in 
my own neighbourhood, when the small-pox raged with 
great violence 1 . And the trial fully answered my expecta 
tion : all those within my knowledge who took the tar-water 
having either escaped that distemper, or had it very 
favourably. In one family there was a remarkable instance 
of seven children, who came all very well through the 
small-pox, except one young child which could not be 
brought to drink tar-water as the rest had done. 

3. Several were preserved from taking the small-pox by 
the use of this liquor; others had it in the mildest manner ; 
and others, that they might be able to take the infection, 
were obliged to intermit drinking the tar-water. I have 
found it may be drunk with great safety and success for 
any length of time, and this not only before, but also 
during the distemper. The general rule for taking it is : 
about half a pint night and morning, on an empty stomach ; 
which quantity may be varied, according to the case and 
age of the patient, provided it be always taken on an 
empty stomach, and about two hours before or after a 
meal. [ 2 For children and squeamish persons it may be 
made weaker, or given little and often ; more water or less 
stirring makes it weaker, as less water or more stirring 
makes it stronger. It should not be lighter than French, 
nor deeper coloured than Spanish white wine. If a spirit 
be not very sensibly perceived on drinking, either the tar 
must have been bad, or already used, or the tar-water 
carelessly made or kept. Particular experience will best 
shew how much and how strong the stomach can bear, 
and what are the properest times for taking it. I apprehend 
no danger from excess in the use of this medicine. | 

4. It seemed probable that a medicine of such efficacy in 
a distemper attended with so many purulent ulcers might 
be also useful in other foulnesses of the blood; accordingly, 
I tried it on several persons infected with cutaneous 
eruptions and ulcers, who were soon relieved, and soon 
after cured. Encouraged by these successes, I ventured 
to advise it in the foulest distempers, wherein it proved 

ulterior physical and metaphysical 2 Added in the later editions, 

speculation of Sin s. Cf. sect. 115. 

1 At Cloyne in 1741. 


much more successful than salivations and wood drinks 
had done. 

5. Having tried it in a great variety of cases, I found it 
succeeded beyond my hopes : in a tedious and painful 
ulceration of the bowels ; in a consumptive cough, and (as 
appeared by expectorated pus) an ulcer in the lungs ; in 
a pleurisy and peripneumony. And when a person who 
for some years had been subject to erysipelatous fevers 

Perceived the usual forerunning symptoms to come on, 
advised her to drink tar-water, which prevented the 

6. I never knew anything so good for the stomach l as 
tar-water : it cures indigestion and gives a good appetite. 
It is an excellent medicine in an asthma. It imparts a 
kindly warmth and quick circulation to the juices without 
heating, and is therefore useful, not only as a pectoral and 
balsamic, but also as a powerful and safe deobstruent in 
cachetic and hysteric cases. As it is both healing and 
diuretic, it is very good for the gravel. I believe it to be 
of great use in dropsy, having known it cure a very bad 
anarsaca in a person whose thirst, though very extraor 
dinary, was in a short time removed by the drinking of 
tar-water 2 . 

7. The usefulness of this medicine in inflammatory 
cases is evident, from what has been already observed. 
(Sect. 5.) And yet some perhaps may suspect that, as the 
tar itself is sulphureous, tar-water must be of a hot and 
inflaming nature 3 . But it is to be noted that all balsams 
contain an acid spirit, which is in truth a volatile salt. 
Water is a menstruum that dissolves all sorts of salts, and 
draws them from their subjects. Tar, therefore, being 

1 This is repeated in various 74~79- The objection was after- 
places. Cf. sect. 21, 68, 80, 87, wards put in fiery language by Dr. 
&c. The tonic properties of tar- Knight, in his Reflections upon Ca- 
water were generally appreciated, tholicons. Prior, in his Authentic 
with the support of high medical Narrative (pp. 159-60), quotes a 
authority. letter by Dr. De Linden, a Ger- 

2 In short, it is regarded by man physician now in London, 
him as a Panacea. in refutation of the error by him 

3 This objection to tar-water is erroneously attributed to Siris 
urged in several of the letters and that tar-water is heating, and 
pamphlets written against the sup- tends to produce inflammation in 
posed Panacea. Berkeley here the blood. 

replied by anticipation. Cf. sect. 


a balsam, its salutary acid is extracted by water ; which 
yet is incapable of dissolving its gross resinous parts, 
whose proper menstruum is spirit of wine. Therefore 
tar-water, not being impregnated with resin, may be safely 
used in inflammatory cases : and in fact it hath been 
found an admirable febrifuge, at once the safest cooler and 

8. The volatile salts l separated by infusion from tar, 
may be supposed to contain its specific virtues. Mr. Boyle 
and other later chemists are agreed that fixed salts arc 
much the same in all bodies. But it is well known that 
volatile salts do greatly differ, and the easier they are 
separated from the subject, the more do they possess of 
its specific qualities. Now the most easy separation is, by 
the infusion of tar in cold water, which to smell and taste 
shewing itself well impregnated may be presumed to ex 
tract and retain the most pure volatile and active particles 
of that vegetable balsam. 

9. Tar was by the ancients esteemed good against 
poisons, ulcers, the bites of venomous creatures ; also for 
phthisical, scrofulous, paralytic, and asthmatic persons 2 . 
But the method of rendering it an inoffensive medicine 
and agreeable to the stomach, by extracting its virtues in 
cold water, was unknown to them. The leaves and tender 
tops of pine and fir are in our times used for diet drinks, 
and allowed to be antiscorbutic and diuretic. But the 
most elaborate juice, salt, and spirit of evergreens, are to 
be found in tar ; whose virtues extend not to animals 
alone, but also to vegetables. Mr. Evelyn, in his treatise 
on Forest Trees :i , observes with wonder, that stems of 
trees, smeared over with tar, are preserved thereby from 
being hurt by the invenomed teeth of goats, and other 
injuries, while every other thing of an unctuous nature is 
highly prejudicial to them. 

1 Cf. sect. 123. John Evelyn (1620-1706) Sylva 

2 See Pliny, Hist. Nat. Lib. Evelyn the typical English 
XXIV. c. 22-26. It seems that gentleman and royalist of his time, 
the first use of tar was medicinal. eminent in natural science, and 

3 Sylva : or a Discourse on Forest also in philanthropic service. His 
Trecs^and the Propagation of Timber interesting Memoirs were publish- 
in His Majesty s Dominions (1664). ed in 1818. 



10. It seems that tar and turpentine may be had, more 
or less, from all sorts of pines and firs whatsoever ; and 
that the native spirits and essential salts of those vegetables 
are the same in turpentine and common tar 1 . In effect, 
this vulgar tar, which cheapness and plenty may have 
rendered contemptible, appears to be an excellent balsam, 
containing the virtues of most other balsams ; which it 
easily imparts to water, and by that means readily 
and inoffensively insinuates them into the habit of the 

11. The resinous exudations of pines and firs are an 
important branch of the materia medica, and not only 
useful in the prescriptions of physicians, but have been 
also thought otherwise conducive to health. Pliny 2 tells 
us that wines in the time of the old Romans were medicated 
with pitch and resin; and Jonstonus in his Dendrographia * 
observes, that it is wholesome to walk in groves of pine- 
trees, which impregnate the air with balsamic particles. 
That all turpentines and resins are good for the lungs, 
against gravel also and obstructions, is no secret. And 
that the medicinal properties of those drugs are found in 
tar-water, without heating the blood, or disordering the 
stomach, is confirmed by experience ; and particularly, 
that phthisical and asthmatic persons receive speedy and 
great relief from the use of it. 

12. Balsams, as all unctuous and oily medicines, create 
a nauseating in the stomach. They cannot therefore be 
taken in substance so much or so long as to produce all 
those salutary effects, which, if thoroughly mixed with the 
blood and juices, they would be capable of producing. It 
must therefore be a thing of great benefit to be able to 
introduce any requisite quantity of their volatile parts into 
the finest ducts and capillaries, so as not to offend the 
stomach, but, on the contrary, to comfort and strengthen 
it in a great degree. 

1 The sources of the resins, 3 Dendrographice, sive Historice 
vegetable tar, pitch, and turpen- Naturalis de arboribus et fruticibus, 
tine, as well as various modes of tarn nostri quam percgrini oi-bis libri 
procuring them, in use in ancient (Francf., 1662). Joannes Jon- 
and modern times, are mentioned stonus, M.D. (1603-1675), a Polish 
in sect. 10-28. naturalist, author of works in 

2 Hist. Nat. Lib. XIV. c. 25. botany and zoology. 


13. According to Pliny , liquid pitch (as he calls it) or 
tar was obtained by setting fire to billets of old fat pines 
or firs. The first running was tar, the latter or thicker 
running was pitch. Theophrastus 2 is more particular : he 
tells us the Macedonians made huge heaps of the cloven 
trunks of those trees, wherein the billets were placed erect 
beside each other : that such heaps or piles of wood were 
sometimes a hundred and eighty cubits round, and sixty 
or even a hundred high : and that, having covered them 
with sods of earth to prevent the flame from bursting forth 
(in which case the tar was lost), they set on fire those huge 
heaps of pine or fir, letting the tar and pitch run out in 
a channel. 

14. Pliny" saith, it was customary for the ancients to 
hold fleeces of wool over the steam of boiling tar, and 
squeeze the moisture from them, which watery substance 
was called pissimun. Ray 4 will have this to be the same 
with the pisselceuin of the ancients ; but Hardouin, in his 
notes on Pliny, thinks the pisselceuin to have been pro 
duced from the cones of cedars. What use they made of 
these liquors anciently I know not; but it may be presumed 
they were used in medicine, though at present, for aught 
I can find, they are not used at all. 

15. From the manner of procuring tar (sect. 13) it plainly 
appears to be a natural production, lodged in the vessels 
of the tree, whence it is only freed and let loose (not made) 
by burning. If we may believe Pliny 5 , the first running 
or tar was called ccdrium, and was of such efficacy to 
preserve from putrefaction that in Egypt they embalmed 
dead bodies with it. And to this he ascribes their mummies 
continuing uncorrupted for so many ages. 

1 Hist. Nat. Lib. XVI. c. 22. gress was made until the study 

2 Hist. Plant. Lib. IX. c. 3. revived in modern times. 
This work of Theophrastus, a ;! Hist. Nat. Lib. XV. c. 7. 
pupil of Aristotle, referred to 4 This and similar references 
in this and in the following sec- (sect. 20, 25) are to the His- 
tions, is the oldest extant treatise toria Plantarum (1694) of John 
in botany and vegetable physio- Ray (1628-1705), the English 
logy. Pliny, so often quoted in naturalist of the seventeenth cen- 
this part of Sins, who describes tury, well known also as author 
more than a thousand species of of the Wisdom of God in the 
plants, is the next great authority, Works of the Creation. See his 
in chronological order, in this Hist. Plant. Lib. XXV. 
department. Thereafter little pro- 5 Hist. Nat. Lib. XVI. c. 21. 

L 2 


16. Some modern writers inform us that tar flows from 
the trunks of pines and firs, when they are very old, through 
incisions made in the bark near the root ; that pitch is 
tar inspissated * ; and both are the oil of the tree grown 
thick and ripened with age and sun. The trees, like old 
men, being unable to perspire, and their secretory ducts 
obstructed, they are, as one may say, choked and stuffed 
with their own juice. 

17. The method used by our Colonies in America for 
making tar and pitch is in effect the same with that of the 
ancient Macedonians ; as appears from the account given 
in the Philosophical Transactions-. And the relation of 
Leo Africanus : , who describes, as an eye-witness, the 
making of tar on Mount Atlas, agrees in substance with 
the methods used by the Macedonians of old, and the 
people of New England at this day. 

1 8. Jonstonus, in his Dcndrographia, is of opinion, that 
pitch was anciently made of cedar, as well as of the pine 
and fir grown old and oily. It should seem indeed that 
one and the same word was used by the ancients in a large 
sense, so as to comprehend the juices issuing from all 
those trees. Tar and all sorts of exudations from ever 
greens are, in a general acceptation, included under the 
name resin. Hard coarse resin or dry pitch is made from 
tar, by letting it blaze till the moisture is spent. Liquid 
resin is properly an oily viscid juice oozing from the bark 
of evergreen trees, either spontaneously or by incision. 
It is thought to be the oil of the bark inspissated by the 
sun. As it issues from the tree it is liquid, but becomes 
dry and hard, being condensed by the sun or by fire. 

19. According to Theophrastus 4 , resin was obtained by 
stripping off the bark from pines, and by incisions made 
in the silver fir and the pitch pine. The inhabitants of 

1 inspissated thickened the north of Africa about the 

a term used by Evelyn ; also by beginning of the sixteenth century. 

Bacon and others. His book has been translated from 

* In the Philos. Trans., No. 243, the original Arabic into various 

we have an account of the way languages. An English version 

of making tar at Marseilles. See appeared in 1600. 

also No. 228. * Hist. Plant. Lib. IX. c. 2. A 

3 In the Africw Dcscriptio of this similar account of the way of ex- 
learned Moor. Leo i cir. 1470- trading resin from pine is given 
1530) made extensive journeys in by Pliny. 


Mount Ida, he tells us, stripped the trunk of the pine on 
the sunny side two or three cubits from the ground. He 
observes that a good pine might be made to yield resin 
every year ; an indifferent every other year ; and the 
weaker trees once in three years; and that three runnings 
were as much as a tree could bear. It is remarked by the 
same author that a pine doth not at once produce fruit 
and resin, but the former only in its youth, the latter in its 
old age. 

20. Turpentine is a fine resin. Four kinds of this are 
in use. The turpentine of Chios or Cyprus, which flows 
from the turpentine tree : the Venice turpentine, which is 
got by piercing the larch tree : the Strasburgh turpentine, 
which Mr. Ray informs us is procured from the knots of 
the silver fir ; it is fragrant and grows yellow with age : 
the fourth kind is common turpentine, neither transparent 
nor so liquid as the former; and this Mr. Ray taketh to 
flow from the mountain pine. All these turpentines are 
useful in the same intentions. Theophrastus 1 saith, the 
best resin or turpentine is got from the tercbinthns growing 
in Syria and some of the Greek islands. The next best 
from the silver fir and pitch pine. 

21. Turpentine is on all hands allowed to have great 
medicinal virtues. Tar and its infusion contain those 
virtues. Tar-water is extremely pectoral and restorative ; 
and, if I may judge from what experience I have had, it 
possesseth the most valuable qualities ascribed to the 
several balsams of Peru, of Tolu, of Capivi, and even to 
the balm of Gilead ; such is its virtue in asthmas and 
pleurisies, in obstructions and ulcerous erosions of the 
inward parts. Tar in substance mixed with honey I have 
found an excellent medicine for coughs. Balsams, as hath 
been already observed, are apt to offend the stomach, but 
tar-water may be taken without offending the stomach. 
For the strengthening whereof it is the best medicine 
I have ever tried. 

22. The folly of man rateth things by their scarceness, 
but Providence hath made the most useful things most 
common. Among those liquid oily extracts from trees 
and shrubs which are termed balsams, and valued for 

1 See Hist. Plant. Lib. IX. c. 2. referred to, in sect. 25, 28. 39, are 
The passages of Theophrastus in this and the following chapter. 


medicinal virtues, tar may hold its place as a most valuable 
balsam. Its fragrancy sheweth that it is possessed of 
active qualities, and its oiliness that it is fitted to retain 
them. This excellent balsam may be purchased for a 
penny a pound, whereas the balsam of Judea, when most 
plenty, was sold on the very spot that produced it, for 
double its weight in silver, if we may credit Pliny 1 ; who 
also informs us, that the best balsam of Judea flowed only 
from the bark, and that it was adulterated with resin and 
oil of turpentine. Now, comparing the virtues I have 
experienced in tar with those I find ascribed to the 
precious balm of Judea, of Gilead, or of Mecha, (as it is 
diversly called), I am of opinion that the latter is not a 
medicine of more value or efficacy than the former. 

23. Pliny 2 supposed amber to be a resin, and to distil 
from some species of pine which he gathered from its 
smell. Nevertheless, its being dug out of the earth shews 
it to be a fossil, though of a very different kind from other 
fossils. But thus much is certain, that the medicinal 
virtues of amber are to be found in the balsamic juices of 
pines and firs. Particularly the virtues of the most valuable 
preparation, I mean salt of amber, are in a great degree 
answered by tar-water, as a detergent, diaphoretic, and 

24. There is, as hath been already observed, more or 
less oil and balsam in all evergreen trees, which retains 
the acid spirit, that principle of life and verdure ; the not 
retaining whereof in sufficient quantity causeth other 
plants to droop and wither. Of these evergreen trees 
productive of resin, pitch and tar, Pliny 3 enumerates six 
kinds in Europe; Jonstonus reckons up thrice that number 
of the pine and fir family. And, indeed, their number, 
their variety, and their likeness, make it difficult to be 

25. It is remarked, both by Theophrastus and Jonstonus, 
that trees growing in low and shady places do not yield 
so good tar as those which grow in higher and more 
exposed situations 4 . And Theophrastus farther observes, 

1 Hist. Nat. Lib. XII. c. 54. stress, for medicinal purposes, on 

2 Ibid. Lib. XXXVII. c. u. the quality of the tar. As there 

3 Ibid. Lib. XVI. c. 16-19. is as great difference in tar as in 

4 Cf. sect. 28. Berkeley lays any commodity whatsoever, says 


that the inhabitants of Mount Ida in Asia, who distinguish 
the Idean pine from the maritime, affirm, that the tar 
flowing from the former is in greater plenty, as well as 
more fragrant than the other. Hence, it should seem the 
pines or firs in the mountains of Scotland might be em 
ployed that way, and rendered valuable ; even where the 
timber, by its remoteness from water carriage, is of small 
value. What we call the Scotch fir is falsely so called, 
being in truth a wild forest pine, and (as Mr. Ray informs 
us) agreeing much with the description of a pine growing 
on Mount Olympus in Phrygia, probably the only place 
where it is found out of these islands ; in which of late 
years it is so much planted and cultivated with so little 
advantage, while the cedar of Lebanon might perhaps be 
raised, with little more trouble, and much more profit and 

26. The pines, which differ from the firs in the length 
and disposition of their leaves and hardness of the wood, 
do not, in Pliny s l account, yield so much resin as the 
fir-trees. Several species of both are accurately described 
and delineated by the naturalists. But they all agree so 
far as to seem related. Theophrastus gives the preference 
to that resin which is got from the silver fir and pitch-tree 
(eXdrrj and TUTUS) before that yielded by the pine, which yet 
he saith is in greater plenty. Pliny 2 , on the contrary, 
affirms that the pine produceth the smallest quantity. It 
should seem therefore that the interpreter of Theophrastus 
might have been mistaken, in rendering Trev/o/ by ptnus , as 
well as Jonstonus, who likewise takes the pine for the Trev/o? 
of Theophrastus. Hardouin will have the pinus of Pliny 
to have been by others called TTCV /O;, but by Theophrastus 

the author of The Medical Virtues of to any but those who have an 

Tar Water (1744), the persons antipathy to the smell of tar in 

who intend to make it are cautioned general. Whereas the other has 

as to the following particulars, lest none of the acid ; which is the 

Plantation tar, or tar used before, principal advantageous property. 

should be imposed upon them. North American, but especially 

The true properties of the right Norwegian, tar is recommended, 

tar-water are that there should be The tar of the Thuringian forest 

an acid in the taste ; the water was also in high esteem, 

when made should be as trans- l Hist. Nat. Lib. XVI. c. 16-18. 

parent as sherry; and the smell See also Hardouin s notes on Pliny, 

quite even, and no way offensive 2 Ibid. 


TTITVS. Ray thinks the common fir, or picea of the Latins, 
to be the male fir of Theophrastus. This was probably 
the spruce fir ; for the picea, according to Pliny l , yields 
much resin, loves a cold and mountainous situation, and 
is distinguished, tonsili facilitate, by its fitness to be shorn, 
which agrees with the spruce-fir, whereof I have seen 
close-shorn hedges. 

27. There seems to have been some confusion in the 
naming of these trees, as well among the ancients as the 
moderns. The ancient Greek and Latin names are by 
later authors applied very differently. Pliny 2 himself 
acknowledgeth it is not easy even for the skilful to dis 
tinguish the trees by their leaves, and know their sexes 
and kinds ; and that difficulty is since much increased, by 
the discovery of many new species of that evergreen tribe, 
growing in various parts of the globe. But descriptions 
are not so easily misapplied as names. Theophrastus tells 
that Trim? differeth from TTCVKT; among other things, in that 
it is neither so .tall nor so straight, nor hath so large 
a leaf. The fir he distinguisheth into male and female : 
the latter is softer timber than the male ; it is also a taller 
and fairer tree, and this is probably the silver fir. 

28. To say no more on this obscure business, which 
I leave to the critics, I shall observe that according to 
Theophrastus not only the turpentine-trees, the pines, and 
the firs yield resin or tar, but also the cedars and palm- 
trees ; and the words pix and rcsina are taken by Pliny in 
so large a sense as to include the weepings of the lentiscus 
and cypress, and the balms of Arabia and Judea ; all which 
perhaps are near of kin, and in their most useful qualities 
concur with common tar, especially the Norwegian, which 
is the most liquid, and best for medicinal uses of any that 
I have experienced. Those trees that grow on mountains, 
exposed to the sun or the north wind 3 , are reckoned by 
Theophrastus to produce the best and purest tar ; and the 
Idaean pines were distinguished from those growing on 
the plain, as yielding a thinner, sweeter, and better scented 
tar ; all which differences I think I have observed, between 
the tar that comes from Norway, and that which comes 
from low and swampy countries. 

1 Hist. Nat. Lib. XVI. c. 18. See Hardouin s notes on Pliny. 
Ibid. c. 19. 3 Cf. sect. 25. 


29. Agreeable to the old observation of the Peripatetics, 
that heat gathereth homogeneous things, and disperseth 
such as are heterogeneous, we find Chemistry is fitted for 
the analysis of bodies l . But the chemistry of nature is 
much more perfect than that of human art, inasmuch as it 
joineth to the power of heat that of the most exquisite 
mechanism. Those who have examined the structure of 
trees and plants by microscopes have discovered an ad 
mirable variety of fine capillary tubes and vessels, fitted for 
several purposes, as the imbibing or attracting of proper 
nourishment, the distributing thereof through all parts 
of the vegetable, the discharge of superfluities, the secre 
tion of particular juices. They are found to have ducts 
answering to the tracheae in animals, for the conveying 
of air ; they have others answering to lacteals, arteries, 
and veins. They feed, digest, respire, perspire, and gene 
rate their kind, and are provided with organs nicely fitted 
for all those uses. 

30. The sap vessels are observed to be fine tubes running 
up through the trunk from the root. Secretory vessels 
are found in the bark, buds, leaves, and flowers. Exhaling 
vessels, for carrying off excrementitious parts, are dis 
covered throughout the whole surface of the vegetable. 
And (though this point be not so well agreed) Dr. Grew, 
in his Anatomy of Plants*, thinks there appears a circula 
tion of the sap, moving downwards in the root, and feeding 
the trunk upwards. 

31. Some difference indeed there is between learned 
men, concerning the proper use of certain parts of 

1 In sect. 29-39 we have specu- * The Anatomy of Plants : with 
lation about the anatomy and an Idea of the Philosophical History 
physiology of vegetables, and their of Plants, by Nehemiah Grew, 
analogy to animal organisms. M.D. London, 1682. See Bk. I. 
They breathe, feed, digest, per- ch. 2. 30. Grew (1628-1712) was 
spire, and generate ; and pines secretary to the Royal Society, 
and firs especially, under the ac- and an eminent English botanist of 
tion of the sun, secrete a balsam, his day, author of works which laid 
which, perspiring through the the foundation of Vegetable Physio- 
bark, hardens into resin. It is lgy- The microscope was then 
this secretion, so tenacious of the initiating important discoveries. 
acid spirit or vegetable soul, which Grew, Ray, and Malpighi, are the 
is, he suggests, through a natural three great modern botanists be- 
chemistry, transformed into a fore Linnseus. 
Panacea in tar. 


vegetables. But, whether the discoverers have rightly 
guessed at all their uses or no, thus much is certain that 
there are innumerable fine and curious parts in a vegetable 
body, and a wonderful similitude or analogy between the 
mechanism of plants and animals. And perhaps some will 
think it not unreasonable to suppose the mechanism of 
plants more curious than even that of animals, if we con 
sider not only the several juices secreted by different parts 
of the same plant, but also the endless variety of juices 
drawn and formed out of the same soil, by various species 
of vegetables ; which must therefore differ in an endless 
variety, as to the texture of their absorbent vessels and 
secretory ducts. 

32. A body, therefore, either animal or vegetable, may 
be considered as an organised system of tubes and vessels, 
containing several sorts of fluids. And as fluids are moved 
through the vessels of animal bodies by the systole and 
diastole of the heart, the alternate expansion and con 
densation of the air, and the oscillations in the membranes 
and tunics of the vessels even so, by means of air 
expanded and contracted in the tracheae, or vessels made 
up of elastic fibres, the sap is propelled through the 
arterial tubes of a plant, and the vegetable juices, as they 
are rarefied by heat or condensed by cold, will either 
ascend and evaporate into air, or descend in the form of 
a gross liquor. 

33. Juices, therefore, first purified by straining through 
the fine pores of the root, are afterwards exalted by the 
action of the air and the vessels of the plant ; but, above 
all, by the action of the sun s light ; which, at the same 
time that it heats, doth wonderfully rarefy and raise the 
sap, till it perspires and forms an atmosphere, like the 
effluvia of animal bodies. And, though the leaves are 
supposed to perform principally the office of lungs, breath 
ing out excrementitious vapours, and drawing in ali 
mentary; yet it seems probable, that the reciprocal actions 
of repulsion and attraction are performed all over the 
surface of vegetables as well as animals. In which reci 
procation Hippocrates 1 supposeth the manner of nature s 
acting for the nourishment and health of animal bodies 

1 Opera, torn. I. pp. 629, &c. (ed. Lips. 1825) in the treatise 
De Dicelct. 


chiefly to consist. And, indeed, what share of a plant s 
nourishment is drawn, through the leaves and bark, from 
that ambient heterogeneous fluid called air, is not easy to 
say. It seems very considerable, and altogether necessary, 
as well to vegetable as animal life. 

34. It is an opinion received by many, that the sap 
circulates in plants as the blood in animals ; that it ascends 
through capillary arteries in the trunk, into which are 
inosculated other vessels of the bark answering to veins, 
which bring back to the root the remainder of the sap, 
over and above what had been deposited during its ascent 
by the arterial vessels, and secreted for the several uses 
of the vegetable throughout all its parts, stem, branches, 
leaves, flowers, and fruit. Others deny this circulation, 
and affirm that the sap doth not return through the bark 
vessels. It is nevertheless agreed by all that there are 
ascending and descending juices ; while some will have 
the ascent and descent to be a circulation of the same 
juices through different vessels ; others will have the 
ascending juice to be one sort attracted by the root, and 
the descending another imbibed by the leaves, or extremi 
ties of the branches ; lastly, others think that the same 
juice, as it is rarefied or condensed by heat or cold, rises 
and subsides in the same tube. I shall not take upon me 
to decide this controversy. Only I cannot help observing 
that the vulgar argument from analogy between plants and 
animals loses much of its force, if it be considered that the 
supposed circulating of the sap, from the root or lacteals 
through the arteries, and thence returning, by inoscula 
tions, through the veins or bark vessels to the root or 
lacteals again, is in no sort conformable or analogous to 
the circulation of the blood. 

35. It is sufficient to observe, what all must acknowledge, 
that a plant or tree is a very nice and complicated machine 
(sect. 30, 31) ; by the several parts and motions whereof, 
the crude juices, admitted through the absorbent vessels, 
whether of the root, trunk, or branches, are variously 
mixed, separated, altered, digested, and exalted, in a very 
wonderful manner. The juice, as it passeth in and out, up 
and down, through tubes of different textures, shapes, and 
sizes, and is affected by the alternate compression and 
expansion of elastic vessels, by the vicissitudes of seasons, 


the changes of weather, and the various action of the solar 
light, grows still more and more elaborate. 

36. There is therefore no chemistry like that of nature, 
which addeth to the force of fire the most delicate, various, 
and artificial percolation (sect. 29). The incessant action 
of the sun upon the elements of air, earth, and water, and 
on all sorts of mixed bodies, animal, vegetable, and fossil, 
is supposed to perform all sorts of chemical operations. 
Whence it should follow, that the air contains all sorts of 
chemic productions, the vapours, fumes, oils, salts, and 
spirits of all the bodies we know : from which general 
aggregate or mass, those that are proper being drawn in, 
through the fine vessels of the leaves, branches, and stem 
of the tree, undergo, in its various organs, new alterations, 
secretions, and digestions, till such time as they assume 
the most elaborate form. 

37. Nor is it to be wondered that the peculiar texture of 
each plant or tree, co-operating with the solar fire 1 and 
pre-existing juices, should so alter the fine nourishment 
drawn from earth and air (sect. 33), as to produce various 
specific qualities of great efficacy in medicine ; especially 
if it be considered that in the opinion of learned men, 
there is an influence on plants derived from the sun, 
besides its mere heat. Certainly, Dr. Grew, that curious 
anatomist of plants, holds the solar influence 1 to differ 
from that of a mere culinary fire no otherwise than by 
being only a more temperate and equal heat. 

38. The alimentary juice taken into the lacteals, [-if 
I may so say, of vegetables,] consists of oily, aqueous, and 
saline particles, which being dissolved, volatilised, and 
diversely agitated, part thereof is spent and exhaled into 
the air ; and that part which remains is, by the economy 
of the plant, and action of the sun, strained, purified, 
concocted, and ripened, into an inspissated oil or balsam, 
and deposited in certain cells placed chiefly in the bark, 
which is thought to answer the pannicuhis adiposus in 
animals, defending trees from the weather, and, when in 

1 Cf. Berkeley s First Letter to the visible world. See also Grew s 

Thomas Prior, on the Virtues of Idea of a Philosophical History of 

Tar-water, sect. 16, 17, where he Plants, 61. 

professes the ancient opinion, 2 whether of animals or vege- 

that Fire is the animal spirit of tables in first edition. 


sufficient quantity, rendering them evergreen. This balsam, 
weeping or sweating through the bark, hardens into resin ; 
and this most copiously in the several species of pines 
and firs, whose oil being in greater quantity, and more 
tenacious of the acid spirit, or vegetable soul (as perhaps 
it may not improperly be called), abides the action of the 
sun, and, attracting the sunbeams, is thereby exalted and 
enriched, so as to become a most noble medicine : such 
is the last product of a tree, perfectly maturated by time 
and sun. 

39. It is remarked by Theophrastus that all plants and 
trees while they put forth have most humour, but when 
they have ceased to germinate and bear, then the humour 
is strongest, and most sheweth the nature of the plant, 
and that, therefore, trees yielding resin should be cut after 
germination. It seems also very reasonable to suppose 
the juice of old trees, whose organs bring no new sap, 
should be better ripened than that of others. 

40. The aromatic flavours of vegetables seem to depend 
upon the sun s light as much as colours 1 . As in the 
production of the latter, the reflecting powers of the 
object, so in that of the former, the attractive and organical 
powers of the plant co-operate with the sun (sect. 36, 37). 
And as from Sir Isaac Newton s experiments it appears 
that all colours are virtually in the white light of the sun, 
and shew themselves when the rays are separated by the 
attracting and repelling powers of objects even so the 
specific qualities of the elaborate juices of plants seem to 
be virtually or eminently contained in the solar light, and 
are actually exhibited upon the separation of the rays, by 
the peculiar powers of the capillary organs in vegetables, 
attracting and imbibing certain rays, which produce certain 
flavours and qualities, in like manner as certain rays, 
being reflected, produce certain colours. 

1 This and the following sec- vegetable life, and is to the Macro- 

tions discuss the already noted cosm what its animal spirit is to 

qualities of the juice of plants, the microcosm. Sanitary pro- 

especially pines and firs. The perties of light arc now universally 

solar emanation contained in this, recognised, alike in the case of 

according to the fire philosophy animals and vegetables, 
of Sins, constitutes the soul of 


41. It hath been observed by some curious anatomists 
that the secretory vessels in the glands of animal bodies 
are lined with a fine down, which in different glands is of 
different colours. And it is thought that each particular 
down, being originally imbued with its own proper juice, 
attracts none but that sort ; by which means so many 
various juices are secreted in different parts of the body. 
And perhaps there may be something analogous to this in 
the fine absorbent vessels of plants, which may co-operate 
towards producing that endless variety of juices, elaborated 
in plants from the same earth and air. 

42. The balsam or essential oil of vegetables contains 
a spirit, wherein consist the specific qualities, the smell 
and taste, of the plant. Boerhaave l holds the native 
presiding spirit to be neither oil, salt, earth, or water ; but 
somewhat too fine and subtle to be caught alone and 
rendered visible to the eye. This when suffered to fly off, 
for instance, from the oil of rosemary, leaves it destitute 
of all flavour. This spark of life, this spirit or soul, if we 
may so say, of the vegetable departs without any sensible 
diminution of the oil or water wherein it was lodged. 

43. It should seem that the forms, souls, or principles 
of vegetable life subsist in the light or solar emanation 
(sect. 40) ; which in respect of the macrocosm is what the 
animal spirit is to the microcosm the interior tegument, 
the subtle instrument and vehicle of power. No wonder, 
then, that the ens primuin or scintilla spirituosa, as it is 
called, of plants should be a thing so fine and fugacious as 
to escape our nicest search. It is evident that nature at 
the sun s approach vegetates, and languishes at his recess ; 
this terrestrial globe seeming only a matrix disposed and 
prepared to receive life from his light ; whence Homer in 
his Hymns styleth earth the wife of heaven, 

44. The luminous spirit which is the form or life of 
a plant, from whence its differences and properties flow, is 
somewhat extremely volatile. It is not the oil, but a thing 
more subtle, whereof oil is the vehicle, which retains it 
from flying off, and is lodged in several parts of the plant, 
particularly in the cells of the bark and in the seeds. 

1 Boerhaave (1668-1738) the eighteenth century. See his Elc- 
most illustrious physician of the menta Chemice, torn. II. pp. 149-50. 


This oil, purified and exalted by the organical powers of 
the plant, and agitated by warmth, becomes a proper 
receptacle of the spirit : part of which spirit exhales 
through the leaves and flowers, and part is arrested by 
this unctuous humour that detains it in the plant. It is to 
be noted this essential oil, animated, as one may say, with 
the flavour of the plant, is very different from any spirit 
that can be procured from the same plant by fermentation. 

45. Light impregnates air (sect. 37, 43), air impregnates 
vapour ; and this becomes a watery juice by distillation, 
having risen first in the cold still with a kindly gentle 
heat. This fragrant vegetable water is possessed of the 
specific odour and taste of the plant. It is remarked that 
distilled oils added to water for counterfeiting the vegetable 
water can never equal it, artificial chemistry falling short 
of the natural. 

46. The less violence is used to nature the better its 
produce. The juice of olives or grapes issuing by the 
lightest pressure is best. Resins that drop from the 
branches spontaneously, or ooze upon the slightest inci 
sion, are the finest and most fragrant. And infusions are 
observed to act more strongly than decoctions of plants ; 
the more subtle and volatile salts and spirits, which might 
be lost or corrupted by the latter, being obtained in their 
natural state by the former. It is also observed that the 
finest, purest, and most volatile part is that which first 
ascends in distillation. And, indeed, it should seem the 
lightest and most active particles required least force to 
disengage them from the subject. 

47. The salts, therefore, and more active spirits of the 
tar are got by infusion in cold water ; but the resinous 
part is not to be dissolved thereby (sect. 7). Hence the 
prejudice which some perhaps may entertain against tar- 
water as a medicine, the use whereof might inflame the 
blood by its sulphur and resin, appears to be not well 
grounded ; it being indeed impregnated with a fine acid 
spirit, balsamic, cooling, diuretic, and possessed of many 
other virtues (sect. 42, 44). Spirits are supposed to consist 
of salts and phlegm, probably, too, somewhat of a fine oily 
nature, differing from oil in that it mixeth with water, and 
agreeing with oil in that it runneth in rivulets by distilla 
tion. Thus much is allowed, that the water, earth, and 


fixed salt are the same in all plants ; that, therefore, which 
differenceth a plant, or makes it what it is the native 
spark orfonnm the language of the chemists or schools 
is none of those things ; nor yet the finest oil, which 
seemeth only its receptacle or vehicle. It is observed by 
chemists that all sorts of balsamic wood afford an acid 
spirit, which is the volatile oily salt of the vegetable ; 
herein are chiefly contained their medicinal virtues ; and, 
by the trials I have made, it appears that the acid spirit in 
tar-water possesseth the virtues, in an eminent degree, of 
that ofguatacum, and other medicinal woods. 

48. Qualities in a degree too strong for human nature 
to subdue, and assimilate to itself must hurt the consti 
tution. All acids, therefore, may not be useful or innocent. 
But this seemeth an acid so thoroughly concocted, so 
gentle, bland, and temperate, and withal a spirit so fine 
and volatile, as readily to enter the smallest vessels, and 
be assimilated with the utmost ease. 

49. If any one were minded to dissolve some of the 
resin, together with the salt or spirit, he need only mix 
some spirit of wine with the water. But such an entire 
solution of resins and gums as to qualify them for entering 
and pervading the animal system, like the fine acid spirit 
that first flies off from the subject, is perhaps impossible 
to obtain. It is an apothegm of the chemists, derived from 
Helmont 1 , that whoever can make myrrh soluble by the 
human body has the secret of prolonging his days : and 
Boerhaave 2 owns that there seems to be truth in this, 
from its resisting putrefaction. Now, this quality is as 
remarkable in tar, with which the ancients embalmed and 
preserved dead bodies. And though Boerhaave himself, 
and other chemists before him, have given methods for 
making solutions of myrrh, yet it is by means of alcohol 
which extracts only the inflammable parts. And it doth 
not seem that any solution of myrrh is impregnated with 
its salt or acid spirit. It may not, therefore, seem strange 

1 J. B. Van Helmont (1572- the stomach, offering as one reason 

1644), probably the greatest chem- for this, that when we hear bad 

ist before Lavoisier. He strove to news we lose our appetite for 

carry out the notions of Paracelsus, food. His works were edited by 

by whose writings he was at- his son, F. M. Van Helmont. 

tracted to chemistry and alchemy. * Elementa C/icmia;, torn. II. p. 

The seat of the soul he placed in 231. 


if this water should be found more beneficial for procuring 
health and long life than any solution of myrrh whatsoever. 

50. Certainly divers resins and gums may have virtues, 
and yet not be able for their grossness to pass the lacteals 
and other finer vessels, nor yet, perhaps, readily impart 
those virtues to a menstruum that may with safety and 
speed convey them throughout the human body. Upon 
all which accounts, I believe tar-water will be found to 
have singular advantages. It is observed that acid spirits 
prove the stronger, by how much the greater degree of 
heat is required to raise them. And indeed there seemeth 
to be no acid more gentle than this, obtained by the simple 
affusion of cold water; which carries off from the subject 
the most light and subtle parts, and, if one may so speak, 
the very flower of its specific qualities. And here it is to 
be noted that the volatile salt and spirit of vegetables do, 
by gently stimulating the solids, attenuate the fluids con 
tained in them, and promote secretions, and that they are 
penetrating and active, contrary to the general nature 
of other acids. 

51. It is a great maxim for health, that the juices of the 
body be kept fluid in a due proportion. Therefore, the acid 
volatile spirit in tar-water, at once attenuating and cooling 
in a moderate degree, must greatly conduce to health, as 
a mild salutary deobstruent, quickening the circulation 
of the fluids without wounding the solids, thereby gently 
removing or preventing those obstructions which are the 
great and general cause of most chronical diseases ; in 
this manner answering to the antihysterics, assaf&tida, 
galbanum, myrrh, amber, and, in general, to all the resins 
and gums of trees or shrubs useful in nervous cases. 

52. Warm water is itself a deobstruent. Therefore the 
infusion of tar drunk warm is easier insinuated into all 
the nice capillary vessels, and acts not only by virtue of 
the balsam, but also by that of the vehicle. Its taste, its 
diuretic quality, its being so great a cordial, shew the 
activity of this medicine. And, at the same time that it 
quickens the sluggish blood of the hysterical, its balsamic 
oily nature abates the too rapid motion of the sharp thin 
blood in those who are hectic. There is a lentor and 
smoothness in the blood of healthy strong people ; on the 
contrary, there is often an acrimony and solution in that 



of weakly morbid persons. The fine particles of tar are 
not only warm and active, they are also balsamic and 
emollient; softening and enriching the sharp and vapid 
blood, and healing the erosions occasioned thereby in the 
blood-vessels and glands. 

53. Tar-water possesseth the stomachic and cardiac 
qualities of elixir proprietatis, Stoughton s drops, and many 
such tinctures and extracts ; with this difference, that it 
worketh its effect more safely, as it hath nothing of that 
spirit of wine, which, however mixed and disguised, may 
yet be well accounted a poison in some degree. 

54. Such medicines are supposed to be diaphoretic, 
which, being of an active and subtle nature, pass through 
the whole system, and work their effect in the finest 
capillaries and perspiratory ducts, which they gently 
cleanse and open. Tar-water is extremely well fitted to 
work by such an insensible diaphoresis, by the fineness 
and activity of its acid volatile spirit. And surely those 
parts ought to be very fine, which can scour the perspiratory 
ducts, under the scarf skin or cuticle, if it be true, that one 
grain of sand would cover the mouths of more than a 
hundred thousand. 

55. Another way wherein tar-water operates is by urine, 
than which perhaps none is more safe and effectual, for 
cleansing the blood and carrying off" its salts. But it 
seems to produce its principal effect as an alterative, sure 
and easy, much safer than those vehement, purgative, 
emetic, and salivating medicines, which do violence to 

56. An obstruction of some vessels causeth the blood to 
move more swiftly in other vessels which are not obstructed. 
Hence manifold disorders. A liquor that dilutes and 
attenuates resolves the concretions which obstruct. Tar- 
water is such a liquor. It may be said, indeed, of common 
water, that it attenuates ; also of mercurial preparations, 
that they attenuate. But it should be considered that 
mere water only distends the vessels, and thereby weakens 
their tone ; and that mercury by its great momentum may 
justly be suspected of hurting the fine capillaries, which 
two deobstruents therefore might easily overact their parts, 
and (by lessening the force of the elastic vessels) remotely 
produce those concretions they are intended to remove. 


57. Weak and rigid fibres are looked on by the most 
able physicians, as sources of two different classes of 
distempers : a sluggish motion of the liquids occasioning 
weak fibres : therefore tar-water is good to strengthen 
them, as it gently accelerates their contents. On the other 
hand, being an unctuous, bland fluid, it moistens and 
softens the dry and stiff fibres, and so proves a remedy for 
both extremes. 

58. Common soaps are compositions of lixivial salt and 
oil. The corrosive acrimony of the saline particles, being 
softened by the mixture of an unctuous substance, they 
insinuate themselves into the small ducts with less difficulty 
and danger. The combination of these different substances 
makes up a very subtle and active medicine, fitted for 
mixing with all humours, and resolving all obstructions. 
Soap, therefore, is justly esteemed a most efficacious 
medicine in many distempers. Alkaline soap is allowed 
to be cleansing, attenuating, opening, resolving, sweeten 
ing ; it is pectoral, vulnerary, diuretic, and hath other 
good qualities which are also to be found in tar-water. It 
is granted that oil and acid salts combined together exist 
in vegetables, and that consequently there are acid soaps 
as well as alkaline. And the saponaceous nature of the 
acid vegetable spirits is what renders them so diuretic, 
sudorific, penetrating, abstersive, and resolving. Such, 
for instance, is the acid spirit of guaiacum. And all these 
same virtues seem to be in tar-water in a mild and salutary 

59. It is the general opinion that all acids coagulate the 
blood. Boerhaave 1 excepts vinegar, which he holds to 
be a soap, inasmuch as it is found to contain an oil as well 
as an acid spirit. Hence it is both unctuous and penetrat 
ing, a powerful antiphlogistic, and preservative against 
corruption and infection. Now it seems evident that tar- 
water is a soap as well as vinegar. For, though it be 
a character of resin, which is an inspissated gross oil, not 
to dissolve in water (sect. 47), yet the salts attract some 
fine particles of essential oil : which fine oil serves as a 
vehicle for the acid salts, and shews itself in the colour 
of the tar-water : for all pure salts are colourless. And, 

1 Elementa C/iemice, torn. II. p. 216 


though the resin will not dissolve in water, yet the subtle 
oil, in which the vegetable salts are lodged, may as well 
mix with water as vinegar doth, which contains both oil 
and salt. And, as the oil in tar-water discovers itself to 
the eye, so the acid salts do manifest themselves to the 
taste. Tar-water therefore is a soap, and as such hath the 
medicinal qualities of soap. 

60. It operates more gently as the acid salts lose their 
acrimony, being sheathed in oil \ and thereby approaching 
the nature of neutral salts, are more benign and friendly 
to the animal system : and more effectually, as, by the help 
of a volatile, smooth, insinuating oil, those same salts are 
more easily introduced into the capillary ducts. There 
fore, in fevers and epidemical distempers it is (and I have 
found it so), as well as in chronical diseases, a most safe 
and efficacious medicine, being good against too great 
fluidity as a balsamic, and good against viscidity as a soap. 
There is something in the fiery corrosive nature of lixivial 
salts, which makes alkaline soap a dangerous remedy in 
all cases where an inflammation is apprehended. And, 
as inflammations are often occasioned by obstructions, it 
should seem an acid soap was much the safer deobstruent. 

6r. Even the best turpentines, however famous for their 
vulnerary and detergent qualities, have yet been observed 
by their warmth to dispose to inflammatory tumours. But 
the acid spirit (sect. 7, 8) being in so great proportion in 
tar-water, renders it a cooler and safer medicine. And the 
aethereal oil of turpentine, though an admirable dryer, 
healer, and anodyne, when outwardly applied to wounds 
and ulcers, and not less useful in cleansing the urinary 
passages and healing their ulcerations, yet is known to be 
of a nature so very relaxing as sometimes to do much 
mischief when taken inwardly. Tar-water is not attended 
with the same ill effects, which I believe are owing in 
a great measure to the sethereal oils being deprived of 
the acid spirit in distillation, which, vellicating and con 
tracting as a stimulus, might have proved a counterpoise 
to the excessive lubricating and relaxing qualities of the oil. 

1 Cf.Berkeley sLetterto Thomas Reid s Letter to Dr. Hales. Reid 

Prior, on the Virtues of Tar-wafer recommends that the medicinal 

in the Plague (vol. III. p. 484) acid should be freed from its oil. 
especially the reference to Andrew 


62. Woods in decoction do not seem to yield so ripe 
and elaborate a juice, as that which is deposited in the 
cells or locidi tcrcbinthiaci, and spontaneously oozes from 
them. And indeed, though the balsam of Peru, obtained 
by boiling wood and scumming the decoction, be a very 
valuable medicine, and of great account in divers cases, 
particularly asthmas, nephritic pains, nervous colics, and 
obstructions, yet I do verily think (and I do not say this 
without experience) that tar-water is a more efficacious 
remedy in all those cases than even that costly drug. 

63. It hath been already observed that the restorative 
pectoral antihysterical virtues of the most precious balsams 
and gums are possessed in a high degree by tar-water 
(sect. 9, 21, 22, 23). And I do not know any purpose 
answered by the wood drinks for which tar-water may not 
be used with at least equal success. It contains the 
virtues even ofguaiacum, which seems the most efficacious 
of all woods, warming and sweetening the humours, dia 
phoretic and useful in gouts, dropsies, and rheums, as 
well as in the foul disease. Nor should it seem strange if 
the virtues obtained by boiling an old dry wood prove 
inferior to those extracted from a balsam. 

64. There is a fine volatile spirit in the waters of 
Geronster, the most esteemed of all the fountains about 
the Spa 1 , but whose waters do not bear transporting. 
The stomachic, cardiac, and diuretic qualities of this foun 
tain somewhat resemble those of tar-water, which, if I 
am not greatly mistaken, contains the virtues of the best 
chalybeat and sulphureous waters ; with this difference, 
that those waters are apt to affect the head in taking, 
which tar-water is not. Besides, there is a regimen of 
diet to be observed, especially with chalybeat waters, 
which I never found necessary with this. Tar-water layeth 
under no restraint either as to diet, hours, or employment. 
A man may study, or exercise, or repose, keep his own 
hours, pass his time either within or without, and take 
wholesome nourishment of any kind. 

65. The use of mineral waters, however excellent for 
the nerves and stomach, is often suspended by colds and 

1 The waters of Spa have per- springs is in Spa itself; the others 
haps been longer in repute than are at some distance in the woods, 
any in Europe. Only one of the 


inflammatory disorders ; in which they are acknowledged 
to be very dangerous : whereas tar-water is so far from 
hurting in those cases, or being discontinued on that 
account, that it greatly contributes to their cure (sect. 7). 

66. Cordials, vulgarly so called, act immediately on the 
stomach, and by consent of nerves on the head. But 
medicines of an operation too fine and light to produce 
a sensible effect in the primes vice may, nevertheless, in 
their passage through the capillaries, operate on the sides 
of those small vessels, in such manner as to quicken their 
oscillations, and consequently the motion of their contents, 
producing, in issue and effect, all the benefits of a cordial 
much more lasting and salutary than those of [ l distilled] 
spirits, which by their caustic and coagulating qualities do 
incomparably more mischief than good. Such a cardiac 
medicine is tar-water. The transient fits of mirth, pro 
duced from fermented liquors, [ 2 and distilled spirits,] are 
attended with proportionable depression of spirit in their 
intervals. But the calm cheerfulness arising from this 
ivatcr of health (as it may be justly called) is permanent. 
In which it emulates the virtues of that famous plant Gen 
Seng 3 , so much valued in China as the only cordial that 
raises the spirits without depressing them. Tar-water is 
so far from hurting the nerves, as common cordials do, 
that it is highly useful in cramps, spasms of the viscera, 
and paralytic numbness. 

67. Emetics are on certain occasions administered with 
great success. But the overstraining and weakening of 
nature may be very justly apprehended from a course of 
emetics. They are nevertheless prescribed and substituted 
for exercise. But it is well remarked in Plato s Timceus * 
that vomits and purges are the worst exercise in the 
world. There is something in the mild operation of tar- 
water, that seems more friendly to the economy, and 
forwards the digestions and secretions in a way more 

1 Fermented in first edition. on its medicinal virtues, in a variety 

2 Not in the early editions. of diseases. Don, the botanist, 

3 Gen (Gin) Seng is the root of says that the roots, which resemble 

an Asiatic plant (Panax Schin- the human form, enter into most 

Seng]. It had long been famous medicines used by the Tartars and 

among the Chinese, as a stimulant Chinese. 

and restorative. Eminent physi- 4 P. 89. 

cians in Chinahave written volumes 


natural and benign ; the mildness of this medicine being 
such that I have known children take it, for above six 
months together, with great benefit, and without any 
inconvenience : and, after long and repeated experience, 
I do esteem it a most excellent diet-drink, fitted to all 
seasons and ages. 

68. It is I think allowed that the origin of the gout lies 
in a faulty digestion. And it is remarked by the ablest 
physicians, that the gout is so difficult to cure, because 
heating medicines aggravate its immediate, and cooling its 
remote cause. But tar-water, although it contains active 
principles that strengthen the digestion beyond anything 
I know, and consequently must be highly useful, either to 
prevent or lessen the following fit, or by invigorating the 
blood to cast it upon the extremities, yet it is not of so 
heating a nature as to do harm even in the fit. Nothing 
is more difficult or disagreeable than to argue men out of 
their prejudices; I shall not therefore enter into contro 
versies on this subject, but, if men dispute and object, 
shall leave the decision to time and trial. 

69. In the modern practice, soap, opium, and mercury, 
bid fairest for Universal Medicines. The first of these is 
highly spoken of. But then those who magnify it most 
except against the use of it, in such cases where the 
obstruction is attended with a putrefactive alkali, or where 
an inflammatory disposition appears. It is acknowledged 
to be very dangerous in a phthisis, fever, and some other 
cases in which tar-water is not only safe but useful. 

70. Opium, though a medicine of great extent and 
efficacy, yet is frequently known to produce grievous dis 
orders in hysterical or hypochondriacal persons; who 
make a great part, perhaps the greatest, of those who 
lead sedentary lives in these islands. Besides, upon all 
constitutions dangerous errors may be committed in the 
use of opium. 

71. Mercury hath of late years become a medicine of 
very general use the extreme minuteness, mobility, and 
momentum of its parts rendering it a most powerful 
cleanser of all obstructions, even in the most minute 
capillaries \ But then we should be cautious in the use 

1 Mercury was much in vogue with the Arabian alchemists. Cf. 
sect. 194. 


of it, if we consider that the very thing which gives it 
power of doing good above other deobstruents doth also 
dispose it to do mischief. I mean its great momentum, 
the weight of it being about ten times that of blood, and 
the momentum being the joint product of the weight and 
velocity, it must needs operate with great force ; and may 
it not be justly feared that so great a force, entering the 
minutest vessels, and breaking the obstructed matter, 
might also break or wound the fine tender coats of those 
small vessels, and so bring on the untimely effects of old 
age, producing more, perhaps, and worse obstructions 
than those it removed ? Similar consequences may justly 
be apprehended from other mineral and ponderous medi 
cines. Therefore, upon the whole, there will not perhaps 
be found any medicine more general in its use, or more 
salutary in its effects, than tar-water. 

72. To suppose that all distempers, arising from very 
different, and it may be from contrary causes l , can be 
cured by one and the same medicine must seem chi 
merical 2 . But it may with truth be affirmed, that the 
virtue of tar-water extends to a surprising variety of cases, 
very distant and unlike (sect. 3, 4, 5, 6, 21, &c.). This 
I have experienced in my neighbours, my family, and 
myself. And, as I live in a remote corner ;! , among poor 
neighbours, who for want of a regular physician have 
often recourse to me, I have had frequent opportunities 
of trial, which convince me it is of so just a temperament 
as to be an enemy to all extremes. I have known it to do 
great good in a cold, watery constitution, as a cardiac and 
stomachic : and at the same time allay heat and feverish 
thirst in another. I have known it correct costive habits 
in some, and the contrary habit in others. Nor will this 
seem incredible if it be considered that middle qualities 
naturally reduce the extreme. Warm water, for instance, 
mixed with hot and cold, will lessen the heat in that, and 
the cold in this. 

1 causes, i.e. physical or opinion, that tar-water may even be 
dependent causes, with which alone a Panacea or universal medicine, 
he is concerned in this part of Sin s. that chiefly excited the faculty 

2 Cf. the definition of Panacea, against Siris. 
in Berkeley s First LcfterfoT/iotnas 3 Cloyne. 
Prior, sect. 12. It was Berkeley s 


73. They who know the great virtues of common soap, 
whose coarse lixivial salts are the product of culinary fire, 
will not think it incredible that virtues of mighty force and 
extent should be found in a fine acid soap (sect. 58), the 
salts and oil whereof are a most elaborate product of 
nature and the solar light. 

74. It is certain tar-water warms, and therefore some 
may perhaps still think it cannot cool. The more effectu 
ally to remove this prejudice, let it be farther considered 
that as, on the one hand, opposite causes do sometimes 
produce the same effect, for instance, heat by rarefaction 
and cold by condensation do both increase the air s 
elasticity ; so, on the other hand, the same cause shall 
sometimes produce opposite effects : heat for instance 
[* thins, and again heat coagulates] the blood. It is not 
therefore strange, that tar-water should warm one habit 
and cool another, have one good effect on a cold constitu 
tion, and another good effect on an inflamed one ; nor, 
if this be so, that it should cure opposite disorders. All 
which justifies to reason what I have often found true 
in fact. The salts, the spirits, the heat of tar-water are 
of a temperature congenial to the constitution of a man, 
which receives from it a kindly warmth, but no inflaming 
heat. It was remarkable that two children in my neigh 
bourhood, being in a course of tar-water, upon an inter 
mission of it, never failed to have their issues inflamed by 
a humour much more hot and sharp than at other times. 
But its great use in the small-pox, pleurisies, and fevers is 
a sufficient proof that tar-water is not of an inflaming 

75. I have dwelt the longer on this head, because some 
gentlemen of the faculty have thought fit to declare that 
tar-water must inflame, and that they would never visit 
any patient in a fever who had been a drinker of it 2 . But 
I will venture to affirm, that it is so far from increasing 
a feverish inflammation, that it is on the contrary a most 
ready means to allay and extinguish it. It is of admirable 
use in fevers, being at the same time the surest, safest and 
most effectual, both paregoric and cordial : for the truth 
of which I appeal to any person s experience who shall 

1 In one degree thins, and in another coagulates in first edition. 

2 Cf. sect. 7. 


take a large draught of it milk warm in the paroxysm of 
a fever, even when plain water or herb-teas shall be found 
to have little or no effect. To me it seems that its singular 
and surprising use in fevers of all kinds, were there 
nothing else, would be alone sufficient to recommend it to 
the public. 

76. The best physicians make the idea of a fever to 
consist in a too great velocity of the heart s motion, and 
too great resistance at the capillaries. Tar-water, as it 
softens and gently stimulates those nice vessels, helps 
to propel their contents, and so contributes to remove 
the latter part of the disorder. And for the former, the 
irritating acrimony which accelerates the motion of the 
heart is diluted by watery, corrected by acid, and softened 
by balsamic remedies, all which intentions are answered 
by this aqueous, acid, balsamic medicine. Besides, the 
viscid juices coagulated by the febrile heat are resolved 
by tar-water as a soap, and not too far resolved, as it is 
a gentle acid soap ; to which we may add, that the peccant 
humours and salts are carried off by its diaphoretic and 
diuretic qualities. 

77. I found all this confirmed by my own experience in 
the late sickly season of the year one thousand seven 
hundred and forty-one, having had twenty-five fevers in 
my own family cured by this medicinal water, drunk 
copiously 1 . The same method was practised on several 
of my poor neighbours with equal success. It suddenly 
calmed the feverish anxieties, and seemed every glass to 
refresh, and infuse life and spirit into the patient. At first 
some of these patients had been vomited, but afterwards 
I found that without vomiting, bleeding, blistering, or any 
other evacuation or medicine whatever, very bad fevers 
could be cured by the sole drinking of tar-water, milk 
warm, and in good quantity, perhaps a large glass every 
hour [ 2 or oftener] taken in bed. And it was remarkable 
that such as were cured by this comfortable cordial re 
covered health and spirits at once, while those who had 
been cured by evacuations often languished long, even 
after the fever had left them, before they could recover of 
their medicines and regain their strength. 

1 Cf. Berkeley s letters to Thomas in my Life and Letters of Berkeley. 
Prior, in February and May, 1741, " Not in the early editions. 


78. In peripneumonies and pleurisies I have observed 
tar-water to be excellent, having known some pleuritic 
persons cured without bleeding, by a blister early applied 
to the stitch, and the copious drinking of tar-water, four or 
five quarts, or even more in four-and-twenty hours. And 
I do recommend it to farther trial, whether in all cases of 
a pleurisy, one moderate bleeding, a blister on the spot, 
and plenty of tepid tar-water may not suffice, without those 
repeated and immoderate bleedings, the bad effects of 
which are perhaps never got over. I do even suspect 
that a pleuritic patient betaking himself to bed betimes, 
and drinking very copiously of tar-water, may be cured 
by that alone, without bleeding, blistering, or any other 
medicine whatsoever : certainly I have found this succeed 
at a glass every half hour. 

79. I have known a bloody flux of long continuance, 
after divers medicines had been tried in vain, cured by 
tar-water . But that which I take to be the most speedy 
and effectual remedy in a bloody flux is a clyster of an 
ounce of common brown resin dissolved over a fire in two 
ounces of oil, and added to a pint of broth, which not long 
since I had frequent occasion of trying when that dis 
temper was epidemical. Nor can I say that any to whom 
I advised it miscarried. This experiment I was led to 
make by the opinion I had of tar as a balsamic : and resin 
is only tar inspissated. 

80. Nothing that I know corroborates the stomach so 
much as tar-water (sect. 68). Whence it follows, that it 
must be of singular use to persons afflicted with the gout. 
And, from what I have observed in five or six instances, 
I do verily believe it the best and safest medicine either to 
prevent the gout, or so to strengthen nature against the 
fit, as to drive it from the vitals. Dr. Sydenham, in his 
Treatise of the Gout 2 , declares that whoever finds a medicine 
the most efficacious for strengthening digestion will do 
more service in the cure of that and other chronical dis 
tempers than he can even form a notion of. And I leave 

1 Cf. letter to Prior, Feb. 8, Boyle, and the greatest English 
1741. physician of the seventeenth cen- 

2 Tractatus de Podagra (sec tury. He was himself a martyr 
sect. 29, 40), by Sydenham (1624- to gout. 

1689), tnc friend of Locke and 


it to trial, whether tar-water be not that medicine, as 
I myself am persuaded it is, by all the experiments I could 
make. But in all trials I would recommend discretion ; 
for instance, a man with the gout in his stomach ought 
not to drink cold tar-water. This Essay leaves room for 
future experiment in every part of it, not pretending to be 
a complete treatise. 

81. It is evident to sense that blood, urine, and other 
animal juices, being let to stand, soon contract a great 
acrimony. Juices, therefore, from a bad digestion retained, 
and stagnating in the body, grow sharp and putrid. Hence 
a fermenting heat, the immediate cause of the gout. The 
curing this by cooling medicines, as they would increase 
the antecedent cause, must be a vain attempt. On the 
other hand, spices and spirituous liquors, while they con 
tribute to remove the antecedent cause or bad digestion, 
would, by inflaming the blood, increase the proximate or 
immediate cause of the gout, to wit, the fermenting heat. 
The scope therefore must be, to find a medicine that shall 
corroborate but not inflame. Bitter herbs are recom 
mended ; but they are weak in comparison of tar-water. 

82. The great force of tar-water to correct the acrimony 
of the blood appears in nothing more than in the cure of 
a gangrene from an internal cause ; which was performed 
on a servant of my own, by prescribing the copious and 
constant use of tar-water for a few weeks. From my 
representing tar-water as good for so many things, some 
perhaps may conclude it is good for nothing. But charity 
obligeth me to say what I know, and what I think, howso 
ever it may be taken. Men may censure and object as 
they please, but I appeal to time and experiment. Effects 
misimputed, cases wrong told, circumstances overlooked, 
perhaps, too, prejudices and partialities against truth, may 
for a time prevail, and keep her at the bottom of her well, 
from whence nevertheless she emergeth sooner or later, 
and strikes the eyes of all those who do not keep them 
shut \ 

83. Boerhaave 2 thinks a specific may be found for that 

1 Cf. sect. 367-68. Medico, (1728) De Variolis, pp. 

2 See his Aplwrismi de Cogno- 297-320. Cf. Berkeley s Further 
scendis et Curandis Morbis (1708), Thoughts on Tar-water, 

aph. 1390, 1391 ; also his Praxis 


peculiar venom which infects the blood in the small-pox, 
and that the prospect of so great a public benefit should 
stir up men to search for it. Its wonderful success in pre 
venting and mitigating that distemper (sect. 2, 3) would 
incline one to suspect that tar-water is such a specific 
f 1 especially since I have found it of sovereign use as well 
during the small-pox as before it]. Some think an 
erysipelas and the plague differ only in degree. If so, 
tar-water should be useful in the plague, for I have known 
it cure an erysipelas. 

84. Tar-water, as cleansing, healing, and balsamic, is 
good in all disorders of the urinary passages, whether 
obstructed or ulcerated. Dr. Lister 2 supposeth, indeed, 
that turpentines act by a caustic quality, which irritates 
the coats of the urinary ducts to expel sand or gravel. 
But it should seem this expelling diuretic virtue consisted 
rather in the salts than the resin, and consequently resides 
in the tar-water, gently stimulating by its salts, without 
the dangerous force of a caustic. The violent operation 
of ipecacuanha lies in its resin, but the saline extract is 
a gentle purge and diuretic, by the stimulus of its salts. 

85. That which acts as a mild cordial (sect. 66), neither 
hurting the capillary vessels as a caustic, nor affecting the 
nerves, nor coagulating the juices, must in all cases be 
a friend to nature, and assist the vis vita in its struggle 
against all kinds of contagion. And from what I have 
observed, tar-water appears to me a useful preservative 
in all epidemical disorders, and against all other infection 
whatsoever, as well as that of the small-pox. What effects 
the animi pathemata have in human maladies is well known, 
and consequently the general benefit of such a cardiac 
[ 3 may be reasonably supposed]. 

86. 4 As the body is said to clothe the soul, so the nerves 

1 Added in second edition. Journey to London. Dr. Lister 

2 Martin Lister (1638-1712), an was a benefactor to the Ashmolean 
English physician, frequent contri- Museum. 

butor to the Philos. Trans., and 3 Cannot be doubted in first 

author of works in natural history edition. 

and anatomy of repute in their * In sect. 86-119 we have an 

day. His Journey to Paris (1698) account of the utility of tar-water 

was parodied by Dr. King in his in nervous diseases, indigestion, 


may be said to constitute her inner garment . And, as 
the soul animates the whole, what nearly touches the soul 
relates to all. Therefore the asperity of tartarous salts, 
and the fiery acrimony of alkaline salts, irritating and 
wounding the nerves, produce nascent passions and 
anxieties in the soul ; which both aggravate distempers, 
and render men s lives restless and wretched, even when 
they are afflicted with no apparent distemper. This is the 
latent spring of much woe, spleen, and tcedium vitce. Small 
imperceptible irritations of the minutest fibres or filaments, 
caused by the pungent salts of wines and sauces, do so 
shake and disturb the microcosms of high livers, as often 
to raise tempests in courts and senates. Whereas the 
gentle vibrations that are raised in the nerves, by a fine 
subtle acid, sheathed in a smooth volatile oil (sect. 59, 61), 
softly stimulating and bracing the nervous vessels and 
fibres, promote a due circulation and secretion of the 
animal juices, and create a calm satisfied sense of health. 
And, accordingly, I have often known tar-water procure 
sleep and compose the spirits in cruel vigils, occasioned 
either by sickness or by too intense application of mind. 

87. In diseases sometimes accidents happen from with 
out by mismanagement, sometimes latent causes operate 
within, jointly with the specific taint or peculiar cause of 
the malady. The causes of distempers are often compli 
cated, and there may be something in the idiosyncrasy of 
the patient that puzzles the physician. It may therefore 
be presumed that no medicine is infallible, not even in any 
one disorder. But, as tar-water possesseth the virtues of 
fortifying the stomach, as well as purifying and invigor 
ating the blood, beyond any medicine that I know, it may 
be presumed of great and general efficacy in all those 
numerous illnesses which take their rise from foul or vapid 
blood, or from a bad digestion. The animal spirits are 
elaborated from the blood. Such therefore as the blood 
is, such will be the animal spirits, more or less, weaker or 
stronger. This sheweth the usefulness of tar-water in all 
hysteric and hypochondriac cases : which, together with 

and scurvy, with an eloquent an- the body, including the nerves, 

nouncement of its advantages to as contained in percipient mind, 

the studious. The two modes of statement are 

1 Elsewhere Berkeley speaks of easily reconcileable. 


the maladies from indigestion, comprise almost the whole 
tribe of chronical diseases. 

88. The scurvy may be reckoned in these climates 
a universal malady, as people in general are subject to it, 
and as it mixes more or less in almost all diseases. Whether 
this proceeds from want of elasticity in our air, upon which 
the tone of the vessels depends, and upon that the several 
secretions ; or whether it proceeds from the moisture of 
our climate, or the grossness of our food, or the salts in 
our atmosphere, or from all these together thus much at 
least seems not absurd to suppose, that as physicians in 
Spain and Italy are apt to suspect the venereal taint to be 
a latent principle, and bear a part in every illness, so far, 
as good reason, the scurvy should be considered by our 
physicians as having some share in most disorders and 
constitutions that fall in their way. It is certain our per 
spiration is not so free as in clearer air and warmer 
climates. Perspirable humours not discharged will stag 
nate and putrefy. A diet of animal food will be apt to 
render the juices of our bodies alkalescent. Hence ichor- 
ous and corrosive humours and many disorders. Moist 
air makes viscid blood ; and saline air inflames this viscid 
blood. Hence broken capillaries, extravasated blood, 
spots, and ulcers, and other scorbutic symptoms. The 
body of a man attracts and imbibes the moisture and salts 
of the air and whatever floats in the atmosphere, which 
as it is common to all, so it affects all more or less. 

89. Doctor Musgrave thinks the Devonshire scurvy 
a relic of the leprosy, and that it is not owing to the 
qualities of the air. But, as these insulars in general live 
in a gross saline air, and their vessels being less elastic 
are consequently less able to subdue and cast off what 
their bodies as sponges draw in, one would be tempted to 
suspect the air not a little concerned, especially in such 
a situation as that of Devonshire. In all these British 
islands we enjoy a great mediocrity of climate ; the effect 
whereof is, that we have neither heat enough to exalt and 

1 William Musgrave (1655-1721), reputation. See Munk s Roll of 

an eminent physician, Secretary the Royal College of Physicians of 

to the Royal Society. He settled London (pp. 446-448) for an in- 

at Exeter in 1621, and practised teresting account of Musgrave and 

there for thirty years with high his works. 


dissipate the gross vapours, as in Italy, nor cold enough 
to condense and precipitate them, as in Sweden. So they 
are left floating in the air, which we constantly breathe, 
and imbibe through the whole surface of our bodies. And 
this, together with exhalations from coal fires, and the 
various fossils wherein we abound, doth greatly contribute 
to render us scorbutic and hypochondriac. 

90. There are some who derive all diseases from the 
scurvy, which indeed must be allowed to create or mimic 
most other maladies. Boerhaave l tells us, it produceth 
pleuritic colic, nephritic, hepatic pains, various fevers, hot, 
malignant, intermitting dysenteries, faintings, anxieties, 
dropsies, consumptions, convulsions, palsies, fluxes of 
blood. In a word, it may be said to contain the seeds and 
origin of almost all distempers. Insomuch that a medicine 
which cures all sorts of scurvy may be presumed good for 
most maladies. 

91. The scurvy doth not only in variety of symptoms 
imitate most distempers, but also, when come to a height, 
in degree of virulence equal the most malignant. Of this 
we have a remarkable proof in that horrible description of 
the scorbutic patients in the hospitals of Paris, given by 
Monsieur Poupart 2 , in the Memoirs of the Royal Academy 
of Sciences, for the year 1699. That author thinks he saw 
some resemblance in it to the plague of Athens 3 . It is 
hard to imagine anything more dreadful than the case of 
those men, rotting alive by scurvy in its supreme degree. 
To obviate such putrefaction, I believe the most effectual 
method would be, to embalm (if one may so say) the living 
body with tar-water copiously drunk ; and this belief is not 
without experience. 

92. It is the received opinion that the animal salts of 
a sound body are of a neutral, bland, and benign nature : 
that is, the salts in the juices past \heprimce vice are neither 
acid or alkaline, having been subdued by the constitution, 

1 Praxis Medico, De Scorbuto, F Academic. The paper referred 

torn. V. pp. 101-17. to Etranges Effets dn Scorbut 

" Francis Poupart (1661-1709), arrives a Paris en 1699 appeared 

the French anatomist, and member in the Metnoires in November of 

of the Academy, was a frequent that year. It is also contained 

contributor, especially on com- in the Philos. Trans. No. 318. 

parative anatomy, to the Journal 3 Lucretius, De Rermn Nat. VI. 

des Savans, and the Memoires de 1136-1284. 


and changed into a third nature. Where the constitution 
wants force to do this, the aliment is not duly assimilated : 
and, so far as the salts retain their pristine qualities, sickly 
symptoms ensue, acids and alkalies not perfectly subdued 
producing weak ferments in the juices. Hence scurvy, 
cachexy, and a long train of ills. 

93. A cachexy or ill habit is much of the same kind with 
the scurvy, proceeds from the same causes, and is attended 
with like symptoms, which are so manifold and various, 
that the scurvy may well be looked on as a general cachexy, 
infecting the whole habit, and vitiating all the digestions. 
Some have reckoned as many sorts of the scurvy as there 
are taints of the blood. Others have supposed it a collec 
tion of all illnesses together. Some suppose it an accumu 
lation of several diseases in fieri. Others take it for an 
assemblage of the relics of old distempers. 

94. But thus much is certain, the cure of the scurvy is 
no more to be attempted by strongly active medicines, 
than (to use the similitude of an ingenious writer) a thorn 
in the flesh, or pitch on silk, to be removed by force. The 
viscid humour must be gently resolved and diluted, the 
tone of the vessels recovered by a moderate stimulation, 
and the tender fibres and capillary vessels gradually cleared 
from the concreted stuff that adheres and obstructs them. 
All which is in the aptest manner performed by a watery 
diluent, containing a fine vegetable soap. And although 
a complete cure by alteratives, operating on the small 
capillaries, and by insensible discharges, must require 
length of time, yet the good effect of this medicine on 
cachectic and scorbutic persons is soon perceived, by the 
change it produceth in their pale discoloured looks, giving 
a florid healthy countenance in less time than perhaps any 
other medicine. 

95. It is supposed by physicians that the immediate 
cause of the scurvy lies in the blood, the fibrous part of 
which is too thick and the serum too thin and sharp ; and 
that hence ariseth the great difficulty in the cure, because 
in the correcting of one part regard must be had to the 
other. It is well known how extremely difficult it is to 
cure an inveterate scurvy : how many scorbutic patients 
have grown worse by an injudicious course of evacuations : 
how many are even rendered incurable by the treatment of 



inconsiderate physicians ; and how difficult, tedious, and 
uncertain, the cure is in the hands even of the best, who 
are obliged to use such variety and change of medicines, 
in the different stages of that malady: which neverthe 
less may be cured (if I may judge by what I have ex 
perienced) by the sole, regular, constant, copious use of 

96. Tar-water moderately inspissates with its balsamic 
virtue, and renders mild the thin and sharp part of the 
blood, the same as a soapy medicine dissolves the grumous 
concretions of the fibrous part. As a balsam it destroys 
the ulcerous acrimony of the humours, and as a deobstruent 
it opens and cleans the vessels, restores their tone, and 
strengthens the digestion, whose defects are the principal 
cause of scurvy and cachexy. 

97. In the cure of the scurvy the principal aim is to 
subdue the acrimony of the blood and juices. But, as this 
acrimony proceeds from different causes, or even opposite, 
as acid and alkaline, what is good in one sort of scurvy 
proves dangerous or even mortal in another. It is well 
known that hot antiscorbutics, where the juices of the 
body are alkalescent, increase the disease. And sour 
fruits and vegetables produce a like effect in the scurvy, 
caused by an acid acrimony. Hence fatal blunders are 
committed by unwary practitioners, who, not distinguish 
ing the nature of the disease, do frequently aggravate 
instead of curing it. If I may trust what trials I have been 
able to make, this water is good in the several kinds of 
scurvy, acid, alkaline, and muriatic, and I believe it the 
only medicine that cures them all without doing hurt to 
any. As it contains a volatile acid (sect. 7) with a fine 
volatile oil, why may not a medicine cool in one part and 
warm in another be a remedy to either extreme (sect. 72) ? 
I have observed it to produce a kindly genial warmth with 
out heat, a thing to be aimed at in all sorts of scurvy. 
Besides, the balsam in tar-water sheathes all scorbutic 
salts alike : and its great virtues as a digester and de- 
obstruent are of general use in all scorbutic, and I may 
add, in all chronical cases whatsoever. 

98. I cannot be sure that I have tried it in a scrofulous 
case, though I have tried it successfully in one that I sus 
pected to be so. And I apprehend it would be very 


serviceable in such disorders. For although Dr. Gibbs in 
his treatise on the King s Evil l derives that disease from 
a coagulating acid, which is also agreeable to the opinion 
of some other physicians, and although tar-water contain 
an acid, yet, as it is a soap (sect. 58), it resolves instead of 
coagulating the juices of the body. 

99. For hysterical and hypochondriacal disorders so 
frequent among us, it is commonly supposed that all acids 
are bad. But I will venture to except the acid soap of 
tar-water, having found by my own experience and that of 
many others, that it raises the spirits, and is an excellent 
anti-hysteric, nor less innocent than potent, which cannot 
be said of those others in common use, that often leave 
people worse than they found them. 

100. In a high degree of scurvy a mercurial salivation 
is looked on by many as the only cure ; which, by the 
vehement shock it gives the whole frame, and the sensible 
secretion it produceth, may be thought more adequate to 
such an effect. But the disorder occasioned by that violent 
process, it is to be feared, may never be got over. The 
immediate danger, the frequent bad effects, the extreme 
trouble and nice care attending such a course, do very 
deservedly make people afraid of it. And though the 
sensible secretion therein be so great, yet in a longer tract 
of time the use of tar-water may produce as great a dis 
charge of scorbutic salts by urine and by perspiration 
the effect of which last, though not so sensible, may yet 
be greater than that of salivation ; especially if it be true 
that in common life insensible perspiration is to nutrition, 
and all sensible excretions, as five to three. 

101. Many hysteric and scorbutic ailments, many taints 
contracted by themselves, or inherited from their ances 
tors, afflict the people of condition in these islands, often 
rendering them, upon the whole, much more unhappy 
than those whom poverty and labour have ranked in the 
lowest lot of life, which ailments might be safely removed 
or relieved by the sole use of tar-water ; and those lives 
which seem hardly worth living for bad appetite, low 
spirits, restless nights, wasting pains and anxieties, be 
rendered easy and comfortable. 

1 Observations of Various Cases of Scroplntloiis Disorder, commonly 
called the King s Evil. (London, 1702.) 


102. As the nerves are instruments of sensation, it 
follows that spasms in the nerves may produce all symp 
toms, and therefore a disorder in the nervous system shall 
imitate all distempers, and occasion, in appearance, an 
asthma for instance, a pleurisy, or a fit of the stone. Now, 
whatever is good for the nerves in general is good against 
all such symptoms. But tar-water, as it includes in an 
eminent degree the virtues of warm gums and resins, is of 
great use for comforting and strengthening the nerves 
(sect. 86), curing twitches in the nervous fibres, cramps 
also, and numbness in the limbs, removing anxieties, and 
promoting sleep : in all which cases I have known it very 

103. This safe and cheap medicine suits all circum 
stances and all constitutions, operating easily, curing with 
out disturbing, raising the spirits without depressing them, 
a circumstance that deserves repeated attention : especially 
in these climates, where strong liquors so fatally and so 
frequently produce those very distresses they are designed 
to remedy ; and, if I am not misinformed, even among the 
ladies themselves, who are truly much to be pitied 1 . Their 
condition of life makes them a prey to imaginary woes, 
which never fail to grow up in minds unexercised and un 
employed. To get rid of these, it is said, there are who 
betake themselves to distilled spirits. And it is not im 
probable they are led gradually to the use of those poisons 
by a certain complaisant pharmacy, too much used in the 
modern practice, palsy drops, poppy cordial, plague water, 
and such like, which being in truth nothing but drams dis 
guised, yet, coming from the apothecaries, are considered 
only as medicines. 

104. The soul of man was supposed by many ancient 
sages to be thrust into the human body as into a prison, 
for punishment of past offences. But the worst prison is 
the body of an indolent epicure, whose blood is inflamed 
by fermented liquors (sect. 66) and high sauces, or rendered 
putrid, sharp, and corrosive, by a stagnation of the animal 
juices through sloth and indolence ; whose membranes are 
irritated by pungent salts ; whose mind is agitated by 
painful oscillations of the nervous system (sect. 86), and 

1 Note what is said of the prevalence, causes, and stringent cure 
of drunkenness, in sect. 103-109. 


whose nerves are mutually affected by the irregular passions 
of his mind. This ferment in the animal economy darkens 
and confounds the intellect. It produceth vain terrors and 
vain conceits, and stimulates the soul with mad desires, 
which, not being natural, nothing in nature can satisfy. 
No wonder, therefore, there are so many fine persons of 
both sexes, shining themselves, and shone on by fortune, 
who are inwardly miserable and sick of life. 

105. The hardness of stubbed vulgar constitutions 
renders them insensible of a thousand things that fret and 
gall those delicate people, who, as if their skin was peeled 
off, feel to the quick everything that touches them. The 
remedy for this exquisite and painful sensibility is com 
monly sought from fermented, perhaps from distilled, 
liquors, which render many lives wretched that would 
otherwise have been only ridiculous. The tender nerves 
and low spirits of such poor creatures would be much 
relieved by the use of tar-water, which might prolong and 
cheer their lives. I do therefore recommend to them the 
use of a cordial, not only safe and innocent, but giving 
health and spirits as surely as other cordials destroy 

106. I do verily think there is not any other medicine 
whatsoever so effectual to restore a crazy constitution, 
and cheer a dreary mind, or so likely to subvert that 
gloomy empire of the spleen (sect. 103) which tyrannizeth 
over the better sort (as they are called) of these free 
nations ; and maketh them, in spite of their liberty and 
property, more wretched slaves than even the subjects of 
absolute power, who breathe clear air in a sunny climate 1 . 
While men of low degree often enjoy a tranquillity and 
content that no advantage of birth or fortune can equal. 
Such, indeed, was the case while the rich alone could 
afford to be debauched ; but when even beggars became 
debauchees, the case was altered. 

107. The public virtue and spirit of the British legisla 
ture never shewed itself more conspicuous in any act than 
in that for suppressing the immoderate use of [ 2 distilled 
spirits] among the people, whose strength and numbers 
constitute the true wealth of a nation : though evasive arts 

1 Cf. Alciphron, Dial. II. sect. 17. 

- spirituous liquors in the early editions. 


will, it is feared, prevail so long as distilled spirits of any 
kind are allowed, the character of Englishmen in general 
being that of Brutus, Quicquid vult, valde vult. But why 
should such a canker be tolerated in the vitals of a state, 
under any pretence or in any shape whatsoever? Better 
by far the whole present set of distillers were pensioners 
of the public, and their trade abolished by law ; since all 
the benefit thereof put together would not balance the 
hundredth part of its mischief. 

108. To prove the destructive effects of such spirits 
with regard both to the human species and individuals, we 
need not go so far as our Colonies, or the savage natives 
of America. Plain proof may be had nearer home. For, 
albeit there is in every town or district throughout England 
some tough dram-drinker, set up as the devil s decoy, to 
draw in proselytes ; yet the ruined health and morals, and 
the beggary of such numbers, evidently shew that we need 
no other enemy to complete our destruction, than this 
cheap luxury at the lower end of the state, and that a 
nation lighted up at both ends must soon be consumed. 

109. It is much to be lamented that our insulars, who 
act and think so much for themselves, should yet, from 
grossness of air and diet, grow stupid or dote sooner than 
other people, who by virtue of elastic air, water drinking, 
and light food, preserve their faculties to extreme old age ; 
an advantage which may perhaps be approached, if not 
equalled, even in these regions, by tar-water, temperance, 
and early hours. The last is a sure addition to life, not 
only in regard of time, which, being taken from sleep, the 
image of death , is added to the waking hours, but also in 
regard of longevity and duration in the vulgar sense. 
I may say too in regard of spirit and vivacity, which, 
within the same compass of duration, may truly and 
properly be affirmed to add to man s life : it being mani 
fest, that one man, by a brisker motion of his spirits and 
succession of his ideas, shall live more in one hour than 
another in two : and that the quantity of life is to be 

So Shelley in Oucen Mab- With lips of lurid blue ; 

The other, rosy as the morn 

How wonderful is Death, When throned on ocean s wave, 

Death and his brother Sleep ! It blushes o er the world : 

One, pale as yonder waning moon, Yet both so passing wonderful ! 


estimated, not merely from the duration, but also from the 
intenseness of living. Which intense living, or, if I may 
so say, lively life, is not more promoted by early hours as 
a regimen, than by tar-water as a cordial ; which acts, not 
only as a slow medicine, but hath also an immediate and 
cheerful effect on the spirits (sect. 66). 

no. It must be owned, the light attracted, secreted, 
and detained in tar (sect. 8, 29, 40), and afterwards drawn 
off in its finest balsamic particles, by the gentle menstruum 
of cold water, is not a violent and sudden medicine, always 
to produce its effect at once (such, by irritating, often do 
more mischief than good), but a safe and mild alterative, 
which penetrates the whole system, opens, heals, and 
strengthens the remote vessels, alters and propels their 
contents, and enters the minutest capillaries, and cannot 
therefore, otherwise than by degrees and in time, work 
a radical cure of chronic distempers. It gives nevertheless 
speedy relief in most cases, as I have "found by myself and 
many others. I have been surprised to see persons fallen 
away and languishing under a bad digestion, after a few 
weeks recover a good stomach, and with it flesh and 
strength, so as to seem renewed, by the drinking of tar- 
water. The strength and quantity of this water to be 
taken by each individual person is best determined from 
experience. And as for the time of taking, I never knew 
any evil ensue from its being continued ever so long ; but, 
on the contrary, many and great advantages, which some 
times would not perhaps begin to shew themselves till it 
had been taken two or three months. 

in. We learn from Pliny that in the first ferment of 
new wine or mitstiim, the ancients were wont to sprinkle it 
with powdered resin, which gave it a certain sprightliness, 
qucedain saporis acumina. This was esteemed a great 
improver of its odour and taste, and was, I doubt not, 
of its salubrity also. The brown old resin, that is to say 
hardened tar, as being more easily pulverized and sifted, 
was most in request for this purpose. They used likewise 
to season their wine vessels with pitch or resin. And 
I make no doubt that if our vintners would contrive to 
medicate their wines with the same ingredients, they might 
improve and preserve them with less trouble and expense 
to themselves, and less danger to others. He that would 


know more particulars of this matter may consult Pliny 
and Columella 1 . I shall only add, that I doubt not a 
similar improvement may be made of malt liquor. 

112. The prjTivrj of Theophrastus and resina of Pliny are 
sometimes used in a general sense, to signify all sorts of 
oily viscid exudations from plants or trees. The crude 
watery juice that riseth early in the spring is gradually 
ripened and inspissated by the solar heat, becoming in 
orderly succession with the seasons an oil, a balsam, and 
at last a resin. And it is observed by chemists that 
turpentine dissolved over a gentle fire is, by the constant 
operation of heat, successively transformed into oil, balsam, 
pitch, and hard friable resin, which will incorporate with 
oil or rectified spirit, but not with water. 

113. Sir John Floyer 2 remarks, that we want a method 
for the use of turpentine : and again, he who shall hit, 
saith he, on the pleasantest method of giving turpentine 
will do great cures in the gout, stone, catarrhs, dropsies, 
and cold scurvies, rheumatisms, ulcers, and obstructions 
of the glands. Lastly, he subjoins, that, for the use of 
altering and amending the juices and fibres, it must be 
given frequently, and in such small quantities at a time, 
and in so commodious a manner, as will agree best with 
the stomach (sect. 9), stay longest in the body, and not 
purge itself off; for large doses (saith he) go through too 
quick, and besides offend the head. Now, the infusion of 
tar or turpentine in cold water seems to supply the very 
method that was wanted, as it leaves the more unctuous 
and gross parts behind (sect. 47), which might offend the 
stomach, intestines, and head ; and, as it may be easily 
taken, and as often, and in such quantity and such degree 
of strength, as suits the case of the patient. Nor should it 
seem that the fine spirit and volatile oil, obtained by 
infusion of tar (sect. 7, 42, 58), is inferior to that of 
turpentine, to which it superadds the virtue of wood soot, 

1 See Pliny, Hist. Nat. Lib. XIV. tion, and rode his hobby so hard 
c. 25 ; and Columella, De Re Rus- as to attribute the prevalence of 
fica, Lib. XII. c. 23, 24. rickets in England, at the time 

2 Sir John Floyer (1649-1734), he wrote (about 1700), to the 
an eminent English physician. abandonment of totaj immersion 
See his Touchstone of Medicines in baptism. See Macpherson s 
(1687), Pt. III. He brought the Baths and Wells of Europe, p. 53. 
cold bath into fashion in his genera- 


which is known to be very great with respect to the head 
and nerves ; and this appears evident from the manner of 
obtaining tar (sect. 13). And as the fine volatile parts of 
tar or turpentine are drawn off by infusion in cold water, 
and easily conveyed throughout the whole system of the 
human body ; so it should seem the same method may be 
used with all sorts of balsams or resins whatsoever, as the 
readiest, easiest, and most inoffensive, as well as in many 
cases the most effectual way of obtaining and imparting 
their virtues. 

114. After having said so much of the uses of tar, 
I must further add that, being rubbed on them, it is an 
excellent preservative of the teeth and gums : [ that it 
sweetens the breath, and] that it clears and strengthens 
the voice. And, as its effects are various and useful, so 
there is nothing to be feared from the operation of an 
alterative so mild and friendly to nature. It was a wise 
maxim of certain ancient philosophers, that diseases ought 
not to be irritated by medicines (sect. 103). But no 
medicine disturbs the animal economy less than this, 
which, if I may trust my own experience, never produces 
any disorder in a patient when rightly taken. 

115. I knew indeed a person who took a large glass of 
tar-water just before breakfast, which gave him an in 
vincible nausea and disgust, although he had before received 
the greatest benefit from it. But, if the tar-water be taken 
and made in the manner prescribed at the beginning of 
this Essay, it will, if I mistake not, have enough of the 
salt to be useful, and little enough of the oil to be in 
offensive. [ 2 1 mean my own manner of making it, and 
not the American 3 , which makes it sometimes too strong 
and sometimes too weak ; which tar-water, however it 
might serve as there used, merely for a preservative 
against the small-pox, yet may not be fit to use in all those 
various cases wherein I have found tar-water so suc 
cessful.] Persons more delicate than ordinary may render 
it palatable, by mixing a drop of the chemical oil of nut 
megs, or a spoonful of mountain-wine in each glass. It 
may not be amiss to observe that I have known some, 
whose nice stomachs could not bear it in the morning, 

1 Added in the second edition. - Added in the second edition. 

3 Cf. sect. i. 


take it at night going to bed without any inconvenience 
[ J and that with some it agrees best warm, with others 
cold]. [ 2 For outward washes and fomentations, it may 
be made stronger, as by pouring on warm water ; also for 
brute beasts, as horses, in whose disorders I have found 
it very useful, I believe more so than that bituminous 
substance called Barbadoes tar.J 

116. In very dangerous and acute cases much may be 
taken and often ; as far as the stomach can bear. But 
in chronical cases, about half a pint night and morning 
may suffice [ 3 or, in case so large a dose should prove 
disagreeable, half the quantity may be taken at four times, 
to wit, in the morning early, at night going to bed, and 
about two hours after dinner and breakfast]. A medicine 
of so great virtue in so many different disorders, and 
especially in that grand enemy the fever, must needs be 
a benefit to mankind in general. There are nevertheless 
three sorts of people to whom I would peculiarly recom 
mend it : seafaring persons, ladies, and men of studious 
and sedentary lives. 

117. To sailors and all seafaring persons, who are 
subject to scorbutic disorders and putrid fevers, especially 
in long southern voyages, I am persuaded this tar-water 
would be beneficial. And this may deserve particular 
notice in the present course of marine expeditions, when 
so many of our countrymen have perished by such dis 
tempers, contracted at sea and in foreign climates. Which, 
it is probable, might have been prevented by the copious 
use of tar- water. 

118. This same water will also give charitable relief to 
the ladies (sect. 103), who often want it more than the 
parish poor ; being many of them never able to make 
a good meal, and sitting pale, puny, and forbidden like 
ghosts, at their own table, victims of vapours and in 

119. Studious persons also, pent up in narrow holes, 
breathing bad air, and stooping over their books, are 
much to be pitied. As they are debarred the free use of 
air and exercise, this I will venture to recommend as the 

1 Omitted in the later editions. 2 Added in the later editions. 

a Added in the later editions. 


best succedaneum to both. Though it were to be wished 
that modern scholars would, like the ancients, meditate 
and converse more in walks and gardens and open air, 
which upon the whole would perhaps be no hinderance to 
their learning, and a great advantage to their health. My 
own sedentary course of life had long since thrown me 
into an ill habit, attended with many ailments, particularly 
a nervous co-lie, which rendered my life a burthen, and the 
more so, because my pains were exasperated by exercise. 
But, since the use of tar-water, I find, though not a perfect 
recovery from my old and rooted illness, yet such a 
gradual return of health and ease, that I esteem my 
having taken this medicine the greatest of all temporal 
blessings, and am convinced that, under Providence, I owe 
my life to it. 

120. In the distilling of turpentine and other balsams 
by a gentle heat, it hath been observed that there riseth 
first an acid spirit (sect. 7) that will mix with water ; which 
spirit, except the fire be very gentle, is lost l . This 
grateful acid spirit that first comes over is, as a learned 
chemist and physician ~ informs us, highly refrigeratory, 
diuretic, sudorific, balsamic, or preservative from putre 
faction, excellent in nephritic cases, and for quenching 
thirst all which virtues are contained in the cold infusion 
which draws forth from tar only its fine flower or quint 
essence, if I may so say, or the native vegetable spirit, 
together with a little volatile oil. 

121. The distinguishing principle of all vegetables that 
whereon their peculiar smell, taste, and specific properties 
depend seems to be some extremely fine and subtle spirit, 
whose immediate vehicle is an exceeding thin volatile oil ; 
which is itself detained in a grosser and more viscid resin 
or balsam, lodged in proper cells in the bark and seeds, 
and most abounding in autumn or winter, after the crude 

1 Having, in the preceding sec- of Air, that common seminary 

tions, inferred the catholic efficacy of all life-giving elements (sect, 

of tar-water, Berkeley, in sect. 137 -151) : at last to Pure ^Ether, 

120-230, speculates on the physical Light, or Vital Fire (sect. 152-230) 

causes of its wonderful medicinal according to him, the ultimate 

properties. The speculation carries instrumental cause in nature. 
him into the science of Acids - Boerhaave. 

and Salts (sect. 120-156); and 


juices have been thoroughly concocted, ripened, and 
impregnated with solar light. The spirit itself is by some 
supposed to be an oil highly subtilized, so as to mix with 
water. But such volatile oil is not the spirit, but only its 
vehicle. Since aromatic oils being long exposed to air 
will lose their specific smell and taste, which fly off with 
the spirit or vegetable salt, without any sensible diminution 
of the oil. 

122. Those volatile salts that are set free and raised by 
a gentle heat mayjustly be supposed essential (sect. 8), and 
to have pre-existed in the vegetable ; whereas the lixivial 
fixed salts, obtained by the incineration of the subject, 
whose natural constituent parts have been altered or 
destroyed by the extreme force of fire, are, by later 
chemists, upon very good grounds, supposed not to have 
pre-existed therein all such salts appearing, from the 
experiments of Signer Redi l , not to preserve the virtues 
of the respective vegetable subjects ; and to be alike 
purgative and in an equal degree, whatsoever may be the 
shape of their points, whether sharp or obtuse. But, 
although fixed or lixivial salts may not contain the original 
properties of the subject, yet volatile salts, raised by a 
slight heat from vegetables, are allowed to preserve their 
native virtues : and such salts are readily imbibed by 

123. The most volatile of the salts, and the most 
attenuated part of the oil may be supposed the first and 
readiest to impregnate a cold infusion (sect, i, 7). And 
this will assist us to account for the virtues of tar-water. 
That volatile acid in vegetables, which resists putrefaction 
and is their great preservative, is detained in a subtle oil, 
miscible with water ; which oil is itself imprisoned in the 
resin or grosser part of the tar, from which it is easily set 
free and obtained pure by cold water. 

124. The mild native acids are observed more kindly 
to work upon, and more thoroughly to dissolve metallic 
bodies, than the strongest acid spirits produced by a 
vehement fire ; and it may be suspected they have the 
same advantage as a medicine. And, as no acid, by the 

1 Francesco Redi (1626-1697,. his Experintenta Nalnralia (i675\ 
an Italian naturalist and poet, a His collected works occupy seven 
member of the Delia Crusca. See volumes. 


observation of some of the best chemists, can be obtained 
from the substance of animals thoroughly assimilated, it 
should follow that the acids received into a healthy body 
must be quite subdued and changed by the vital powers : 
but it is easier to subdue and assimilate the gentler than 
the stronger acids (sect. 48). 

125. I am very sensible that on such subjects arguments 
fall short of evidence : and that mine fall short even of 
what they might have been if I enjoyed better health, or 
those opportunities of a learned commerce from which 
I am cut off in this remote corner J . I shall nevertheless 
go on as I have begun, and proceed, by reason, by con 
jecture, and by authority, to cast the best light I can on 
the obscure paths that lie in my way. 

126. Sir Isaac Newton 2 , Boerhaave, and Homberg 3 , are 
all agreed that the Acid is a fine subtle substance, pervad 
ing the whole terraqueous globe ; which produceth divers 
kinds of bodies, as it is united to different subjects. 4 This, 
according to Homberg, is the pure salt, salt the principle, 
in itself similar and uniform, but never found alone. And 
although this principle be called the salt of the earth, yet 
it should seem it may more properly be called the salt of 

1 Berkeley s critics complained thirty-eight contributions (1699- 
of neglect of negative instances, 1714) by Homberg. They relate 
or defective conceptionof inductive almost exclusively to chemical 
proof, in the experiments from questions, including the theory 
which he inferred the catholicity of of acids and salts, and vegetable 
tar-water as a medicine. physiology. The Histoire de I Aca- 

2 See Newton s tract of two denrie (1715) contains an Eloge on 
pages, De Natura Acidomm, pub- Homberg. In Kopp s Gcschichtc 
lished apparently about 1692. It der Cheinie we have an account 
was followed by another equally of him. Berkeley seems to have 
brief, entitled Cogitationes Varia~, derived some of his chemical notions 
among which are suggestions on from Homberg, who was a good 
chemical subjects. Some of these observer, but his inferences were 
reappear in the Queries at the end often absurd. He held the old 
of his Optics. Those brief tracts view of the tria ptima salt, sul- 
contain nearly all that Newton phur, and mercury of which, in 
published relating to chemistry. different proportions, all material 

3 William Homberg (1652-1715), things were supposed to consist. 

a French chemist, and first physi- 4 Sect. 126-136 treat of the 

cian to the Duke of Orleans, born theory of acids, salts, alkalies, 

in Java. His writings consist of according to Newton, Boerhaave, 

communications to the French and Homberg. 
Academy, whose Mcmoires contain 


the air, since earth turned up and lying fallow receives it 
from the air. And it should seem that this is the great 
principle of vegetation, derived into the earth from all 
sorts of manures, as well as from the air. The acid is 
allowed to be the cause of fermentation in all fermented 
liquors. Why, therefore, may it not be supposed to 
ferment the earth, and to constitute that fine penetrating 
principle, which introduces and assimilates the food of 
plants, and is so fugitive as to escape all the filtrations and 
perquisitions of the most nice observers? 

127. It is the doctrine of Sir Isaac Newton and Monsieur 
Homberg that, as the watery acid is that which renders 
salt soluble in water, so it is that same which joined to the 
earthy part makes it a salt. Let it therefore be considered 
that the organs of plants are tubes (sect. 30, 31, 35) the 
filling, unfolding, and distending whereof, by liquors, doth 
constitute what is called the vegetation or growth of the 
plant. But earth itself is not soluble in water, so as to 
form one vegetable fluid therewith. Therefore the particles 
of earth must be joined with a watery acid ; that is, they 
must become salts, in order to dissolve in water ; that so, 
in the form of a vegetable juice, they may pass through 
the strainers and tubes of the root into the body of the 
plant, swelling and distending its parts and organs, that 
is, increasing its bulk. Therefore the vegetable matter 
of the earth is in effect earth changed into salt. And 
to render earth fertile is to cause many of its particles to 
assume a saline form. 

128. Hence it is observed, there are more salts in the 
root than in the bark, more salts in vegetables during the 
spring than in the autumn or winter ; the crude saline 
juices being in the summer months partly evaporated, and 
partly ripened, by the action and mixture of light. Hence 
also it appears why the dividing of earth, so as to enlarge 
its surface, whereby it may admit more acid from the air, 
is of such use in promoting vegetation : and why ashes, 
lime, and burnt clay are found so profitable manures, fire 
being in reality the acid, as is proved in the sequel 
(sect. 202). Marls also and shells are useful, forasmuch 
as those alkaline bodies attract the acid, and raise an 
effervescence with it, thereby promoting a fermentation 
in the glebe. The excrements of animals and putrid 


vegetables do in like manner contribute to vegetation, by 
increasing the salts of the earth. And where fallows are 
well broken, and lie long to receive the acid of the air into 
all their parts ; this alone will be sufficient to change many 
terrene particles into salts, and consequently render them 
soluble in water, and therefore a fit aliment for vegetables. 

129. The acid, saith Homberg, is always joined to some 
sulphur, which determines it to this or that species, pro 
ducing different salts, as it is the vegetable, bituminous, 
or metallic sulphur. Even the alkaline, whether volatile 
or lixivial salts, are supposed to be nothing but this same 
acid strictly detained by oil and earth, in spite of the 
extreme force of fire, which lodgeth in them, without being 
able to dislodge some remains of the acid. 

130. Salts, according to Sir Isaac Newton, are dry earth 
and watery acid united by attraction, the acid rendering 
them soluble in water (sect. 127). He supposeth the watery 
acid to flow round the terrestrial part, as the ocean doth 
round the earth, being attracted thereby ; and compares 
each particle of salt to a chaos, whereof the innermost part 
is hard and earthy, but the surface soft and watery. 
Whatever attracts and is attracted most strongly is an acid 
in his sense. 

131. It seems impossible to determine the figures of 
particular salts. All acid solvents, together with the 
dissolved bodies, are apt to shoot into certain figures. 
And the figures in which the fossil salts crystallize have 
been supposed the proper natural shapes of them and 
their acids. But Homberg hath clearly shewed the con 
trary : forasmuch as the same acid dissolving different 
bodies assumes different shapes. Spirit of nitre, for 
instance, having dissolved copper, shoots into hexagonal 
crystals ; the same having dissolved iron, shoots into 
irregular squares ; and again, having dissolved silver, 
forms thin crystals of a triangular figure. 

132. Homberg, nevertheless, holds in general, that acids 
are shaped like daggers, and alkalies like sheaths : and 
that, moving in the same liquor, the daggers run into the 
sheaths fitted to receive them with such violence as to 
raise that effervescence observed in the mixture of acids 
and alkalies. But it seems very difficult to conceive how 
or why the mere configuration of daggers and sheaths 


floating in the same liquor should cause the former to rush 
with such vehemence, and direct their points so aptly into 
the latter, any more than a parcel of spigots and fossets 
floating together in the same water should rush one into 
the other. 

133. It should seem rather that the vehement attraction 
which Sir Isaac Newton attributes to all acids, whereby he 
supposeth them to rush towards, penetrate, shake, and 
divide the most solid bodies, and to ferment the liquid of 
vegetables, could better account for this phenomenon. It 
is in this attraction that Sir Isaac placeth all their activity: 
and indeed it should seem, the figures of salts were not of 
such efficacy in producing their effects, as the strong active 
powers whereby they are agitated and do agitate other 
bodies. Especially if it be true (what was before remarked) 
that lixivious salts are alike purgative, whatever may be 
the shape of their angles, whether more or less acute or 

134. Sir Isaac Newton accounts for the watery acid s 
making earthy corpuscles soluble in water, by supposing 
the acid to be a mean between earth and water, its particles 
greater than those of water, and less than those of earth, 
and strongly to attract both. But perhaps there is no 
necessary reason for supposing the parts of the acid 
grosser than the parts of water, in order to produce this 
effect ; may not this as well be accounted for, by giving 
them only a strong attraction or cohesion with the bodies 
to which they are joined ? 

135. The acid spirit or salt, that mighty instrument in 
the hand of nature, residing in the air, and diffused 
throughout that whole element, is discernible also in many 
parts of the earth, particularly in fossils, such as sulphur, 
vitriol, and alum. It was already observed, from Homberg, 
that this acid is never found pure, but hath always sulphur 
joined with it, and is classed by the difference of its 
sulphurs, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal. 

136. Salts are vulgarly reckoned the most active of 
chemical principles. But Homberg derives all their 
activity from the sulphurs joined with them. From which 
also, as hath been said, he derives all their kinds and 
differences (sect. 129). Salt, water, oil, and earth seem 
to be originally the same in all vegetables. All the dif- 


ference, according to the chemists, ariseth from a spirit 
residing in the oil, called the rector or archceus. This 
is otherwise called by chemists ens primum, or the native 
spirit; whereon depend, and wherein are contained, the 
peculiar flavour and odour, the specific qualities and virtues, 
of the plant 1 . 

137. These native spirits or vegetable souls are all 
breathed or exhaled into the Air 2 , which seems the re 
ceptacle as well as source of all sublunary forms, the 
great mass or chaos which imparts and receives them. 
The air or atmosphere that surrounds our earth contains 
a mixture of all the active volatile parts of the whole 
habitable world, that is, of all vegetables, minerals, and 
animals. Whatever perspires, corrupts, or exhales, im 
pregnates the air ; which, being acted upon by the solar 
fire, produceth within itself all sorts of chemical operations, 
dispensing again those salts and spirits in new generations, 
which it had received from putrefactions. 

138. The perpetual oscillations of this elastic and restless 
element operate without ceasing on all things that have 
life, whether animal or vegetable, keeping their fibres, 
vessels, and fluids in a motion, always changing ; as heat, 
cold, moisture, dryness, and other causes alter the elasticity 
of the air : which accounts, it must be owned, for many 
effects. But there are many more which must be derived 
from other principles or qualities in the air. Thus iron 
and copper are corroded and gather rust in the air, and 
bodies of all sorts are dissolved or corrupted, which 
sheweth an acid to abound and diffuse itself throughout 
the air. 

139. By this same air fire is kindled, the lamp of life 
preserved, respiration, digestion, nutrition, the pulse of 
the heart, and motion of all the muscles seem to be per 
formed. Air therefore is a general agent, not only exert 
ing its own, but calling forth the qualities or powers of all 

1 The chemists here spoken of 2 In sect. 135-152, he contem- 

as believing in an archceus were plates Air as the receptacle of the 

followers of Paracelsus. The Acid or Vegetable Soul in which 

archceus of Paracelsus seems to he supposes the virtue of tar- water 

have been a supposed spiritual to consist. The chemistry of the 

being. atmosphere was then unknown. 



other bodies, by a division, comminution, and agitation of 
their particles, causing them to fly off and become volatile 
and active. 

140. Nothing ferments, vegetates, or putrifies without 
air, which operates with all the virtues of the bodies 
included in it ; that is, of all nature ; there being no drug, 
salutary or poisonous, whose virtues are not breathed into 
the air. The air therefore is an active mass of numberless 
different principles, the general source of corruption and 
generation ; on one hand dividing, abrading, and carrying 
off the particles of bodies, that is, corrupting or dissolving 
them ; on the other, producing new ones into being ; 
destroying and bestowing forms without intermission. 

141. The seeds of things seem to lie latent in the air, 
ready to appear and produce their kind, whenever they 
light on a proper matrix. The extremely small seeds 
of fern, mosses, mushrooms, and some other plants are 
concealed and wafted about in the air, every part whereof 
seems replete with seeds of one kind or other. The 
whole atmosphere seems alive. There is everywhere acid 
to corrode, and seed to engender. Iron will rust, and 
mould will grow in all places. Virgin earth becomes 
fertile, crops of new plants ever and anon shew them 
selves ; all which demonstrates the air to be a common 
seminary and receptacle of all vivifying principles. 

142. Air may also be said to be the seminary of minerals 
and metals, as it is of vegetables. Mr. Boyle : informs 
us that the exhausted ores of tin and iron being exposed 
to the air become again impregnated with metal, and that 
ore of alum having lost its salt, recovers it after the same 
manner. And numberless instances there are of salts 
produced by the air ; that vast collection or treasury of 
active principles, from which all sublunary bodies seem 
to derive their forms, and on which animals depend for 
their life and breath. 

143. That there is some latent vivifying spirit dispersed 

1 In his Observations about the pher, chemist, and theologian, one 

growth of Metals in their ore, ex- of the founders of the Royal 

posed to the Air. See Boyle s Society, and founder of the Boyle 

Works, vol. III. pp. 459-462. Lectures. His Life and Works, 

Robert Boyle (1626-1692), an edited by Dr. Birch, appeared in 

illustrious Irishman, often referred five vols. (1744). 
to by Berkeley, natural philoso* 


throughout the air common experience sheweth ; inso 
much as it is necessary both to vegetables and animals 
(sect. 138, 139), whether terrestrial or aquatic, neither 
beasts, insects, birds, nor fishes being able to subsist 
without air. Nor doth all air suffice, there being some 
quality or ingredient of which when air is deprived it 
becometh unfit to maintain either life or flame. And this 
even though the air should retain its elasticity; which, 
by the bye, is an argument that air doth not act only 
as an antagonist to the intercostal muscles. It hath 
both that and many other uses. It gives and preserves 
a proper tone to the vessels : this elastic fluid promotes 
all secretions : its oscillations keep every part in motion : 
it pervades and actuates the whole animal system, pro 
ducing great variety of effects, and even opposite in dif 
ferent parts, cooling at the same time and heating, 
distending and contracting, coagulating arid resolving, 
giving and taking, sustaining life and impairing it, pressing 
without and expanding within, abrading some parts, at 
the same time insinuating and supplying others, producing 
various vibrations in the fibres and ferments in the fluids ; 
all which must needs ensue from such a subtle, active, 
heterogeneous, and elastic fluid. 

144. But there is, as we before observed, some one 
quality or ingredient in the air, on which life more im 
mediately and principally depends. What that is, though 
men are not agreed, yet it is agreed it must be the same 
thing that supports the vital and the common flame; it 
being found that when air, by often breathing in it, is 
become unfit for the one, it will no longer serve for the 
other. The like is observable in poisonous damps or 
steams, wherein flame cannot be kindled, as is evident 
in the Grotto del Cane l near Naples. And here it occurs, 
to recommend the plunging them in cold water, as an 
experiment to be tried on persons affected by breathing 
a poisonous vapour in old vaults, mines, deep holes, or 
cavities under ground : which, I am apt to think, might 
save the lives of several, by what I have seen practised 

1 The Grotto del Cane is so by Pliny, and seems to have been 

charged with carbonic acid gas visited by Berkeley in his Italian 

that light and life are speedily ex- tour, 
tinguished in it. It is described 


on a dog convulsed, and in all appearance dead, but 
instantly reviving on being taken out of the above-mentioned 
Grotto, and thrown into a lake adjacent. 

145. Air, the general menstruum and seminary, seemeth 
to be only an aggregate of the volatile parts of all natural 
beings, which, variously combined and agitated, produce 
many various effects. Small particles in a near and 
close situation strongly act upon each other, attracting, 
repelling, vibrating. Hence divers fermentations, and all 
the variety of meteors, tempests, and concussions both 
of earth and firmament. Nor is the microcosm less 
affected thereby. Being pent up in the viscera, vessels, 
and membranes of the body, by its salts, sulphurs, and 
elastic power, it engenders cholics, spasms, hysteric dis 
orders, and other maladies. 

146. The specific quality of air is taken to be permanent 
elasticity. Mr. Boyle is expressly of this opinion. And 
yet whether there be any such thing as permanently 
elastic air may be doubted, there being many things which 
seem to rob the air of this quality, or at least lessen and 
suspend its exertion. The salts and sulphurs, for instance, 
that float in the air abate much of its elasticity by their 

147. Upon the whole, it is manifest that air is no dis 
tinct element, but a mass or mixture of things the most 
heterogeneous and even opposite to each other (sect. 137, 
145), which become air by acquiring an elasticity and 
volatility from the attraction of some active subtle sub 
stance, whether it be called fire, aether, light, or the vital 
spirit of the world ; in like manner as the particles of 
antimony, of themselves not volatile, are carried off in 
sublimation, and rendered volatile by cohering with the 
particles of sal ammoniac. But action and reaction being 
equal, the spring of this ethereal spirit is diminished by 
being imparted. Its velocity and subtlety are also less 
from its being mixed with grosser particles. Hence sound 
moves slower than light, as mud than water. 

148. Whether air be only freed and fixed, or generated 
and destroyed, it is certain that air begins and ceases 
to exert or shew itself. Much by experiments seems to 
be generated, not only from animals, fruits, and vegetables, 
but also from hard bodies. And it is observed by Sir 


Isaac Newton, that air produced from hard bodies is most 
elastic. The transmutation of elements, each into other, 
hath been anciently held. In Plutarch we find it was 
the opinion of Heraclitus, that the death of fire was a 
birth to air, and the death of air a birth to water 1 . This 
opinion is also maintained by Sir Isaac Newton. Though 
it may be questioned, whether what is thought a change 
be not only a disguise. 

149. Fire seems the most elastic and expansive of all 
bodies. It communicates this quality to moist vapours 
and dry exhalations, when it heats and agitates their 
parts, cohering closely with them, overcoming their former 
mutual attraction, and causing them, instead thereof, reci 
procally to repel each other, and fly asunder, with a force 
proportionable to that wherewith they had cohered. 

150. Therefore in air we may conceive two parts; the 
one more gross, which was raised and carried oft" from 
the bodies of this terraqueous mass ; the other a fine 
subtle spirit, by means whereof the former is rendered 
volatile and elastic. Together they compose a medium 
whose elasticity is less than that of pure aether, fire, or 
spirit, in proportion to the quantity of salts, vapours, 
and heterogeneous particles contained therein. Hence 
it follows that there is no such thing as the pure simple 
clement of air. It follows also that on the highest 
mountains air should be more rare in proportion to the 
vulgar rule, of the spaces being reciprocally as the pres 
sures : and so in fact it is said to have been found by the 
gentlemen of the French Academy of Sciences. 

151. JEiher, fire, or spirit, being attracted and clogged 
by heterogeneous particles, becometh less active ; and the 
particles cohering with those of aether become more active 

1 See Ps. -Plutarch, De Placit. time to investigation of its pro- 
Pltilos. Lib. I. c. 3. Alchemy, or the cesses. Leibniz, in his youth, 
ancient hypothesis that the ap- was secretary to a society of Rosi- 
parent elements of matter may be crucians at Nuremberg, who prac- 
transubstantiated into one ultimate tised alchemy. Alchemist specu- 
element implying that gold and lation was not discouraged by 
silver may be produced from baser Boyle and Locke. And the ad- 
metals, and encouraging the search vanced science of our day has not 
for a Panacea was not neglected abandoned the idea of scientific 
even in Berkeley s time. Newton transubstantiation of matter, 
had faith in alchemy, and devoted 


than before. Air therefore is a mass of various particles, 
abraded and sublimated from wet and dry bodies of all 
sorts, cohering with particles of aether ; the whole per 
meated by pure aether, or light, or fire : for these words 
are used promiscuously by ancient philosophers. 

152. This ^Ether or pure invisible Fire , the most subtle 
and elastic of all bodies, seems to pervade and expand 
itself throughout the whole universe. If air be the im 
mediate agent or instrument in natural things, it is the 
pure invisible fire that is the first natural mover or spring 
from whence the air derives its power (sect. 139, 149, 151). 
This mighty agent is everywhere at hand, ready to break 
forth into action, if not restrained and governed with the 
greatest wisdom. Being always restless and in motion, 
it actuates and enlivens the whole visible mass, is equally 
fitted to produce and to destroy, distinguishes the various 
stages of nature, and keeps up the perpetual round of 
generations and corruptions, pregnant with forms which 
it constantly sends forth and resorbs. So quick in its 
motions, so subtle and penetrating in its nature, so ex- 

1 We here (sect. 152-230) rise physical cause, to which all sensible 

to a higher link in the Universal changes are due, and under which 

Chain, viz. .(Ether or invisible Fire. the sensible universe is divinely 

This, with Berkeley, connects all concatenated, was countenanced 

things in nature, and is thus their among his contemporaries by 

ultimate physical explanation. Fire Homberg and Boerhaave. Berke- 

has always been a mystery. It ley and this theory of fire are 

evades sense-perception; } r et it referred to in Richard Barton s 

seems to animate the phenomena Analogy of Divine Wisdom (Dublin, 

of sense. Hence the supremacy and ed. 1750). Fire/ we are 

attributed to it by the ancients. there told, is the universal foun- 

Whether fire is mechanically re- tain of life, order, distinction, 

solvable into motion, or motion is stability, beauty of the universe, 

to be hyper-mechanically accounted It is not only in the sun and other 

for by animated fire, was a con- heavenly bodies, but it makes part 

troverted alternative. Bacon, in of every lump of matter upon our 

the Novutti Organum, concluded globe. . . . So quick in its motion, 

that heat and other sensible effects so subtle and penetrating in its 

attributed to fire were due to nature, so extensive in its effects ; 

motions in the particles of bodies it seemeth no other than the Vege- 

a doctrine favoured by Boyle tative Soul and Vital Spirit of the 

and Newton. On the other hand, World fp. 63). See also [Cas- 

Berkeley s notion of animating, way s?] Metaphysical Essay (1748), 

all-pervading fire, as the ultimate pp. 32, &c. 


tensive in its effects, it seemeth no other than the Vegeta 
tive Soul or Vital Spirit of the World. 

153. J The animal spirit in man is the instrumental or 
physical cause both of sense and motion. To suppose 
sense in the world would be gross and unwarranted. But 
locomotive faculties 2 are evident in all its parts. The 
Pythagoreans, Platonists, and Stoics held the world to 
be an animal ; though some of them have chosen to con 
sider it as a vegetable 3 . However, the phaenomena and 
effects do plainly shew there is a Spirit that moves, and 
a Mind or Providence that presides. This Providence, 
Plutarch 3 saith, was thought to be in regard to the world 
what the soul is in regard to man. 

154. The order and course of things, and the experi 
ments we daily make, shew there is a Mind that governs 
and actuates this mundane system, as the proper real 
agent and cause ; and that the inferior instrumental cause 
is pure aether, fire, or the substance of light (sect. 29, 37, 
136, 149), which is applied and determined by an Infinite 
Mind in the macrocosm or universe, with unlimited power, 
and according to stated rules, as it is in the microcosm 
with limited power and skill by the human mind. We 
have no proof, either from experiment or reason, of any 
other Agent, or efficient cause, than Mind or Spirit 4 . 
When, therefore, we speak of corporeal agents, or cor 
poreal causes, this is to be understood in a different, 
subordinate, and improper sense 5 . 

1 This and the three next sec- special creation, underlies ancient 

tions, as well as sect. 160, 161, physical speculation. See Plato, 

interpolate Berkeley s spiritual Titticeus, pp. 29, 30 ; Diog. Laert. 

conception of Power, so prominent Lib. VII. ; Cicero, De Nat. Dear. 

in the De Motu. They encourage Lib. II. c. ir ; also Ps.-Plutarch, 

the ancient doctrine of anima De Placit. Pliilos. Lib. V. c. 

mttttdt, apparently to correct a 20. 

tendency to suppose Fire per se 4 Cf. Principles, sect. 26-28. 

the Universal Power. 5 This implies that every change 

" Cf. sect. 230. in nature presupposes a sufficient 

3 Cf. sect. 166, 172, 273-79, for cause, and that this must be Active 

the conception of the sensible Reason ; also that, in physical 

universe as spiritually animated, nature, anything might have been 

not the mechanical result of inani- made by God the natural cause, 

mate force. The notion of eternal, i. e. natural sign, of any change, 
all-pervading, vital Reason, not 


155. The principles whereof a thing is compounded, 
the instrument used in its production, and the end for 
which it was intended, are all in vulgar use termed causes ; 
though none of them be, strictly speaking, agent or efficient. 
There is not any proof that an extended corporeal or 
mechanical cause doth really and properly act; even 
motion itself being in truth a passion . Therefore, though 
we speak of this fiery substance as acting, yet it is to be 
understood only as a mean or instrument ; which indeed 
is the case of all mechanical causes whatsoever. They 
are, nevertheless, sometimes termed agents and causes, 
although they are by no means active in a strict and 
proper signification. When therefore force, power, virtue, 
or action is mentioned as subsisting in an extended and 
corporeal or mechanical being, this is not to be taken 
in a true, genuine, and real, but only in a gross and 
popular sense ; which sticks in appearances, and doth 
not analyze things to their first principles. In compliance 
with established language and the use of the world, we 
must employ the popular current phrase. But then in 
regard to truth we ought to distinguish its meaning. It 
may suffice to have made this declaration once for all, 
in order to avoid mistakes. 

156. The calidum innatum, the vital flame, or animal 
spirit in man, is supposed the cause of all motions in the 
several parts of his body, whether voluntary or natural. 
That is, it is accounted the instrument, by means whereof 
the mind exerts and manifests herself in the motions of 
the body. In the same sense, may not fire be said to 
have force, to operate and agitate the whole system of the 
world ; which is held together, and informed by one pre 
siding Mind ; and animated throughout by one and the 
same fiery substance, as an instrumental and mechanical 
agent, not as a primary real efficient ? 

157. This pure spirit or invisible fire is ever ready to 
exert and shew itself in its effects (sect. 152), cherishing, 
heating, fermenting, dissolving, shining, and operating, 
in various manners, where a subject offers to employ or 

1 Cf. sect. 160 ; also De Motu, and intending Spirit is the only 
which teaches that all sensible sufficient cause, 
things are passive, and that living 


determine its force. It is present in all parts of the earth 
and firmament, though perhaps latent and unobserved, till 
some accident produceth it into act, and renders it visible 
in its effects. 

158. There is no effect in nature, great, marvellous, or 
terrible, but proceeds from Fire, that diffused and active 
principle, which, at the same time that it shakes the earth 
and heavens 1 , will enter, divide, and dissolve the smallest, 
closest, and most compacted bodies. In remote cavities of 
the earth it remains quiet, till perhaps an accidental spark, 
from the collision of one stone against another, kindles an 
exhalation that gives birth to an earthquake or tempest 
which splits mountains or overturns cities. This same 
fire stands unseen in the focus of a burning glass, till sub 
jects for it to act upon come in its way, when it is found to 
melt, calcine, or vitrify the hardest bodies. 

159. No eye could ever hitherto discern, and no sense 
perceive, the animal spirit in a human body, otherwise 
than from its effects. The same may be said of pure fire, 
or the spirit of the universe, which is perceived only by 
means of some other bodies, on which it operates, or with 
which it is joined. What the chemists say of pure acids 
being never found alone might as well be said of pure 

160. The mind of man acts by an instrument necessarily . 
The TO >}ye/Aoj iKW , or Mind presiding in the world, acts by 
an instrument freely. Without instrumental and second 
causes, there could be no regular course of nature. And 
without a regular course, nature could never be understood; 
mankind must always be at a loss, not knowing what to 
expect, or how to govern themselves, or direct their actions 
for the obtaining of any end. Therefore in the govern 
ment of the world physical agents, improperly so called, 
or mechanical, or second causes, or natural causes, or 

1 Cf. Hebrews xii. 26-29. taincd sense-symbolism is with 

~ This is in the spirit of the Berkeley the basis of human 

opening aphorisms of the Novum science of nature. Nature is thus 

Organum, which teach that in fundamentally supernatural. Phy- 

order to bring about changes in sical inquiry may disregard its 

nature man must conform to the supernatural side : philosophy (un- 

establishcd laws which determine less it is minute ) recognises 

the changes. A divinely main- both sides. 


instruments, are necessary to assist, not the governor, but 
the governed l . 

161. In the human body the mind orders and moves the 
limbs : but the animal spirit is supposed the immediate 
physical cause of their motion. So likewise in the mun 
dane system, a mind presides : but the immediate, 
mechanical, or instrumental cause, that moves or animates 
all its parts, is the pure elementary fire or spirit of the 
world. The more fine and subtle part or spirit is supposed 
to receive the impressions of the First Mover, and com 
municate them to the grosser sensible parts of this world. 
Motion, though in metaphysical rigour and truth a passion 
or mere effect, yet in physics passeth for an action 2 . And 
by this action all effects are supposed to be produced. 
Hence the various communications, determinations, ac 
celerations of motion, constitute the laws of nature. 

162. The pure aether or invisible fire contains parts of 
different kinds, that are impressed with different forces, 
or subjected to different laws of motion, attraction, repul 
sion, and expansion, and endued with divers distinct 
habitudes towards other bodies. These seem to constitute 
the many various qualities (sect. 37, 40, 44), virtues, flavours, 
odours, and colours which distinguish natural productions. 
The different modes of cohesion, attraction, repulsion, 
and motion appear to be the source from whence specific 
properties are derived, rather than different shapes or 
figures. This, as hath been already observed 3 , seems 
confirmed by the experiment of fixed salts operating one 
way, notwithstanding the difference of their angles. The 
original particles, productive of odours, flavours, and other 

1 Cf. with this important paren- passim. With Berkeley motion 
thetical section, Berkeley s Prin- is a sensible manifestation of the 
ciples, sect. 60-66, in which he animated and invisible Fire. His 
explains and vindicates the function ultimate conception is that of a 
of natural causes and the office of livingand Ideological, not a blindly 
physical science, under his new moved, universe movement being 
conception of matter. He thus ex- the expression of all-pervading 
plains how, if God is the only agent life and meaning. It is taken for 
in natural law, there is still room for granted that Life is inexplicable 
the elaborate sense-symbolism or by mechanical or chemical laws, 
material world, which man is busy and is presupposed in all real exist- 
in interpreting and using. ence. 

2 Cf. sect. 155, and the De Motu, 3 Cf. sect. 131-133. 


properties, as well as of colours, are, one may suspect, 
all contained and blended together in that universal and 
original seminary of pure and elementary fire ; from which 
they are diversely separated and attracted, by the various 
subjects of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms ; 
which thereby become classed into kinds, and endued 
with those distinct properties which continue till their 
several forms, or specific proportions of fire, return into 
the common mass. 

163. As the soul acts immediately on pure fire, so pure 
fire operates immediately on air; that is, the abrasions 
of all terrestrial things being rendered volatile and elastic 
by fire (sect. 149, 150, 152), and at the same time lessening 
the volatility and expansive force of the fire, whose particles 
they attract and adhere to (sect. 147), there is produced 
a new fluid, more volatile than water or earth, and more 
fixed than fire. Therefore, the virtues and operations 
imputed to air must be ultimately attributed to fire, as that 
which imparts activity to air itself. 

164. The element of aethereal fire or light seems to com 
prehend, in a mixed state, the seeds, the natural causes 
and forms (sect. 43), of all sublunary things. The grosser 
bodies separate, attract, and repel the several constituent 
particles of that heterogeneous element ; which, being 
parted from the common mass, make distinct essences, 
producing and combining together such qualities and pro 
perties as are peculiar to the several subjects, and thence 
often extracted in essential oils or odoriferous waters, from 
whence they exhale into the open air, and return into their 
original element. 

165. Blue, red, yellow, and other colours, have been 
discovered by Sir Isaac Newton to depend on the parted 
rays or particles of light. And, in like manner, a par 
ticular odour or flavour seemeth to depend on peculiar 
particles of light or fire (sect. 40) ; as appears from heats 
being necessary to all vegetation whatsoever, and from 
the extreme minuteness and volatility of those vegetable 
souls or forms, flying off from the subjects without any 
sensible diminution of their weight. These particles, 
blended in one common ocean, should seem to conceal 
the distinct forms, but, parted and attracted by proper 
subjects, disclose or produce them. As the particles of 


light, which, when separated, form distinct colours, being 
blended are lost in one uniform appearance. 

166. Agreeably thereto J an aethereal substance or Fire 
was supposed by Heraclitus 2 to be the seed of the genera 
tion of all things, or that from which all things drew their 
original. The Stoics also taught that all substance was 
originally fire, and should return to fire : that an active 
subtle fire was diffused or expanded throughout the whole 
universe ; the several parts whereof were produced, sus 
tained, and held together, by its force . And it was the 
opinion of the Pythagoreans, as Laertius informs us, that 
heat or fire was the principle of life, animating the whole 
system, and penetrating all the elements (sect. 152, 153). 
The Platonists, too, as well as the Pythagoreans, held fire 
to be the immediate natural agent, or animal spirit ; to 
cherish, to warm, to heat, to enlighten, to vegetate, to pro 
duce the digestions, circulations, secretions, and organical 
motions, in all living bodies, vegetable or animal, being 
effects of that element, which, as it actuates the macrocosm, 
so it animates the microcosm. In the Timceus* of Plato, 
there is supposed something like a net of fire and rays 
of fire in a human body. Doth not this seem to mean 
the animal spirit, flowing, or rather darting, through the 
nerves ? 

167. According to the Peripatetics, the form of heaven, 
or the fiery aethereal substance, contains the form of all 
inferior beings (sect. 43). It may be said to teem with 
forms, and impart them to subjects fitted to receive them. 

1 In sect. 166-187 we have a dark philosopher, long nominis 
collection of authorities Greek umbra, in recent histories and. 
(sect. 166-176) and Oriental (sect. monographs. See especially the 
177-187) in support of the hypo- Philosophic Herakleiios des Dunkeln 
thesis that ather or fire is the (1858) of Lassalle. In Terrier s 
ultimate, informing and unifying, Lectures on Greek Philosophy (1866) 
natural cause of change in there is an interesting account of 
bodies. Heraclitus. 

2 Schleiermacher, Bernays, Las- 3 Berkeley seems to found on 
salle, Zeller, and others have cast Diogenes Laertius and the Pseudo- 
fresh light on Heraclitus ; the Plutarch. See Zeller s Philosophic 
most grandly suggestive figure of dcr Griechen, for the elemental fire, 
the Pre-Socratic age, from whom or world-soul, of the Stoics. 

the philosophy of fire descends. 4 Pp. 45, 78. 

The Germans have disinterred the 


The vital force thereof in the Peripatetic sense is vital to 
all, but diversely received according to the diversity of the 
subjects. So all colours are virtually contained in the 
light ; but their actual distinctions of blue, red, yellow, 
and the rest, depend on the difference of the objects which 
it illustrates. Aristotle, in the book DC Mundo l , supposeth 
a certain fifth essence, an aethereal nature, unchangeable 
and impassive ; and next in order a subtle flaming sub 
stance, lighted up or set on fire by that aethereal and 
Divine nature. He supposeth, indeed, that God is in 
heaven, but that His power, or a force derived from Him, 
doth actuate and pervade the universe. 

168. If we may credit Plutarch 2 , Empedocles thought 
aether or heat to be Jupiter. ^Ether by the ancient philo 
sophers was used to signify promiscuously sometimes fire 
and sometimes air. For they distinguish two sorts of air. 
Plato, in the Timceus", speaking of air, saith there are two 
kinds ; the one more fine and subtle, called aether ; the 
other more gross, and replete with vapours. This aether 
or purer medium seems to have been the air or principle 
from which all things, according to Anaximenes, derived 
their birth, and into which they were back again resolved 
at their death. Hippocrates, in his treatise DC Diceta*, 
speaketh of a fire pure and invisible ; and this fire, 
according to him, is that which, stirring and giving move 
ment to all things, causes them to appear, or, as he styles 
it, come into evidence, that is, to exist, every one in its 
time, and according to its destiny. 

169. This pure fire, aether, or substance of light was 
accounted in itself invisible and imperceptible to all our 
senses, being perceived only by its effects, such as heat, 
flame, and rarefaction. To which we may add, that the 
Moderns pretend farther to have perceived it by weight, 
inasmuch as the aromatic oils which most abound with 
fire, as being the most readily and vehemently inflamed, 

1 See cap. 2. The De Mimdo 357} and Heraclitus (cir. B. c. 500- 
is not now accepted as Aristotle s. 460) was discovered by the re- 

2 Ps.-Plutarch, De Placit. Philos. search of Professor Bernays of 
Lib. I. c. 3. Bonn, in his Herachtea, where he 

3 P. 58. traces, with acuteness, a series of 
* Opera, torn. I. p. 639 (ed. Leips. quotations from Heraclitus em- 

1825). An unsuspected relation bedded in the text of the De Dinia. 
between Hippocrates (B. c. 460- 


are above all others the heaviest. And by an experiment 
of Mr. Homberg s, four ounces of regulus of antimony, 
being calcined by a burning-glass for an hour together, 
were found to have imbibed and fixed seven drachms of 
the substance of light. 

170. Such is the rarefying and expansive force of this 
element, as to produce, in an instant of time, the greatest 
and most stupendous effects : a sufficient proof not only 
of the power of fire, but also of the wisdom with which 
it is managed, and withheld from bursting forth every 
moment to the utter ravage and destruction of all things. 
And it is very remarkable that this same element, so fierce 
and destructive, should yet be so variously tempered and 
applied as to be withal the salutary warmth, the genial, 
cherishing, and vital flame of all living creatures. It is 
not therefore to be wondered that Aristotle 1 thought the 
heat of a living body to be somewhat Divine and celestial, 
derived from that pure aether to which he supposed the 
incorporeal Deity (xwpurrbv elSos) to be immediately united, 
or on which he supposed it immediately to act. 

171. The Platonists held that intellect resided in soul, 
and soul in an aethereal vehicle. And that as the soul 
was a middle nature, reconciling intellect with aether, so 
aether was another middle nature, which reconciled and 
connected the soul with grosser bodies (sect. 152, 154). 
Galen 2 likewise taught that, admitting the soul to be 
incorporeal, it hath for its immediate tegument or vehicle 

1 See De Anim. General. Lib. III. conflagration. 

c. ii ; also De Anima, Lib. II. c. 4. 2 See Opera, torn. IV. p. 470 
Aristotle is apt to refer the con- (ed. Bas.) for a passage which 
nexion of soul and body to uni- partly corresponds to this. Galen 
versally diffused animal heat; a (A.D. 130-201) would be the most 
notion which the Stoics carried learned physician, and one of the 
further, in identifying God, or the most voluminous writers of anti- 
world-soul, with the vital Fire. quity, if all the works attributed to 
On the physics and cosmology of him could be received as genuine, 
the Stoics, see Plutarch, De Stoic. In the treatise on Hippocrates and 
Rep. 41 ; Stob. Eel. Phys. I, and Plato, and in other Galenic works, 
Diog. Laert. Lib. VII ; also Zeller. may be found passages on Fire 
Like Heraclitus, they regarded not unlike that referred to, but I 
fire as the universal cosmological have not found any exactly corre- 
force, which regulates the mun- spending to it. Galen was an 
dane system, and under which, admirer of Hippocrates ; for whose 
after regular evolution in the ages, doctrine on this subject, cf. sect, 
it is to dissolve in a universal 168, 174, 175. 


a body of aether or fire, by the intervention whereof it 
moveth other bodies, and is mutually affected by them. 
This interior clothing was supposed to remain upon the 
soul, not only after death, but after the most perfect purga 
tion, which, in length of time, according to the followers 
of Plato and Pythagoras, cleansed the soul, 

purumque reliquit 
^Ethereum sensum, atque aural simplicis ignetn . 

This tunicle of the soul, whether it be called pure aether, 
or luciform vehicle, or animal spirit, seemeth to be that 
which moves and acts upon the gross organs, as it is 
determined by the soul from which it immediately receives 
impression, and in which the moving force truly and 
properly resides. Some moderns have thought fit to 
deride all that is said of aethereal vehicles, as mere jargon 
or words without a meaning. But they should have con 
sidered that all speech concerning the soul is altogether, 
or for the most part, metaphorical; and that, agreeably 
thereunto, Plato * speaketh of the mind or soul, as a driver 
that guides and governs a chariot, which is, not unfitly, 
styled auyr/eiSes, a luciform aethereal vehicle or o^/m - 
terms expressive of the purity, lightness, subtlety, and 
mobility of that fine celestial nature in which the soul 
immediately resides and operates. 

172. It was a tenet of the Stoics that the world was an 
animal, and that Providence answered to the reasonable 
soul in man. But then the Providence or Mind was 
supposed by them to be immediately resident or present 
in fire, to dwell therein, and to act thereby. Briefly, they 
conceived God to be an intellectual and fiery spirit, -rrvev/jia 
voepov Kal 7rvpw8es. Therefore, though they looked on fire 
(sect. 166) as the TO ^ye^oi/t/<oV or governing principle of the 
world ; yet it was not simply fire, but animated with a mind. 

173. Such are the bright and lively signatures of a 
Divine Mind, operating and displaying itself in fire and 
light throughout the world, that, as Aristotle observes, in 
his book DC Mttndo 3 , all things seem full of divinities, 
whose apparitions on all sides strike and dazzle our eyes. 

1 Virgil, JEneid VI. 746. 3 Cap. 6. Cf. p. 305, note i. But 

2 Phadrus, p. 246. Cf. Aid- the De Mundo is not by Aristotle. 
phron, Dial. VII. 16. 


And it must be owned the chief philosophers and wise 
men of antiquity, how much soever they attributed to 
second causes and the force of fire, yet they supposed 
a Mind or Intellect always resident therein, active or 
provident, restraining its force, and directing its operations. 

174. Thus Hippocrates, in his treatise De Diaia\ speaks 
of a strong but invisible fire (sect. 168), that rules all things 
without noise. Herein, saith he, reside soul, understand 
ing, prudence, growth, motion, diminution, change, sleep, 
and waking. This is what governs all things, and is never 
in repose. And the same author, in his tract DC Carnibus 2 , 
after a serious preface, setting forth that he is about to 
declare his own opinion, expresseth it in these terms : 
That which we call heat, Oep/jLov, appears to me some 
thing immortal, which understands all things, which sees 
and knows both what is present and what is to come. 

175. This same heat is also what Hippocrates calls 
nature, the author of life and death, good and evil. It is 
farther to be noted of this heat, that he maketh it the 
object of no sense. It is that occult universal nature, and 
inward invisible force, which actuates and animates the 
whole world, and was worshipped by the ancients under 
the name of Saturn ; which Vossius judges not improbably 
to be derived from the Hebrew word satar, to lie hidden 
or concealed. And what hath been delivered by Hippo 
crates agrees with the notions of other philosophers : 
Heraclitus (sect. 157), for instance, who held fire to be 
the principle and cause of the generation of all things, 
did not mean thereby an inanimate element, but, as he 
termed it, irrp Aeifaov, an everlasting fire :: . 

176. Theophrastus, in his book De Igne, distinguisheth 
between heat and fire. The first he considers as a prin 
ciple or cause ; not that which appeareth to sense as a 
passion or accident existing in a subject, and which is 
in truth the effect of that unseen principle. And it is 
remarkable that he refers the treating of this invisible fire 

1 Optra, torn. I. p. 639. 3 See Ritter and Preller, No. 34 ; 

2 The original is as follows : Heracl. ap. Clem. Alex. Strom. V. 
AoKtd ( p.oi TO Ka.\t<jf*(t>ov 6fpfj.ov, p. 599- Matter was in a manner 
uOdvaruv Tf dvai, KCU votlv iravra, spiritualised in the Fire of Hera- 
KO.I up^v Kal aKovttv Kal ftSfvai -aavra, clitus, called tyvxn by Aristotle (Dc 
KCU ra t>vra KCU TO. ^t\\ovra tafcrQai. Aninta, Lib. I. c. 2). 

Opera, torn. I. p. 425. 


or heat to the investigation of the First Causes. Fire, 
the principle, is neither generated nor destroyed, is every 
where and always present (sect. 157) ; while its effects in 
different times and places shew themselves more or less, 
and are very various, soft and cherishing, or violent and 
destructive, terrible or agreeable, conveying good and 
evil, growth and decay, life and death, throughout the 
mundane system . 

177. It is allowed by all that the Greeks derived much 
of their philosophy from the Eastern nations 2 . And 
Heraclitus is thought by some to have drawn his principles 
from Orpheus, as Orpheus did from the Egyptians ; or, as 
others write, he had been auditor of Hippasus, a Pytha 
gorean, who held the same notion of fire, and might have 
derived it from Egypt by his master Pythagoras, who had 
travelled into Egypt, and been instructed by the sages of 
that nation. One of whose tenets it was, that fire was the 
principle of all action ; which is agreeable to the doctrine 
of the Stoics, that the whole of things is administered 
by a fiery intellectual spirit. In the Asclcpian Dialogue* , 
we find this notion, that all parts of the world vegetate by 
a fine subtle aether, which acts as an engine or instrument, 
subject to the will of the supreme God. 

178. As the Platonists held intellect to be lodged in 
soul, and soul in aether (sect. 171); so it passeth for a 
doctrine of Trismegistus in the Pimander 4 , that mind is 
clothed by soul, and soul by spirit. Therefore, as the 
animal spirit of man, being subtle and luminous, is the 
immediate tegument of the human soul, or that wherein 
and whereby she acts ; even so the spirit of the world, 
that active fiery ethereal substance of Light, that per 
meates and animates the whole system, is supposed to 
clothe the soul, which clothes the mind of the universe. 

179. The Magi likewise said of God, that He had light 
for His body and truth for His soul. And in the Chaldaic 

1 Theophrastus dwells on the tian in doctrine, while written in 

distinction between 6(pi*6s and Greek, and entitled, O rt Xftoj 

nvp in various parts of this treatise. \uyos. 

3 In sect. 177-187 Berkeley * Pcewander, the most celebrated 

turns to the East. of the Hermic writings not by 

3 One of the famous Hermic Hermes. 
Books, but not by Hermes ; Egyp- 


2io siRis : A CHAIN or 

oracles, all things are supposed to be governed by a TTU/J 
voepov, or intellectual fire. And in the same oracles, the 
creative mind is said to be clothed with fire, eo-o-u/Aevos -rrvpl 
Trvp, which oriental reduplication of the word fire seems 
to imply the extreme purity and force thereof. Thus 
also in the Psalms, Thou art clothed with light as with 
a garment/ Where the word rendered light might have 
been rendered fire; the Hebrew letters being the same 
with those in the word which signifies fire, all the difference 
being in the pointing, which is justly counted a late in 
vention. That other Scripture sentence is remarkable : 
Who maketh his ministers a flaming fire 2 : which might, 
perhaps, be rendered more agreeably to the context, as 
well as consistently with the Hebrew, after this manner: 
Who maketh flaming fire his ministers : and the whole 
might run thus : Who maketh the winds his messengers, 
and flaming fire his ministers. 

180. A notion of something Divine in fire, animating 
the whole world, and ordering its several parts, was a 
tenet of very general extent (sect. 156, 157, 163, 166, 167, 
1 68, 170, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, &c.), being embraced in 
the most distant times and places, even among the Chinese 
themselves ; who make tien, sether, or heaven, the sove 
reign principle or cause of all things, and teach that the 
celestial virtue, by them called //, when joined to a corpo 
real substance, doth fashion, distinguish, and specificate 
all natural beings. This //of the Chinese seems to answer 
the forms of the Peripatetics, and both bear analogy to 
the foregoing philosophy of fire . 

181. The heaven is supposed pregnant with virtues and 
forms, which constitute and discriminate the various species 
of things. And we have more than once observed that, 
as the light, fire, or celestial aether, being parted by 
refracting or reflecting bodies, produceth variety of colours ; 
even so, that same apparently uniform substance, being 
parted and secreted by the attracting and repelling powers 
of the divers secretory ducts of plants and animals, that 
is, by natural chemistry, produceth or imparteth the various 
specific properties of natural bodies. Whence the tastes, 
and odours, and medicinal virtues so various in vegetables. 

1 So, too, the Celtic festival of Beltien, originally connected with 


182. The ticn is considered and adored by the learned 
Chinese as living and intelligent aether, the irvp voepdv of 
the Chaldeans and the Stoics. And the worship of things 
celestial, the sun and stars, among the Eastern nations 
less remote, was on account of their fiery nature, their heat 
and light, and the influence thereof. Upon these accounts, 
the sun was looked on by the Greek theologers as the 
spirit of the world, and the power of the world . The 
cleansing quality, the light and heat of fire, are natural 
symbols of purity, knowledge, and power, or, if I may so 
say, the things themselves, so far as they are perceptible 
to our senses, or in the same sense as motion is said 
to be action. Accordingly, we find a religious regard 
was paid to fire, both by Greeks and Romans, and indeed 
by most, if not all, the nations of the world. 

183. The worship of Vesta at Rome was, in truth, the 
worship of fire. 

Ncc tu aliud Vestam quam vivam intellige flammain, 

saith Ovid in his Fasti ~. And as in old Rome the eternal 
fire was religiously kept by virgins, so in Greece, particu 
larly at Delphi and Athens, it was kept by widows. It is 
well known that Vulcan or fire was worshipped with great 
distinction by the Egyptians. The Zabii or Sabeans are 
also known to have been worshippers of fire. It appears 
too, from the Chaldean oracles, that fire was regarded as 
Divine by the sages of that nation. And it is supposed 
that Ur of the Chaldeans was so called from the Hebrew 
word signifying fire, because fire was publicly worshipped 
in that city. That a religious worship was paid to fire 
by the ancient Persians and their Magi is attested by all 
antiquity. And the sect of Persees, or old Gentiles, of 
whom there are considerable remains at this day both in 
the Mogul s country and in Persia, doth testify the same. 

184. It doth not seem that their prostrations before the 
perpetual fires, preserved with great care in their Pyreia, 
or fire temples, were merely a civil respect, as Dr. Hyde 
would have it thought. Although he brings good proof 
that they do not invoke the fire on their altars, or pray 

1 Sec Professor Max Miiller, on development of Sun-worship is a 
the original elements of mytho- curious subject in comparative rc- 
logy, in the Oxford Essays (1856 . ligion. 
and in his Giflbrd Lectures. The - Lib. VI. 291. 

P 2 


to it, or call it God : and that they acknowledge a supreme 
invisible Deity. Civil respects are paid to things as 
related to civil power : but such relation doth not appear 
in the present case. It should seem, therefore, that they 
worship God as present in the fire, which they worship or 
reverence not ultimately or for itself, but relatively to the 
supreme Being. Which it is not unlikely was elsewhere 
the case at first, though the practice of men, especially of 
the vulgar, might in length of time degenerate from the 
original institution, and rest in the object of sense. 

185. Doctor Hyde, in his History of the Religion of the 
Ancient Persians, would have it thought that they borrowed 
the use and reverence of perpetual fires, from the Jewish 
practice prescribed in the Levitical law of keeping a 
perpetual fire burning on the altar . Whether that was 
the case or not, thus much one may venture to say : it 
seems probable that, whatever was the original of this 
custom among the Persians, the like customs among the 
Greeks and Romans were derived from the same source. 

186. It must be owned there are many passages in 
Holy Scripture (sect. 179) that would make one think the 
Supreme Being was in a peculiar manner present and 
manifest in the element of Fire. Not to insist that God 
is more than once said to be a consuming fire, which might 
be understood in a metaphorical sense, the Divine ap 
paritions were by fire, in the bush, at Mount Sinai, on 
the tabernacle, in the cloven tongues. God is repre 
sented in the inspired writings, as descending in fire, 
as attended by fire, or with fire going before Him. Celestial 
things, as angels, chariots, and such-like phaenomena, 
are invested with fire, light, and splendour. Ezekiel in 
his visions beheld fire and brightness, lamps, burning 
coals of fire, and flashes of lightning. In a vision of 
Daniel, the throne of God appeared like a fiery flame, 
and His wheels like burning fire. Also a fiery flame issued 
and came forth from before Him. 

187. At the transfiguration, the apostles saw our Saviour s 
face shining as the sun, and His raiment white as light, 
also a lucid cloud, or body of light, out of which the voice 

1 See his Vctcrum Persarutn et Professor of Hebrew in Oxford, 
Mcdoruni Rcligionis Historia, c. 6, and Canon of Christ Church. 
8. Dr. Hyde (1636-1703) was 


came ; which visible light and splendour were, not many 
centuries ago, maintained by the Greek church to have 
been Divine, and uncreated, and the very glory of God ; 
as may be seen in the History wrote by the Emperor 
John Cantacuzene 1 . And of late years Bishop Patrick 
gives it as his opinion, that in the beginning of the world 
the Shechinah, or Divine presence, which was then fre 
quent and ordinary, appeared by light or fire. In com 
menting on that passage, where Cain is said to have gone 
out from the presence of the Lord, the Bishop observes, 
that if Cain after this turned a downright idolater, as many 
think, it is very likely he introduced the worship of the 
sun, as the best resemblance he could find of the glory of 
the Lord, which was wont to appear in a flaming light. 
It would be endless to enumerate all the passages of Holy 
Scripture, which confirm and illustrate this notion, or 
represent the Deity as appearing and operating by fire ; 
the misconstruction of which might possibly have misled 
the Gnostics, Basilidians, and other ancient heretics into 
an opinion that Jesus Christ was the visible corporeal sun. 

188. We have seen that in the most remote ages and 
countries, the vulgar as well as the learned, the institutions 
of lawgivers as well as the reasonings of philosophers 
have ever considered the element of fire in a peculiar light, 
and treated it with more than common regard, as if it were 
something of a very singular and extraordinary nature. 
Nor are there wanting authors of principal account among 
the Moderns who entertain like notions concerning fire, 
especially among those who are most conversant in that 
element, and should seem best acquainted with it - . 

189. Mr. Homberg, the famous modern chemist, who 
brought that art to so great perfection, holds the sub 
stance of light or fire to be the true chemic principle 
sulphur (sect. 129), and to extend itself throughout the 
whole universe. It is his opinion that this is the only 

1 Cantacuzeni Historiarum Lib. during the former part of the 

II. c. 39, 40. John V, Byzantine fourteenth century. He ranks as 

emperor (Joannes Cantacuzenus), one of the Byzantine historians. 

born about 1292. In 1354 he 2 Sect. 188-205 refer chiefly to 

abdicated, and betook himself to modern authorities in support of 

a monastic life, when he wrote the Fire philosophy. 
a History of the Eastern Empire 


:ive principle ; that, mixed with various things it formeth 
^eral sorts of natural productions : with salts makiner 


several sorts of natural productions : with salts making 
oil, with earth bitumen, with mercury metal; that this 
principle of sulphur, fire, or the substance of light, is 
in itself imperceptible, and only becomes sensible as it 
is joined with some other principle, which serves as 
a vehicle for it ; that, although it be the most active 
of all things, yet it is at the same time the most firm bond 
and cement to combine and hold the principles together, 
and give form to the mixed bodies ; and that in the analysis 
of bodies it is always lost, escaping the skill of the artist, 
and passing through the closest vessels \ 

190. Boerhaave 2 , Nieuwentyt 3 , and divers other moderns 4 
are in the same way of thinking. They with the ancients 
distinguish a pure elementary invisible fire from the 
culinary, or that which appears in ignited bodies (sect. 
163, 166). This last they will not allow to be pure fire. 
The pure fire is to be discerned by its affects alone ; such 
as heat, dilatation of all solid bodies, and rarefaction of 
fluids, the segregating heterogeneous bodies, and con 
gregating those that are homogeneous. That therefore 
which smokes and flames is not pure fire, but that which 
is collected in the focus of a [ 5 concave] mirror or burning- 
glass. This fire seems the source of all the operations 

1 See Homberg s Essais du His criticism of the differential 
Son f re-Principe, in the Memoirs calculus called forth John Bt-r- 
of the Academy (1705), where he noulli and Leibniz in defence, 
maintains that sulphur, when as- In natural theology he curiously 
sumed to be the primary ingredient anticipates Paley s well-known 
in all bodies, is fire; and thus that illustration of the watch. See the 
fire is coeval and coextensive with English translation of Nieuwentyt s 
body. When chemists of the Religions PliilosopJier (1730), Pre 
school to which Berkeley here face, pp. 46-49. 
refers speak of Fire as the elemen- Thus, S. Gravesande argues 
tary substance, they generally that fire is the catholic element in 
mean (as far as meaning can be Nature, obtainable from all bodies 
found in their words) elementary by friction, which puts their latent 
sulphur. fire in motion (Element. Phys. I. 2. 

- In his Elementa Clictnia> Boer- c. I s ) ; and Lemery, the younger, 

haave represents fire as the natural asserts the ingenerable nature ot 

cause of motion its true activity fire, arguing that it is equally 

being referred to spiritual or in- diffused through space, and the 

tending agency. universal element in bodies (Mem. 

3 Bernard Nieuwentyt (1654- deTAcad., 17 13\ 

1718% a Dutch physician, mathc- " Not in the early editions, 
matician, and natural theologian. 


in nature : without it nothing either vegetates or putrefies, 
lives or moves or ferments, is dissolved or compounded 
or altered, throughout this whole natural world in which 
we subsist. Were it not for this, the whole would be 
one great stupid inanimate mass. But this active element 
is supposed to be everywhere, and always present, imparting 
different degrees of life, heat, and motion to the various 
animals, vegetables, and other natural productions, as well 
as to the elements themselves wherein they are produced 
and nourished. 

191. As water acts upon salt, or aquafortis upon iron, 
so fire dissolves all other bodies. Fire, air, and water 
are all three menstruums : but the two last seem to derive 
all their force and activity from the first (sect. 149). And 
indeed there seems to be, originally or ultimately, but 
one menstruum in nature, to which all other menstruums 
may be reduced. Acid salts are a menstruum, but their 
force and distinct powers are from sulphur. Considered 
as pure, or in themselves, they are all of the same nature. 
But, as obtained by distillation, they are constantly joined 
with some sulphur, which characterizeth and cannot be 
separated from them. This is the doctrine of Monsieur 
Homberg. But what is it that characterizeth or dif- 
ferenceth the sulphurs themselves? If sulphur be the 
substance of light, as that author will have it, whence 
is it that animal, vegetable, and metallic sulphurs impart 
different qualities to the same acid salt? Can this be 
explained upon Homberg s principles ? And are we not 
obliged to suppose that light, separated by the attracting 
and repelling powers in the strainers, ducts, and pores 
of those bodies, doth form several distinct kinds of sulphur, 
all which, before such separation, were lost and blended 
together, in one common mass of light or fire, seemingly 

192. In the analysis of inflammable bodies, the fire 
or sulphur is lost, and the diminution of weight shevveth 
the loss (sect. 169). Oil is resolved into water, earth, 
and salt, none of which is inflammable. But the fire 
or vinculum which connected those things, and gave the 
form of oil, escapes from the artist. It disappears but 
is not destroyed. Light or fire imprisoned made part of 
the compound, gave union to the other parts, and form 


to the whole. But, having escaped, it mingles with the 
general ocean of aether, till, having again parted and 
attracted, it enters and specificates some new subject of 
the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom. Fire, there 
fore, in the sense of philosophers, is always fire, though 
not always flame. 

193. Solar fire or light, in calcining certain bodies, is 
observed to add to their weight l . There is therefore 
no doubt but light can be fixed, and enter the composition 
of a body. And though it should lie latent for a long 
time, yet, being set free from its prison, it shall still shew 
itself to be fire. Lead, tin, or regulus of antimony, being 
exposed to the fire of a burning-glass, though they lose 
much in smoke and steam, are nevertheless found to be 
considerably increased in weight, which proves the intro 
duction of light or fire into their pores. It is also observed 
that urine produceth no phosphorus unless it be long 
exposed to the solar light. From all which it may be 
concluded, that bodies attract and fix the light; whence 
it should seem, as some have observed, that fire without 
burning is an ingredient in many things, as water without 

194. Of this there cannot be a better proof than the 
experiment of Monsieur Homberg, who made gold of 
mercury by introducing light into its pores, but at such 
trouble and expense, that I suppose nobody will try the 
experiment for profit. By this junction of light and 
mercury, both bodies became fixed, and produced a third 
different from either, to wit, real gold. For the truth 
of which fact, I refer to the Memoirs of the French 
Academy of Sciences 2 . From the foregoing experiment 
it appears that gold is only a mass of mercury penetrated 
and cemented by the substance of light, the particles of 
those bodies attracting and fixing each other. This seems 
to have been not altogether unknown to former philo 
sophers ; Marcilius Ficinus 3 , the Platonist, in his com- 

1 Cf. sect. 169. This was Boyle s cure. In Barton s Analogy this 
explanation, long ago exploded, passage in Siris is referred to. 
like many of the other chemical 3 Marcilius Ficinus (1433-99), 
explanations accepted in these the famous Florentine physician 
sections. and philosopher, who led the re- 

2 SeeHomberg s Memoire (1700) vival of Platonism and Neoplaton- 
Sur les Dissolvans du Mer- ism. He translated or commented 


mentary on the first book of the second Ennead of Plotinus, 
and others likewise before him, regarding mercury as the 
mother, and sulphur as the father of metals ; and Plato 
himself, in his Timaeus describing gold to be a dense fluid 
with a shining yellow light, which well suits a composition 
of light and mercury 1 . 

195. Fire or light mixeth with all bodies (sect. 157), 
even with water ; witness the flashing lights in the sea, 
whose waves seem frequently all on fire. Its operations 
are various according to its kind, quantity, and degree 
of vehemence. One degree keeps water fluid, and another 
turns it into elastic air (sect. 149). And air itself seems 
to be nothing else but vapours and exhalations, rendered 
elastic by fire. Nothing flames but oil ; and sulphur with 
water, salt, and earth compose oil, which sulphur is fire : 
therefore fire enclosed attracts fire, and causeth the bodies 
whose composition it enters to burn and blaze. 

196. Fire collected in the focus of a glass operates in 
vacuo, and therefore is thought not to need air to sup 
port it. Calx of lead hath gone off with an explosion 
in vacuo, which Nieuwentyt and others take for a proof 
that fire can burn without air. But Mr. Hales 2 attributes 
this effect to air enclosed in the red lead, and perhaps 
too in the receiver, which cannot be perfectly exhausted. 

on Plato, Plotinus, Jamblicus, and authorities in support of alchemy 
Proclus. Ficinus, with his affinity the speculation attributed origin- 
for Neoplatonism, and for Hermic ally to Hermes Trismegistus, and 
and Oriental lore, his endeavours which seemed to culminate in 
to harmonise Plato and Aristotle, Paracelsus and Marcilius Ficinus, 
and his aspirations to reunion Lully and Van Helmont has some 
with God through a contemplative affinity with facts and speculations 
life, seems to have attracted Berke- in recent chemistry in its ten- 
ley stronglj in his later days. dency to ultimate unity of elements. 
Berkeley appears to have studied Cf. sect. 69, 71, on mercury as a sup- 
Plotinus and the other Neoplaton- posed Catholicon ; and sect. 148, on 
ists largely through Ficinus, who the transmutation of the supposed 
may have led him to recognise elements. For Plato on gold, see 
the community of some of their Timceus, p. 59. 
doctrines with his own early philo- 2 Statical Essays, vol. I. pp. 
sophy. It was perhaps from the 278-80. This is Dr. Stephen 
eclecticism of Ficinus that he was Hales (1677-1761), rector of Ted- 
induced to mix up the opinions of dington, who afterwards wrote on 
earlier and later philosophers with Tar-water, and to whom Berkeley 
those of Plato. addressed a Letter on its virtues in 
1 This curious section, with its the Plague. 


When common lead is put into the fire in order to make 
red lead, a greater weight of this comes out than was put 
in of common lead. Therefore the red lead should seem 
impregnated with fire. Mr. Hales thinks it is with air. 
The vast expansion of compound aqua fortis, Mr. Nieu- 
wentyt will have to proceed from fire alone. Mr. Hales 
contends that air must necessarily co-operate. Though, 
by Nieuwentyt s experiment, it should seem the phos 
phorus burns equally with and without air. 

197. Perhaps they who hold the opposite sides in this 
question may be reconciled by observing that air is in 
reality nothing more than particles of wet and dry bodies 
volatilized and rendered elastic by fire (sect. 147, 150, 
151). Whatever, therefore, is done by air must be ascribed 
to fire ; which fire is a subtle invisible thing, whose opera 
tion is not to be discerned but by means of some grosser 
body, which serves not for a pabulum to nourish the fire, 
but for a vehicle to arrest and bring it into view. Which 
seems the sole use of oil, air, or any other thing that 
vulgarly passeth for a pabulum or food of that element. 

198. To explain this matter more clearly, it is to be 
observed that fire, in order to become sensible, must have 
some object to act upon. This, being penetrated and 
agitated by fire, affects us with light, heat, or some other 
sensible alteration. And this subject so wrought upon 
may be called culinary fire. In the focus of a burning- 
glass exposed to the sun, there is real actual fire ; though 
not discerned by the sense till it hath somewhat to work 
on, and can shew itself in its effects, heating, flaming, 
melting, and the like. Every ignited body is, in the fore 
going sense, culinary fire. But it will not therefore follow 
that it is convertible into pure elementary fire. This, 
for aught that appears, may be ingenerable and incor 
ruptible by the course of nature \ It may be fixed and 
imprisoned in a compound (sect. 169, 192, 193), and yet 
retain its nature, though lost to sense, and though it 
return into the invisible elementary mass, upon the analysis 
of the compounded body : as is manifest in the solution 
of stone lime by water. 

199. It should seem, therefore, that what is said of air s 

1 As held by the younger Lemery, to whom Berkeley afterwards refers 
(sect. 244). 


being the pabulum of fire, or being converted into fire, 
ought to be understood only in this sense ; to wit, that 
air, being less gross than other bodies, is of a middle 
nature, and therefore more fit to receive the impressions 
of a fine aethereal fire (sect. 163), and impart them to 
other things. According to the ancients, soul serveth 
for a vehicle to intellect (sect. 178), and light or fire for 
a vehicle to the soul ; and, in like manner, air may be 
supposed a vehicle to fire, fixing it in some degree, and 
communicating its effects to other bodies. 

200. The pure invisible fire or aether doth permeate 
all bodies, even the hardest and most solid, as the diamond. 
This alone, therefore, cannot, as some learned men have 
supposed, be the cause of muscular motion, by a mere 
impulse of the nerves communicated from the brain to 
the membranes of the muscles, and thereby to the enclosed 
aether, whose expansive motion, being by that means 
increased, is thought to swell the muscles and cause a 
contraction of the fleshy fibres. This, it should seem, the 
pure aether cannot do immediately and of itself, because, 
supposing its expansive motion to be increased, it must 
still pass through the membranes, and consequently not 
swell them, inasmuch as aether is supposed freely to per 
vade the most solid bodies. It should seem, therefore, 
that this effect must be owing, not to pure aether, but to 
aether in some part fixed and arrested by the particles 
of air. 

201. Although this aether be extremely elastic, yet, as 
it is sometimes found by experience to be attracted, im 
prisoned, and retained in gross bodies (sect. 169), so we 
may suppose it to be attracted, and its expansive force 
diminished, though it should not be quite fixed, by the 
loose particles of air, which combining and cohering there 
with may bring it down, and qualify it for intercourse with 
grosser things. Pure fire may be said to animate air, 
and air other things. Pure fire is invisible ; therefore 
flame is not pure fire. Air is necessary both to life and 
flame. And it is found by experiment that air loseth 
in the lungs the power of feeding flame. Hence it is con 
cluded that the same thing in air contributes both to life 
and llame. Vital flame survives culinary flame in vacuo : 
therefore it requires less of that thing to sustain it. 


202. What this may be, whether some certain pro 
portion, or some peculiar parts, of aether, is not easy 
to say. But thus much seems plain, that whatever is 
ascribed to acid may be also ascribed to fire or aether. The 
particles of sether fly asunder with the greatest force: 
therefore, agreeably to Sir Isaac Newton s doctrine, when 
united they must attract each other with the greatest force. 
Therefore they constitute the acid. For, whatsoever 
strongly attracts and is attracted, may be called an acid, 
as Sir Isaac Newton informs us in his tract De Acido. 
Hence it should seem that the sulphur of Homberg, and 
the acid of Sir Isaac are at bottom one and the same 
thing, to wit, pure fire or aether. 

203. The vital flame or aethereal spirit, being attracted 
and imprisoned in grosser bodies, seemeth to be set free 
and carried off by the superior attraction of a subtle and 
pure flame. Hence, perhaps, it is, that lightning kills 
animals, and turns spirituous liquors vapid in an instant. 

204. Hippocrates, in his book concerning the Heart 1 , 
observeth that the soul of man is not nourished by meats 
and drinks from the lower belly, but by a pure and 
luminous substance darting its rays, and distributing a 
non-natural nourishment, as he terms it, in like manner 
as that from the intestines is distributed to all parts of 
the body. This luminous non-natural nourishment, though 
it be secreted from the blood, is expressly said not to 
come from the lower belly. It is plain, therefore, he 
thought it came into the blood, either by respiration, 
or by attraction through the pores. And it must be 
acknowledged that somewhat igneous or aethereal, brought 
by the air into the blood, seems to nourish, though not 
the soul itself, yet the interior tunicle of the soul, the 
aurai simplicis ignem, 

205. That there is really such a thing as vital flame, 
actually kindled, nourished, and extinguished, like common 
flame, and by the same means, is an opinion of some 
moderns, particularly of Dr. Willis 2 in his tract De San- 

1 Opera, torn. I. p. 490. Brutorunt. There are several 

2 Thomas Willis (1621-1675), editions of his collected works. The 
called by Anthony Wood the tract here referred to is entitled 
most celebrated physician of his De Sangninis Incalescentia, sive 
time, author of the De Anima Accensione. 


guinis Accensione : that it requires constant eventilation, 
through the trachaea and pores of the body for the dis 
charge of a fuliginous and excrementitious vapour; and 
that this vital flame, being extremely subtle, might not be 
seen any more than shining flies or ignesfatui by daylight. 
And yet it hath sometimes become visible on divers 
persons, of which there are undoubted instances. This 
is Dr. Willis s notion : and perhaps there may be some 
truth in this, if it be so understood as that light or fire 
might indeed constitute the animal spirit or immediate 
vehicle of the soul. 

206. There have not been wanting those, who, not con 
tent to suppose Light the most pure and refined of all 
corporeal beings, have gone farther, and bestowed upon 
it some attributes of a yet higher nature . Julianus, the 
Platonic philosopher, as cited by Ficinus, saith it was 
a doctrine in the theology of the Phoenicians, that there 
is diffused throughout the universe a pellucid and shining 
nature, pure and impassive, the act of a pure intelligence. 
And Ficinus himself undertakes to prove that light is 
incorporeal by several arguments : because it enlightens 
and fills a great space in an instant, and without opposi 
tion : because several lights meet without resisting each 
other: because light cannot be defiled by filth of any 
kind : because the solar light is not fixed in any subject : 
lastly, because it contracts and expands itself so easily 
without collision, condensation, rarefaction, or delay, 
throughout the vastest space. These reasons are given 
by Ficinus, in his comment on the first book 2 of the 
second Ennead of Plotinus. 

207. But it is now well known that light moves, and 
that its motion is not instantaneous : that it is capable of 
condensation, rarefaction, and collision : that it can be 
mixed with other bodies, enter their composition, and 
increase their weight (sect. 169, 192, 193). All which 
seems sufficiently to overthrow those arguments of Ficinus, 
and shew light to be corporeal. There appears indeed 
some difficulty at first sight, about the non-resistance of 

1 Light or Fire is considered in its alleged incorporeality, which 
yet other aspects in sect. 206- Berkeley denies. 
211 in particular in regard to a Cap. 3. 


rays or particles of light occurring one to another, in all 
possible directions or from all points. Particularly, if we 
suppose the hollow surface of a large sphere studded with 
eyes looking inwards one at another, it may perhaps seem 
hard to conceive how distinct rays from every eye should 
arrive at every other eye without justling, repelling, and 
confounding each other. 

208. But these difficulties may be got over by con 
sidering, in the first place, that visible points are not 
mathematical points \ and consequently that we are not to 
suppose every point of space a radiating point. Secondly, 
by granting that many rays do resist and intercept each 
other, notwithstanding which the act of vision may be 
performed. Since as every point of the object is not seen, 
so it is not necessary that rays from every such point 
arrive at the eye. We often see an object, though more 
dimly, when many rays are intercepted by a gross medium. 

209. Besides, we may suppose the particles of light to 
be indefinitely small, that is, as small as we please, and 
their aggregate to bear as small a proportion to the void 
as we please, there being nothing in this that contradicts 
the phenomena. And there needs nothing more, in order 
to conceive the possibility of rays passing from and to all 
visible points, although they be not incorporeal. Suppose 
a hundred ports placed round a circular sea, and ships 
sailing from each port to every other ; the larger the sea, 
and the smaller the vessels are supposed, the less danger 
will there be of their striking against each other. But, as 
there is by hypothesis no limited proportion between the 
sea and the ships, the void and solid particles of light, so 
there is no difficulty that can oblige us to conclude the 
sun s light incorporeal from its free passage ; especially 
when there are so many clear proofs of the contrary. As 
for the difficulty, therefore, attending the supposition of 
a sphere studded with eyes looking at each other, this is 
removed only by supposing the particles of light exceeding 
small relatively to the empty spaces. 

210. Plotinus 2 supposeth that from the sun s light, which 
is corporeal, there springs forth another equivocal light 

Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. in the Commentary of Ficinus ; 
150-152. also Timccus, pp. 45, 55-56. 

See Second Enncad) Lib. I. c. 7, 


which is incorporeal, and as it were the brightness of 
the former. Marcilius Ficinus l also, observing it to be a 
doctrine in the Tiinccus of Plato, that there is an occult 
fire or spirit diffused throughout the universe, intimates 
that this same occult invisible fire or light is, as it were, 
the sight of the mundane soul. And Plotinus in his fourth 
Ennead l sheweth it to be his opinion that the world seeth 
itself and all its parts. The Platonic philosophers do 
wonderfully refine upon light, and soar very high : from 
coal to flame; from flame to light; from this visible light 
to the occult light of the celestial or mundane soul, which 
they supposed to pervade and agitate the substance of the 
universe by its vigorous and expansive motion. 

211. If we may believe Diogenes Laertius", the Pytha 
gorean philosophers thought there was a certain pure heat 
or fire, which had somewhat Divine in it, by the partici 
pation whereof men became allied to the gods. And 
according to the Platonist, heaven is not defined so much 
by its local situation as by its purity. The purest and 
most excellent fire, that is heaven, saith Ficinus 3 . And 
again, the hidden fire that everywhere exerts itself, he 
calls celestial. He represents fire as most powerful and 
active, dividing all things, abhorring all composition or 
mixture with other bodies. And, as soon as it gets free, 
relapsing instantly into the common mass of celestial fire, 
which is everywhere present and latent. 

212. This 4 is the general source of life, spirit, and 
strength, and therefore of health to all animals, who 
constantly receive its illapses clothed in air, through the 
lungs and pores of the body. The same spirit, imprisoned 
in food and medicines, is conveyed into the stomach, the 
bowels, the lacteals, circulated and secreted by the several 
ducts, and distributed throughout the system (sect. 37, 42, 
44). Plato, in his Titnccus*, enumerating the ignited juices, 
names wine in the first place, and tar in the second. But 
wine is pressed from the grape, and fermented by human 
industry. Therefore of all ignited juices purely natural, 
tar or resin must in his account be esteemed the first. 

Lib. V. c. 8. doctrine of Sin s regarding the rc- 

J Diog. Laert. Lib. VIII. p. 585. lations of the invisible Fire to 

3 Ficinus on Second Ennead, Lib. I. animal and vegetable Life. 

1 Sect. 212-219 sum U P the " P. 60. 


213. The vivifying luminous aether exists in all places, 
even the darkest caverns; as is evident from hence, that 
many animals see in those dark places, and that fire may 
be kindled in them by the collision or attrition of bodies. 
It is also known that certain persons have fits of seeing in 
the dark. Tiberius was said 1 to have had this faculty or 
distemper. I myself knew an ingenious man who had 
experienced it several times in himself. And Dr. Willis, 
in his tract De Sangumis Acccnsione, mentions another of 
his own knowledge. This luminous aether or spirit is 
therefore said by Virgil z to nourish or cherish the inner 
most earth, as well as the heavens and celestial bodies. 

1 Principio ccelum ac terras, camposque liquentes, 
Lucentemque globum Lunae, Titaniaque astra 
Spiritus intus alit. 

214. The principles of motion and vegetation in living 
bodies seem to be delibations from the invisible fire or 
spirit of the universe (sect. 43, 157, 164, 171): which 
though present to all things, is not nevertheless one way 
received by all ; but variously imbibed, attracted, and 
secreted, by the fine capillaries, and exquisite strainers in 
the bodies of plants and animals, whereby it becomes 
mixed and detained in their juices. 

215. It hath been thought by some observers of nature 
that the fine glandular vessels admit from the common 
mass of the blood only such juices as are homogeneous to 
those with which they were originally imbued. How they 
came to be so imbued doth not appear. But thus much is 
plain ; that fine tubes attract fluids, that the glands are 
fine tubes, and that they attract very different juices from 
the common mass. The same holds also with regard to 
the capillary vessels of vegetables (sect. 30, 31, 33, 35), it 
being evident that, through the fine strainers in the leaves 
and all over the body of the plant, there be juices or fluids 
of a particular kind drawn in, and separated from the 
common mass of air and light. And that the most elabo 
rate spirit, whereon the character or distinguishing virtue 
and properties of the plant depend, is of a luminous (sect. 
37, 43) and volatile nature, being lost or escaping into air 

1 Suetonius, cap. 68. dEneid, VI. 724-26. 


or aether, from essential oils and odoriferous waters, with 
out any sensible diminution of them. 

216. As different kinds of secreted light or fire produce 
different essences, virtues, or specific properties, so also 
different degrees of heat produce different effects. Thus, 
one degree of heat keeps the blood from coagulating, and 
another degree coagulates the blood. Thus, a more vio 
lent fire hath been observed to set free and carry off that 
very light, which a more moderate fire had introduced 
and fixed in the calcined regulus of antimony. In like 
manner, one kind or quantity of this aethereal fiery spirit 
may be congenial and friendly to the spirits of a man, 
while another may be noxious. 

217. And experience sheweth this to be true \ For, 
the fermented spirit of wine or other liquors produceth 
irregular motions, and subsequent depressions in the 
animal spirits. Whereas the luminous spirit lodged and 
detained in the native balsam of pines and firs is of 
a nature so mild, and benign, and proportioned to the 
human constitution, as to warm without heating, to cheer 
but not inebriate 2 , and to produce a calm and steady joy 
like the effect of good news, without that sinking of spirits 
which is a subsequent effect of all fermented cordials. 
I may add, without all other inconvenience, except that it 
may like any other medicine be taken in too great a 
quantity for [ 8 a nice] stomach. In which case it may be 
right to lessen the dose, or to take it only once in the four 
and twenty hours, empty, going to bed (when it is found 
to be least offensive), or even to suspend the taking of it 
for a time, till nature shall seem to crave it, and rejoice in 
its benign and comfortable spirit. 

218. Tar-water, serving as a vehicle to this spirit, is 
both diuretic and diaphoretic, but seems to work its 

1 The train of thought here So let us welcome peaceful 
(sect. 217-219) returns to the evening in. 

medical and other properties of The Task, Bk. IV. 39. 

tar-water. The coincidence can hardly be 

2 So Cowper accidental. Cowper, born in 1731, 

, was grown up when Sin s was the 

lne cups, rage for its therapeutic novelties 

That cheer but not mebnate, an d proposed Panacea. 

wait on each ; , too nice a -in first edition. 



principal effect by assisting the vis vitce, as an alterative 
and cordial, enabling nature, by an accession of congenial 
spirit, to assimilate that which could not be assimilated by 
her proper force, and so to subdue the fomes morbi. And 
this should seem in most cases the best and safest course. 
Great evacuations weaken nature as well as the disease. 
And it is to be feared that they who use salivations and 
copious bleedings, may, though they should recover of the 
distemper, in their whole life be never able to recover of 
the remedies. 

219. It is true, indeed, that in chronical cases there is 
need of time to complete a cure ; and yet I have known 
this tar-water in disorders of the lungs and stomach to 
prove a very speedy remedy, and to allay the anxiety and 
heat of a fever in an instant, giving ease and spirits to 
the patient. This I have often experienced, not without 
surprise at seeing these salutary effects follow so im 
mediately in a fever on taking a glass of tar-water. Such 
is the force of these active vivifying principles contained 
in this balsam. 

220. Force or power, strictly speaking, is in the Agent 
alone who imparts an equivocal force to the invisible 
elementary fire, or animal spirit of the world (sect. 153, 
156, 157) ; and this to the ignited body or visible flame, 
which produceth the sense of light and heat 1 . In this 
chain the first and last links 2 are allowed to be incorpo 
real : the two intermediate 3 are corporeal, being capable 
of motion, rarefaction, gravity, and other qualities of bodies. 
It is fit to distinguish these things, in order to avoid 
ambiguity concerning the nature of fire. 

221. Sir Isaac Newton, in his Optics 4 , asks, Is not fire 
a body heated so hot as to emit light copiously ? for what 
else, adds he, is a red-hot iron than fire ? Now, it should 

1 In sect. 220-230, Berkeley, cal links in the Universal Chain ; 

criticising Newtonian theories of also Fire from the invisible effects ; 

Light and elastic ^Ether, recalls and the Newtonian from his own 

the pervading thought of his own fiery JEther. 

philosophy its ultimate reference " i. e. the Supreme Agent, and 

of all proper efficiency in the uni- the sentient intelligence, 

verse to living and ever realising 3 i. e. the invisible Fire, and the 

Mind. He distinguishes the spirit- visible flame, 

ual from the corporeal or symboli- 4 Bk. III. Ou. 9. 


seem that to define fire by heat would be to explain a 
thing by itself. A body heated so hot as to emit light 
is an ignited body; that is, hath fire in it, is penetrated 
and agitated by fire, but is not itself fire. And although 
it should in the third foregoing acceptation, or vulgar 
sense ] , pass for fire, yet it is not the pure elementary fire 
(sect. 190) in the second or philosophic sense such as 
was understood by the sages of antiquity, and such as is 
collected in the focus of a burning-glass ; much less is it 
the vis, force, or power of burning, destroying, calcining, 
melting, vitrifying, and raising the perceptions of light and 
heat : this is truly and really in the incorporeal Agent, 
and not in the vital spirit of the universe. Motion, and 
even power in an equivocal sense, may be found in this 
pure sethereal spirit, which ignites bodies, but is not itself 
the ignited body ; being an instrument or medium by 
which the real agent (sect. 160) doth operate on grosser 

222. It hath been shewed in Sir Isaac Newton s Optics 1 , 
that light is not reflected by impinging on bodies, but by 
some other cause. And to him it seems probable that as 
many rays as impinge on the solid parts of bodies are not 
reflected, but stifled and retained in the bodies. And it is 
certain the great porosity of all known bodies affords room 
for much of this light or fire to be lodged therein. Gold 
itself, the most solid of all metals, seems to have far more 
pores than solid parts, from water being pressed through 
it in the Florentine experiment, from magnetic effluvia 
passing, and from mercury entering, its pores so freely. 
And it is admitted that water, though impossible to be 
compressed, hath at least forty times more pores than solid 
parts. And, as acid particles, joined with those of earth 
in certain proportions, are so closely united with them as 
to be quite hid and lost to all appearance, as in mercurhts 
dulcis and common sulphur, so also may we conceive the 
particles of light or fire to be absorbed and latent in 
grosser bodies. 

223. It is the opinion of Sir Isaac Newton that some 
what unknown remains in vacua, when the air is exhausted. 
This unknown medium he calls aether 3 . He supposeth 

1 i. c. as visible flame. 3 In his Letter to Mr. Boyle on 

2 Bk. II. Prop. 8. the Cause of Gravitation (Feb. 28, 

Q 2 


it to be more subtle in its nature, and more swift in its 
motion, than light, freely to pervade all bodies, and by its 
immense elasticity to be expanded throughout all the 
heavens. Its density is supposed greater in free and open 
spaces than within the pores of compact bodies. And in 
passing from the celestial bodies to great distances, it is 
supposed to grow denser and denser continually ; and 
thereby cause those great bodies to gravitate towards one 
another, and their respective parts towards their centres, 
every body endeavouring to pass from the denser parts 
of the medium towards the rarer. 

224. The extreme minuteness of the parts of this 
medium, and the velocity of their motion, together with 
its gravity, density, and elastic force, are thought to qualify 
it for being the cause of all the natural motions in the 
universe. To this cause are ascribed the gravity and 
cohesion of bodies. The refraction of light is also thought 
to proceed from the different density and elastic force of 
this aethereal medium in different places. The vibrations 
of this medium, alternately concurring with, or obstructing 
the motions of the rays of light, are supposed to produce 
the fits of easy reflection and transmission. Light by the 
vibrations of this medium is thought to communicate heat 
to bodies. Animal motion and sensation are also accounted 
for by the vibrating motions of this sethereal medium, 
propagated through the solid capillaments of the nerves. 
In a word, all the phaenomena and properties of bodies, 
that were before attributed to attraction, upon later 
thoughts seem ascribed to this aether, together with the 
various attractions themselves. 

225. But, in the philosophy of Sir Isaac Newton, the 
fits (as they are called) of easy transmission and reflexion 
seem as well accounted for by vibrations excited in bodies 
by the rays of light, and the refraction of light by the 
attraction of bodies. To explain the vibrations of light by 

1679), Newton thus propounds I suppose this JEther pervades all 

his hypothesis of an elastic yther : gross bodies, but yet so as to stand 

And first I suppose there is rarer in their pores than in free 

diffused through all places an places ; and so much the rarer as 

sethereal substance, capable of their pores are less. And this 

contraction or dilation, strongly I suppose to be the cause/ &c. 

elastic ; in a word, much like air (Opera, vol. IV. pp. 384-394). Cf. 

in all respects, but far more subtle. Optics, Bk. III. Qu. 18-23. 


those of a more subtle medium seems an uncouth explica 
tion. And gravity seems not an effect of the density and 
elasticity of aether, but rather to be produced by some 
other cause : which Sir Isaac himself insinuates l to have 
been the opinion even of those ancients who took vacuum, 
atoms, and the gravity of atoms, for the principles of their 
philosophy ; tacitly attributing (as he well observes) gravity 
to some other cause distinct from matter, from atoms, and 
consequently from that homogeneous aether or elastic fluid. 
The elasticity of which fluid is supposed to depend upon, 
to be defined and measured by, its density ; and this by 
the quantity of matter in one particle, multiplied by the 
number of particles contained in a given space ; and the 
quantity of matter in any one particle [ 2 or body of a given 
size] to be determined by its gravity. Should not there 
fore gravity seem the original property and first supposed ? 
On the other hand, if force be considered as prescinded 
from gravity and matter, and as existing only in points or 
centres :! , what can this amount to but an abstract, spiritual, 
incorporeal force ? 

226. It doth not seem necessary, from the phaenomena, 
to suppose any medium more active and subtle than light 
or fire. Light being allowed to move at the rate of about 
ten millions of miles in a minute, what occasion is there to 
conceive another medium of still smaller and more move- 
able parts ? Light or fire seems the same with aether. 
So the ancients understood, and so the Greek word implies. 
It pervades all things (sect. 157), is everywhere present. 
And this same subtle medium, according to its various 
quantities, motions, and determinations, sheweth itself in 
different effects or appearances, and is aether, light, or fire. 

227. The particles of aether fly asunder with the greatest 
force ; therefore when united they must (according to the 
Newtonian doctrine) attract each other with the greatest 
force; therefore they are acids, or constitute the acid 
(sect. 130) ; but this united with earthy parts maketh alkali, 
as Sir Isaac teacheth in his tract De Acido* : alkali, as 

1 Optics, Bk. III. Qu. 28. See The World Dynamical and Im- 
also Clarke s Fifth Reply to Leibniz. material (1868), by R. S. Wyld. 

2 In the early editions. * Newton, DC Natura Acidonim. 

3 As in Boscovich s theory, and See sect. 126, note 2. 
in some recent speculations, e. g. 


appears in cantharides and lixivial salts, is a caustic ; 
caustics are fire ; therefore acid is fire ; therefore aether 
is fire ; and if fire, light. We are not therefore obliged 
to admit a new medium distinct from light, and of a finer 
and more exquisite substance, for the explication of phse- 
nomena which appear to be as well explained without it. 
How can the density or elasticity of aether account for 
the rapid flight of a ray of light from the sun, still swifter 
as it goes farther from the sun ? Or how can it account 
for the various motions and attractions of different bodies ? 
Why oil and water, mercury and iron, repel, or why other 
bodies attract each other ? Or why a particle of light 
should repel on one side and attract on the other, as in 
the case of the Islandic crystal? To explain cohesion by 
hamate atoms is accounted ignotum per ignotius. And is 
it not as much so to account for the gravity of bodies by 
the elasticity of aether ? 

228. It is one thing to arrive at general laws of nature 
from a contemplation of the phaenomena ; and another 
to frame an hypothesis, and from thence deduce the 
phaenomena. Those who suppose epicycles, and by them 
explain the motions and appearances of the planets, may 
not therefore be thought to have discovered principles 
true in fact and nature. And, albeit we may from the 
premises infer a conclusion, it will not follow that we can 
argue reciprocally, and from the conclusion infer the 
premises. For instance, supposing an elastic fluid, whose 
constituent minute particles are equidistant from each 
other, and of equal densities and diameters, and recede 
one from another with a centrifugal force which is inversely 
as the distance of the centres ; and admitting that from 
such supposition it must follow that the density and elastic 
force of such fluid are in the inverse proportion of the 
space it occupies when compressed by any force ; yet we 
cannot reciprocally infer that a fluid endued with this 
property must therefore consist of such supposed equal 
particles : for it would then follow that the constituent 
particles of air were of equal densities and diameters ; 
whereas it is certain .that air is an heterogeneous mass, 
containing in its composition an infinite variety of ex 
halations, from the different bodies which make up this 
terraqueous globe. 


229. The phenomena of light, animal spirit, muscular 
motion, fermentation, vegetation, and other natural opera 
tions, seem to require nothing more than the intellectual 
and artificial fire of Heraclitus, Hippocrates, the Stoics 
(sect. 166, 168), and other ancients. Intellect, superadded 
to aethereal spirit, fire, or light, moves, and moves regu 
larly ; proceeding in a method, as the Stoics, or increasing 
and diminishing by measure, as Heraclitus expressed it. 
The Stoics held that fire comprehended and included the 
spermatic reasons or forms (Aoyovs o-Trep^aTtKovs) of all natural 
things. As the forms of things have their ideal existence 
in the intellect, so it should seem that seminal principles 
have their natural existence in the light (sect. 164); 
a medium consisting of heterogeneous parts, differing 
from each other in divers qualities that appear to sense, 
and not improbably having many original properties, 
attractions, repulsions, and motions, the laws and natures 
whereof are indiscernible to us, otherwise than in their 
remote effects. And this animated heterogeneous fire 
should seem a more adequate cause, whereby to explain 
the phoenomena of nature, than one uniform sethereal 

230. Aristotle, indeed, excepts against the elements being 
animated. Yet nothing hinders why that power of the 
soul styled by him Kivr/riKr/, or locomotive , may not reside 
therein, under the direction of an Intellect, in such sense 
and as properly as it is said to reside in animal bodies. 
It must nevertheless be owned, that albeit that philosopher 
acknowledgeth a Divine force or energy in fire, yet to say 
that fire is alive, or that having a soul it should not be 
alive, seem to him equally absurd. See his second book 
DC Partibus Animaliuni 2 . 

231. 3 The laws of attraction and repulsion are to be 

1 Cf. sect. 153. be identified with the Life to which 

2 Cap. 3. See also the De Anima, animal motion is referred. 
Lib. I. c. 5, where Aristotle seems 

to reject the supposition (adopted 3 Sect. 231-54 reject the cor- 

partly to explain perception) that puscularian. or mechanical, concep- 

the principle of Life (^UXTJ) s dif- t 011 f attraction, as well as the 

fused through the universe ; or at Newtonian hypothesis of an elastic 

least to deny that if an animated ^Ether (insufficient even as a phy- 

Fireor Air were so diffused, it could sical explanation), as no ultimate 


regarded as laws of motion ; and these only as rules or 
methods observed in the productions of natural effects, the 
efficient and final causes whereof are not of mechanical 
consideration. Certainly, if the explaining a phenomenon 
be to assign its proper efficient and final cause (sect. 
Z 54> I 55. l6o ) it should seem the mechanical philosophers 
never explained any thing ; their province being only 
to discover the laws of nature, that is, the general rules 
and methods of motion ; and to account for particular 
phaenomena by reducing them under, or shewing their 
conformity to, such general rules. 

232. Some corpuscularian philosophers of the last age 
have indeed attempted to explain the formation of this 
world and its phaenomena by a few simple laws of 
mechanism. But, if we consider the various productions 
of nature, in the mineral, vegetable, and animal parts of 
the creation, I believe we shall see cause to affirm, that 
not any one of them has hitherto been, or can be, accounted 
for, on principles merely mechanical ; and that nothing 
could be more vain and imaginary than to suppose with 
Descartes, that merely from [ a circular motion s] being 
impressed by the Supreme Agent on the particles of 
extended substance, the whole world, with all its several 
parts, appurtenances, and phaenomena, might be produced, 
by a necessary consequence, from the laws of motion. 

233. Others suppose that God did more at the be 
ginning ; having then made the seeds of all vegetables and 
animals, containing their solid organical parts in miniature, 
the gradual filling and evolution " of which, by the influx 

account of Nature ; inasmuch as no sign), first to assume, and then 

being perceived, and being moved by to try to bridge over, a chasm be- 

spiritual agency, are two necessary tween Divine Reason or Will and 

implicates of concrete reality. the data of the senses. 
Berkeley, like Plato, recognises Circular motions in the 

Mind as Agent in all motion ; first edition. He alludes to the 

but he does not attribute motion vortices of Descartes ; which that 

to mind. Like Plato, too, in the philosopher held conjoined with 

Timceus, he distinguishes vital Fire, faith inconstant Divine causation 

and universally animating Soul, not a pre-established harmony, 
from Supreme Eternal Mind. The 2 evolution, !, e. divinely regu- 

interpolated medium, like the lated evolution, the conception of 

Plastic Nature of Cudworth, may which is in harmony with the philo- 

be due to a tendency (of which in sophy involved in Sin s. 
his early writings Berkeley shews 


of proper juices, doth constitute the generation and growth 
of a living body. So that the artificial structure of plants 
and animals daily generated requires no present exercise 
of art to produce it, having been already framed at the 
origin of the world, which with all its parts hath ever since 
subsisted ; going like a clock or machine by itself, accord 
ing to the laws of nature, without the immediate hand of 
the artist . But how can this hypothesis explain the 
blended features of different species in mules and other 
mongrels ? or the parts added or changed, and sometimes 
whole limbs lost, by marking in the womb ? or how can it 
account for the resurrection of a tree from its stump, or 
the vegetative power in its cuttings ? in which cases we 
must necessarily conceive something more than the mere 
evolution of a seed. 

234. Mechanical laws of nature or motion direct us how 
to act, and teach us what to expect. Where intellect 
presides there will be method and order, and therefore 
rules, which if not stated and constant would cease to be 
rules. There is therefore a constancy in things, which is 
styled the Course of Nature 2 (sect. 160). All the phaeno- 
mena in nature are produced by motion :! . There appears 
an uniform working in things great and small, by attracting 
and repelling forces. But the particular laws of attraction 
and repulsion are various. Nor are we concerned at all 
about the forces, neither can we know or measure them 
otherwise than by their effects, that is to say, the motions ; 
which motions only, and not the forces, are indeed in the 
bodies (sect. 155). Bodies are moved to or from each 
other, and this is performed according to different laws. 
The natural or mechanic philosopher endeavours to dis- 

1 As in Leibniz s theory of an - Faith or trust in the absolute 

original Providence, instead of supremacy of Active Reason in 

a constant Providence. See the the universe explains our disposi- 

Colledion of Papers between Leib- tion to presuppose the constancy 

niz and Samuel Clarke (pp. 4, 26- of natural order. The working 

34, &c., which seems to be here force exemplified in the laws of 

in Berkeley s eye). So, too, in the material world is accordingly 

recent theories of cosmical evolu- divine, and nature is potentially 

tion. Perhaps the question, which supernatural. 

concerns the relations of the Uni- 3 i. e. are, sensibly considered, 

versal Mind to time and change, resolvable into laws of motion, 

is indeterminable by human intelli- exemplified in the data of sense, 


cover those laws by experiment and reasoning. But what 
is said of forces residing in bodies, whether attracting or 
repelling, is to be regarded only as a mathematical hypo 
thesis, and not as any thing really existing in nature 1 . 

235. We are not therefore seriously to suppose, with 
certain mechanic philosophers, that the minute particles 
of bodies have real forces or powers, by which they act on 
each other, to produce the various phaenomena in nature. 
The minute corpuscles are impelled and directed, that is 
to say, moved to and from each other, according to various 
rules or laws of motion. The laws of gravity, magnetism, 
and electricity are divers. And it is not known what other 
different rules or laws of motion might be established by 
the Author of nature. Some bodies approach together, 
others fly asunder, and perhaps some others do neither. 
When salt of tartar flows per dcliquium, it is visible that 
the particles of water floating in the air are moved towards 
the particles of salt, and joined with them. And when 
we behold vulgar salt not to flow per dcliquium, may we 
not conclude that the same law of nature and motion doth 
not obtain between its particles and those of the floating 
vapours ? A drop of water assumes a round figure, 
because its parts are moved towards each other. But the 
particles of oil and vinegar have no such disposition to 
unite. And when flies walk in water, without wetting their 
feet, it is attributed to a repelling force or faculty in the 
flies feet. But this is obscure, though the phsenomenon 
be plain ~. 

236. It is not improbable, and seems not unsupported 
by experiments, that, as in algebra, where positive quan 
tities cease there negative begin, even so in mechanics, 
where attracting forces cease there repelling forces begin : 
or (to express it more properly) where bodies cease to be 

1 Cf. De Motu, sect. 67-70. 2 The so-called arbitrariness of 

Even if all changes in nature could the existing constitution of visi- 

be resolved by us under their natural ble nature means its dependence, 

laws of motion, the laws would be not on caprice, but on perfectly 

only effects, not the responsible reasonable Will. It implies the 

Cause. The Active Reason that ultimate dependence of the physi- 

is omnipresent in all the laws of cal world upon the moral world, 

motions cannot be an effect of the and so the ethical root of the 

motions themselves in which it is Whole, 


moved towards, they begin to be moved from each other. 
This Sir Isaac Newton infers from the production of air 
and vapours, whose particles fly asunder with such vehe 
ment force. We behold iron move towards the loadstone, 
straws towards amber, heavy bodies towards the earth. 
The laws of these motions are various. And when it is 
said that all the motions and changes in the great world 
arise from attraction the elasticity of the air, the motion 
of water, the descent of heavy, and the ascent of light 
bodies, being all ascribed to the same principle ; when 
from insensible attractions of most minute particles at the 
smallest distance are derived cohesion, dissolution, coagu 
lation, animal secretion, fermentation, and all chemical 
operations ; and when it is said that without such principles 
there never would have been any motion in the world, and 
without the continuance thereof all motion would cease ; 
in all this we know or understand no more than that 
bodies are moved according to a certain order, and that 
they do not move themselves. 

237. So likewise, how to explain all those various motions 
and effects, by the density and elasticity of aether, seems 
incomprehensible (sect. 153, 162). For instance, why 
should the acid particles draw those of water and repel 
each other? Why should some salts attract vapours in 
the air, and others not ? Why should the particles of 
common salt repel each other, so as not to subside in 
water? Why should the most repellent particles be the 
most attractive upon contact ? Or why should the repel 
lent begin where the attractive faculty leaves off? These, 
and numberless other effects, seem inexplicable on mechan 
ical principles ; or otherwise than by recourse to a mind 
or spiritual agent (sect. 154, 220). Nor will it suffice from 
present phaenomena and effects, through a chain of natural 
causes and subordinate blind agents, to trace a Divine 
Intellect as the remote 1 original cause, that first created 
the world, and then set it a going. We cannot make even 
one single step in accounting for the phaenomena, without 
admitting the immediate presence and immediate action of 
an incorporeal agent, who connects, moves, and disposes 

1 Cf. the Vindication of the New manifested continuous Divine Pro- 
Theoty of Vision, which is charged vidence, as contrasted with Epi- 
with the conception of a sensibly curean agnosticism. 


all things, according to such rules, and for such purposes, 
as seem good to him . 

238. It is an old opinion, adopted by the moderns, that 
the elements and other natural bodies are changed each 
into other (sect. 148). Now, as the particles of different 
bodies are agitated by different forces, attracting and 
repelling, or, to speak more accurately, are moved by 
different laws, how can these forces or laws be changed, 
and this change accounted for by an elastic aether ? Such 
a medium distinct from light or fire seemeth not to be 
made out by any proof, nor to be of any use in explaining 
the phaenomena. But if there be any medium employed, 
as a subordinate cause or instrument in attraction, it would 
rather seem to be light (sect. 152, 156) ; since, by an 
experiment of Mr. Boyle s 2 , amber, that shewed no sign 
of attraction in the shade, being placed where the sun 
beams shone upon it, immediately attracted light bodies. 
Besides, it hath been discovered by Sir Isaac Newton 3 , 
and an admirable discovery it was, that light is an hetero 
geneous medium, consisting of particles endued with 
original distinct properties (sect. 40, 181). And upon 
these, if I may venture to give my conjectures, it seemeth 
probable the specific properties of bodies, and the force 
of specific medicines, may depend 4 . Different sides of the 
same ray shall, one approach and the other recede from 
the Islandic crystal ; can this be accounted for by the 
elasticity of a fine medium, or by the general laws of 
motion, or by any mechanical principles whatever ? And 
if not, what should hinder but there may be specific 
medicines, whose operation depends not upon mechanical 
principles, how much soever that notion hath been exploded 
of late years ? 

239. Why may we not suppose certain idiosyncrasies, 
sympathies, oppositions, in the solids, or fluids, or animal 
spirit of a human body, with regard to the fine insensible 

1 No originating or responsi- p. 265. 

ble causes are found among 3 Sec Optics, Bk. I. Prop. 4. 

the passive data of the senses. * i. e. as their ultimate physical 

There is implied the agency of the cause or natural sign. He takes 

Universal Power, and also of indivi- Fire or Light, for these reasons, as 

dual persons, who are free to do scientifically preferable to elastic 

evil. aether. Cf. sect. 217-219. 

2 Sec Boyle s Works, vol. V. 


parts of minerals or vegetables, impregnated by rays of 
light of different properties ; not depending on the different 
size, figure, number, solidity, or weight of those particles, 
nor on the general laws of motion, nor on the density or 
elasticity of a medium, but merely and altogether on the 
good pleasure of the Creator, in the original formation of 
things? From whence divers unaccountable and unfore 
seen motions may arise in the animal economy ; from 
whence also various peculiar and specific virtues may be 
conceived to arise, residing in certain medicines, and not 
to be explained by mechanical principles. For, although 
the general known laws of motion are to be deemed 
mechanical, yet peculiar motions of the insensible parts, 
and peculiar properties depending thereon, are occult and 

240. The words attraction and repulsion may, in compli 
ance with custom, be used where, accurately speaking, 
motion alone is meant. And in that sense it may be said 
that peculiar attractions or repulsions in the parts are 
attended with specific properties in the whole. The par 
ticles of light are vehemently moved to or from, retained, 
or rejected by, objects : which is the same thing as to say, 
with Sir Isaac Newton, that the particles of acids are 
endued with great attractive force (sect. 202), wherein their 
activity consists ; whence fermentation and dissolution ; 
and that the most repellent are, upon contact, the most 
attracting particles. 

241. Gravity and fermentation are received for two most 
extensive principles. From fermentation are derived the 
motion and warmth of the heart and blood in animals, 
subterraneous heat, fires, and earthquakes, meteors, and 
changes in the atmosphere. And that attracting and re 
pelling forces operate in the nutrition and dissolution of 
animal and vegetable bodies is the doctrine both of Hippo 
crates and Sir Isaac Newton. The former of these 
celebrated authors, in his Treatise concerning Diet or 
Regimen , observes that in the nourishment of man, one 
part repels and another attracts. And again in the same 
Treatise 2 , two carpenters, saith he, saw a piece of timber : 
one draws, the other pushes : these two actions tend to one 

Opera, vol. I. p. 636 (ed. Lips. 1825). 2 Ibid. p. 642. 


and the same end, though in a contrary direction, one up, 
the other down : this imitates the nature of man : -n-ve^a 
TO fjiev eX/cei TO Se a>$eet. 

242. It is the general maxim of Hippocrates, that the 
manner wherein nature acts consisteth in attracting what 
is meet and good, and in repelling what is disagreeable or 
hurtful. He makes the whole of the animal economy to 
be administered by the faculties or powers of nature. 
Nature alone, saith he, sufficeth for all things to animals. 
She knows of herself what is necessary for them. Whence 
it is plain he means a conscious intelligent Nature, that 
presides and moves the aethereal spirit. And though he 
declares all things are accomplished on man by necessity, 
yet it is not a blind fate, or chain of mere corporeal causes, 
but a Divine Necessity, as he himself expressly calls it 1 . 
And what is this but an overruling Intelligent Power that 
disposeth of all things ? 

243. Attraction cannot produce, and in that sense account 
for, the phenomena, being itself one of the phaenomena 
produced and to be accounted for (sect. 160, 235). Attrac 
tion is performed by different laws, and cannot therefore 
in all cases be the effect of the elasticity of one uniform 
medium. The phaenomena of electrical bodies, the laws 
and variations of magnetism, and, not to mention other 
kinds, even gravity, are not explained by elasticity, a phae- 
nomenon not less obscure than itself. But then, although 
it shew not the Agent, yet it sheweth a rule and analogy in 
nature, to say, that the solid parts of animals are endued 
with attractive powers whereby from contiguous fluids 
they draw like to like ; and that glands have peculiar 
powers attractive of peculiar juices (sect. 41). Nature 
seems better known and explained ~ by attractions and 
repulsions, than by those other mechanical principles of 
size, figure, and the like; that is, by Sir Isaac Newton, 
than Descartes. And natural philosophers excel, as they 

1 Opera, I. pp. 639-41 ; also Lib. IV. c. 5, and the Ps. De 

p. 633. This notion of a divine Mundo, c. 6. 

necessity (dvayxr) 0eta), distin- 2 i. e. in a merely physical ex- 

guished from blind fate, was com- planation ; which gives, not causa- 

mon among the Greeks. See tion proper, but only signs and 

e. g. Plato, Tz m&HS, pp. 47, 48 ; their significations, or, as we say, 

Ps.-Plutarch, De Placit. Pht los. Lib. natural laws. 
I. c. 25, 26. Cf. Arist. Metaph. 


are more or less acquainted with the laws and methods 
observed by the Author of nature 1 . 

244. The size and shape of particles and general laws 
of motion can never explain the secretions, without the 
help of attraction, obscure perhaps as to its cause, but 
clear as a law. Numberless instances of this might be 
given. Lemery the younger 2 thought himself obliged to 
suppose the particles of light or fire (contrary to all reason) 
to be of a very gross kind, even greater than the pores 
of the burnt limestone, in order to account for their being 
detained or imprisoned therein ; but this phsenomenon 
is easily reduced to attraction. There would be no end 
of enumerating the like cases. The activity and force of 
cethereal spirit or fire, by the laws of attraction, is imparted 
to grosser particles (sect. 152, 163), and thereby wonder 
fully supports the economy of living bodies. By such 
peculiar compositions and attractions, it seems to be 
effected that denser fluids can pass where air itself cannot 
(as oil through leather), and therefore through the nicest 
and finest strainers of an animal or vegetable. 

245. The ancients had some general conception of 
attracting and repelling powers (sect. 241, 242) as natural 
principles. Galilaei had particularly considered the attrac 
tion of gravity, and made some discovery of the laws 
thereof. But Sir Isaac Newton, by his singular penetra 
tion, profound knowledge in geometry and mechanics, and 
great exactness in experiments, hath cast a new light on 
natural science. The laws of attraction and repulsion 
were in many instances discovered, and first discovered, 
by him. He shewed their general extent ; and therewith, 
as with a key, opened several deep secrets of nature, in 
the knowledge whereof he seems to have made a greater 
progress than all the sects of corpuscularians together 

1 This is to empty the mate- professor of chemistry in Paris, 
rial world of its imagined forces, He maintained that Fire not only 
which cannot be distinguished by pervades sensible things, as their 
our senses from the ordered events absolute and ingenerable element, 
that are presented to them. It is but that it is diffused through their 
a refunding of the whole sense- insensible interstices and through 
presentable procession into implied space. He made contributions to 
Active Reason at its root, as its the Memoirs of the Academy, and, 
immanent Cause. like his father, is distinguished in 

2 Physician of Louis XV, and the annals of French chemistry. 


had done before him. Nevertheless, the principle of attrac 
tion itself is not to be explained by physical or corporeal 

246. The Cartesians attempted to explain it by the nisus 
of a subtle element, receding from the centre of its motion, 
and impelling grosser bodies towards it. Sir Isaac Newton 
in his later thoughts seems (as was before observed) to 
have adopted somewhat not altogether foreign from this 
notion, ascribing that to his elastic medium (sect. 237, 
238) which Descartes did to his second element. But the 
great men of antiquity resolved gravity into the immediate 
action of an intelligent incorporeal being 1 . To which also 
Sir Isaac Newton himself attests and subscribes : although 
he may perhaps sometimes be thought to forget himself, 
in his manner of speaking of physical agents, which in 
a strict sense are none at all ; and in supposing real forces 
to exist in bodies, in which, to speak truly, attraction and 
repulsion should be considered only as tendencies or 
motions, that is, as mere effects, and their laws as laws 
of motion. 

247. Though it be supposed the chief business of a 
natural philosopher to trace out causes from the effects, 
yet this is to be understood not of agents (sect. 155), but 
of principles ; that is, of component parts, in one sense, 
or of laws or rules, in another. In strict truth, all agents 
are incorporeal ; and as such are not properly of physical 
consideration. The astronomer, therefore, the mechanic, 
or the chemist, not as such, but by accident only, treat of 
real causes, agents, or efficients. Neither doth it seem, 
as is supposed by the greatest of mechanical philosophers, 
that the true way of proceeding in their science is, from 
known motions in nature to investigate the moving forces. 
Forasmuch as force is neither corporeal, nor belongs to 
any corporeal thing (sect. 220) ; nor yet to be discovered 
by experiments or mathematical reasonings, which reach 
no farther than discernible effects, and motions in things 
passive and moved. 

248. Vis or force is to the soul what extension is to the 
body, saith St. Augustin, in his tract concerning the 
Quantity of the Soul 2 ; and without force there is nothing 

1 Cf. De Motn, sect. 32. &c. The essential passivity of the 

" De Quantitate Aitimce, c. 4, material world is the constant re- 


done or made, and consequently there can be no agent. 
Authority is not to decide in this case. Let any one 
consult his own notions and reason, as well as experience, 
concerning the origin of motion, and the respective na 
tures, properties, and differences of soul and body, and 
he will, if I mistake not, evidently perceive, that there is 
nothing active in the latter 1 . Nor are they natural agents 
or corporeal forces which make the particles of bodies 
to cohere. Nor is it the business of experimental philo 
sophers to find them out. 

249. The mechanical philosopher, as hath been already 
observed, inquires properly concerning the rules and 
modes of operation alone, and not concerning the cause ; 
forasmuch as nothing mechanical is or really can be 
a cause (sect. 236, 247). And although a mechanical or 
mathematical philosopher may speak of absolute space, 
absolute motion"; and offeree as existing in bodies, causing 
such motion, and proportional thereto 3 ; yet what these 
forces are, which are supposed to be lodged in bodies, to 
be impressed on bodies, to be multiplied, divided, and 
communicated from one body to another, and which seem 
to animate bodies like abstract spirits, or souls, hath 
been found very difficult, not to say impossible, for think 
ing men to conceive and explain ; as may be seen by con 
sulting Borellus De Vi Pcrcussiom s, and Torricelli in his 
Lczioni Acadcmichc, among other authors 4 . 

250. Nor, if we consider the proclivity of mankind to 
realise their notions 5 , will it seem strange that mechanic 
philosophers and geometricians should, like other men, 
be misled by prejudice, and take mathematical hypotheses 

frain of Berkeley in all his works. 3 True causation being, with 

It is the foundation of his dis- Berkeley, alien to sensible things, 

tinction between ideas (or data and found only in minds, on whose 

of sense) and persons between perceptions the concrete reality 

things (whose csse is percipf) and of sensible things depends, 

agents in a word, between my- * [This subject is handled at 

self and Not-myself. large in my Latin tract De Motu. ] 

1 This account of the origin of AUTHOR. 

motion is the leading conclusion in 5 realise their notions, i. e. by 

the DC Motu. supposing that abstract notions of 

" Absolute space and motion, i. c. natural philosophy, such as force 

space and motion infinite in quan- or power, can be pictured in sen* 

tity, and not necessarily realised in suous imagination, 
percipient intelligence. 



for real beings existing in bodies, so far as even to make it 
the very aim and end of their science to compute or 
measure those phantoms ; whereas it is very certain that 
nothing in truth can be measured or computed, besides 
the very effects or motions themselves. Sir Isaac Newton 
asks, Have not the minute particles of bodies certain 
forces or powers by which they act on one another, as 
well as on the particles of light, for producing most of the 
phenomena in nature? But, in reality, those minute 
particles are only agitated according to certain laws of 
nature, by some other agent, wherein the force exists and 
not in them, which have only the motion ; which motion 
in the body moved, the Peripatetics rightly judge to be 
a mere passion ; but in the mover to be ei/epyeta or act. 

251. - It passeth with many, I know not how, that 
mechanical principles give a clear solution of the phaeno- 
mena. The Democritic hypothesis, saith Dr. Cudworth :! , 
doth much more handsomely and intelligibly solve the 
phsenomena, than that of Aristotle and Plato 4 . But, things 
rightly considered, perhaps it will be found not to solve 
any phsenomenon at all : for all phaenomena 5 are, to speak 

1 Optics, Bk. III. Qu. 31. hypothesis doth much more hand 

somely and intelligibly solve the 

2 Sect. 251-264 present, in a corporeal phaenomena, yet in all 
condensed form, what, with Berke- other things which are of far the 
ley, everywhere in his writings, is greater moment, it is rather a mad- 
the true philosophy of the physical ness than a Philosophy. Cud- 
universe ; according to which all worth s Intellectual System, Bk. I. 
data of sense, coexisting and sue- ch. r. sect. 45. The ancient lore 
cessive, are regarded as a Divine collected in the Intellectual System 
Language connected, not as pro- may be compared with that col- 
per causes and effects, but as signs lected in Sins. The intense re- 
and things signified. His philo- cognition of the divinity of natural 
sophy virtually assumes, without law, which distinguishes Siris, 
explaining, the legitimacy of our suggests Berkeley s favourite 
faith in constant natural order. Hooker. 

3 The passage is as follows : * For the hypothesis of Aris- 
The whole Aristotelical system totle and Plato, cf. sect. 266,311-19. 
of philosophy is infinitely to be Phsenomena, throughout Siris, 
preferred before the whole Demo- correspond to the ideas of sense 
critical ; though the former hath in the Principles. These are not 
been so much disparaged, and the perceptions, although their con- 
other cried up of late amongst crete reality depends upon their 
us. Because, though it cannot being perceived. They are that of 
be denied but that the Democritic which a soul or mind must be per- 


truly, appearances in the soul or mind ; and it hath never 
been explained, nor can it be explained, how external 
bodies, figures, and motions, should produce an appearance 
in the mind. These principles, therefore, do not solve, 
if by solving is meant assigning the real, either efficient 
or final, cause of appearances ; but only reduce them to 
general rules. 

252. There is a certain analogy, constancy, and uni 
formity in the phaenomena or appearances of nature, which 
are a foundation for general rules : and these are a gram 
mar for the understanding of nature, or that series of 
effects in the visible world whereby we are enabled to 
foresee what will come to pass in the natural course of 
things 2 . Plotinus observes, in his third Ennead, that 
the art of presaging is in some sort the reading of natural 
letters denoting order, and that so far forth as analogy 
obtains in the universe, there may be vaticination 3 . And 
in reality, he that foretells the motions of the planets, or 
the effects of medicines, or the results of chemical or 
mechanical experiments, may be said to do it by natural 
vaticination 4 . 

cipient, to make them real, but they 
do not depend on my mind. Phce- 
nomcnon, with this connotation, is 
a prominent term in Siris, and, for 
this reason, I have, in the text and 
in references, retained Berkeley s 

1 Their realisation, that is to say, 
involves the percipient experience 
of a living spirit. 

J Sight is accordingly foresight, 
and the sense-symbolism of nature 
is charged with natural predictions, 
which physical science interprets 
when it discovers natural laws. 

J Lib. III. c. 6. The original 
of this remarkable passage, which 
anticipates, and puts on a philoso 
phic basis, the modern conception of 
scientific prevision, is as follows : 
Kai yap ov TOV /jdvreoas TO SIOTI, 
dAAa TO on fjiuvov (iTretv, KCLI 17 Tf\i>i], 
dvd-fVUffts <pvaixuiv ~fpanfj.a.TOJV nai 
Tdii> drjhovvTcav, KCU oufayuoG irpui 


tpavfjvai, otos (Kaaros, Kai oaa. . 

TO. d AAa TO; TtTTjprjKuTi, tirtt ical at 
aAAai / TiKai TO) dva^uyw ....... 

Et Toivvv dva\oyia tv TO) iravri, ai 
irpofi-neiv tvt, &c. This is ac 
cording to the text of Creuzer. 
Plotinus treats sense-perceptions 
as obscure intuitions of that super 
sensible world of Absolute Reason 
in which obscurity disappears. 
Sometimes indeed he seems to 
divorce the former, as illusory and 
phantasmic, from true Intellectual 

4 The modern logic of physical 
induction is condensed in this and 
some following sections, which 
point to the metaphysical presup 
position at its foundation. 

R 2 


253. We know a thing when we understand it ; and we 
understand it when we can interpret or tell what it signifies 1 . 
Strictly, the sense knows nothing 2 . We perceive indeed 
sounds by hearing, and characters by sight. But we are 
not therefore said to understand them. After the same 
manner, the phsenomena of nature are alike visible to all : 
but all have not alike learned the connexion of natural 
things, or understand what they signify, or know how to 
vaticinate by them. There is no question, saith Socrates 
in Theaeteto ", concerning that which is agreeable to each 
person ; but concerning what will in time to come be 
agreeable, of which all men are not equally judges. He 
who foreknoweth what will be in every kind is the wisest. 
According to Socrates, you and the cook may judge of 
a dish on the table equally well ; but while the dish is 
making, the cook can better foretell what will ensue from 
this or that manner of composing it. Nor is this manner 
of reasoning confined only to morals or politics, but 
extends also to natural science. 

254. As the natural connexion of signs with the things 
signified is regular and constant, it forms a sort of rational 
discourse (sect. 152), and is therefore the immediate 
effect of an Intelligent Cause. This is agreeable to the 
philosophy of Plato, and other ancients. Plotinus 4 indeed 
saith, that which acts naturally is not intellection, but a 
certain power of moving matter, which doth not know but 
only do. And it must be owned that, as faculties are 
multiplied by philosophers according to their operations, 
the will may be distinguished from the intellect. But it 
will not therefore follow that the Will which operates 

1 To interpret anything fully is then be no such thing as absolute 
to shew all its relations to every truth or knowledge. But that hypo- 
natural thing and person in the thesis contradicts itself. For that 
universe; which implies Omni- which pronounceth that the sensible 
science. Hence all human inter- ideas of things are phantastical and 
pretation of concrete reality is a relative, must itself be something 
venture of faith in the goodness of superior to Sense, and able to 
the Universal Power. judge what really and absolutely 

Sense, says Cudworth, can- is and is not. (Eternal and Inimu- 

not be the knowledge which com- table Morality?) 

prehends a thing as it is. If Sense 3 P. 178. 

had [implied] no other power but * See the Fourth Entiead, Bk. IV. 

this of passion or sensation (as c. 13 ; also Second Enncad, Bk. III. 

Protagoras supposeth), there could c. 17. 


in the course of nature is not conducted and applied by 
intellect, although it be granted that neither will under 
stands, nor intellect wills. Therefore, the phaenomena of 
nature, which strike on the senses and are understood by 
the mind, do form not only a magnificent spectacle, but 
also a most coherent, entertaining, and instructive Dis 
course ; and to effect this, they are conducted, adjusted, 
and ranged by the greatest wisdom. This Language or 
Discourse is studied with different attention, and inter 
preted with different degrees of skill. But so far as men 
have studied and remarked its rules, and can interpret 
right, so far they may be said to be knowing in nature. 
A beast is like a man who hears a strange tongue but 
understands nothing \ 

255. Nature, saith the learned Doctor Cudworth 2 , is 
not master of art or wisdom : nature is ratio mersa ct 
confusa ; reason immersed and plunged into matter, and 
as it were fuddled in it and confounded with it. But the 
formation of plants and animals, the motions of natural 
bodies, their various properties, appearances, and vicissi 
tudes, in a word, the whole series of things in this visible 
world, which we call the Course of Nature, is so wisely 
managed and carried on that the most improved human 
reason cannot thoroughly comprehend even the least 
particle thereof; so far is it from seeming to be produced 
by fuddled or confounded reason 3 . 

256. Natural productions, it is true, are not all equally 
perfect. But neither doth it suit with the order of things, 
the structure of the universe, or the ends of Providence, 
that they should be so. General rules, we have seen 
(sect. 249, 252), are necessary to make the world intelli 
gible : and from the constant observations of such rules, 

1 This is an application of Bcrkc- the sentences introduced in Alci- 

ley s conception of Visible signs pliron, Dial. IV. sect. 12, in the third 

to sensible signs of every kind edition. 

existing permanently only in and 2 See Intellectual System, Bk. I. 

through Divine Action which they ch. 3. n, where Cudworth is 

express; but, where imperfectly referring to his plastic nature, 

understood (as by men), in only and apparently with some expres- 

an imperfect or blurred reality. sions of Plotinus in view. Divine, 

Bacon s conception of the inter- or perfect knowledge, he calls 

prctability of Nature so far agrees unbodied Reason. 

with this. For Berkeley, compare 3 See sect. 253, note i. 


natural evils will sometimes unavoidably ensue : things 
will be produced in a slow length of time, and arrive at 
different degrees of perfection. 

257. It must be owned we are not conscious of the 
systole and diastole of the heart, or the motion of the 
diaphragm. It may not nevertheless be thence inferred, 
that unknowing nature can act regularly, as well as 
ourselves. The true inference is that the self-thinking 
individual, or human person, is not the real author of 
those natural motions. And, in fact, no man blames him 
self if they are wrong, or values himself if they are right 1 . 
The same may be said of the fingers of a musician, which 
some object to be moved by habit which understands not; 
it being evident that what is done by rule must proceed 
from something that understands the rule ; therefore, it 
not from the musician himself, from some other Active 
Intelligence, the same perhaps which governs bees and 
spiders, and moves the limbs of those who walk in their 
sleep 2 . 

258. Instruments, occasions, and signs (sect. 160) occur 
in, or rather make up, the whole visible Course of Nature. 
These, being no agents themselves, are under the direction 
of One Agent concerting all for one end, the Supreme Good. 
All those motions, whether in animal bodies, or in other 
parts of the system of nature, which are not effects of 
particular wills, seem to spring from the same general 
cause with the vegetation of plants an sethereal spirit 
actuated by a Mind. 

259. The first poets and theologers of Greece and the 
East considered the generation of things as ascribed 

1 His own free voluntary agency 2 Cf. sect. 277. So in Cudvvorth, 

is thus, with Berkeley, the mea- Intellectual System, Bk. I. ch. 3. 

sure of the agency for which each sect. 12-14. This suggests a vein 

person is responsible. Ethical of speculation in Aristotle s Phy- 

judgment is here (by implication) sics; also modern discussions on 

taken as the test for distinguishing unconscious mental agency. If 

agents properly so called, from the our instincts and habits involve 

physical laws according to which a rationality of which we indivi- 

the Divine Agent proceeds in dually are unconscious, this is not 

nature. Conscience forbids ex- evidence that intelligence may be 

Elanation of moral or immoral acts ultimate!} blind. Rather, it illus- 

y natural law only, and points trates the omnipresence of Divine 

to the only concrete example of Reason in nature, 
originatingand responsible agency. 


rather to a Divine cause, but the physici to natural causes, 
subordinate to, and directed still by a Divine ; except 
some corporealists and mechanics, who vainly pretended 
to make a world without a God. The hidden force that 
unites, adjusts, and causeth all things to hang together, 
and move in harmony which Orpheus and Empedocles 
styled Love this principle of union is no blind principle, 
but acts with intellect. This Divine Love and Intellect 
are not themselves obvious to our view, or otherwise dis 
cerned than in their effects. Intellect enlightens, Love 
connects, and the Sovereign Good attracts all things \ 

260. All things are made for the Supreme Good, all 
things tend to that end : and we may be said to account 
for a thing, when we shew that it is so best. In the 
Phaedon 2 , Socrates declares it to be his opinion that he 
who supposed all things to have been disposed and 
ordered by a Mind (sect. 154, 160) should not pretend to 
assign any other cause of them :! . He blames physiologers 
for attempting to account for phaenomena, particularly for 
gravity and cohesion, by vortexes and aether; overlooking 
the TO ayaOw and TO 8cov, the strongest bond and cement 
which holds together all the parts of the universe 4 , and 
not discerning the cause itself from those things which 
only attend it. 

261. As in the microcosm, the constant regular tenor of 
the motions of the viscera and contained juices doth not 
hinder particular voluntary motions to be impressed by 
the mind on the animal spirit ; even so, in the mundane 
system, the steady observance of certain laws of nature, in 

1 For Orpheus and F.mpedocles, 3 Nevertheless a progressive 

in sect. 259, see Ritter and Prel- knowledge of natural causes, 

ler. No. 170 ; Aristotle s Physics, which are to us the signs of 

VIII. i. coming changes, on which human 

* P. 97. On this philosophy, the conduct and happiness depends, is 

office of physical inquiry is not, in indispensable for man in this em- 

any instance, to seek for another bodied life. We are all practi- 

ultimate cause than the Divine. cally involved in the network 

It has only to interpret (by re- of a highly complex sense-sym- 

ferring them to their laws) the bolism. 

sensible signs in which Divine * The rational ground of our 

Thought and Power are ex- interpretation of the natural and 

pressed. Physical causation is moral universe is faith in TO 

simply divinely sustained relation dyaOuv and TO Stov. 
of sensible signs. 


the grosser masses and more conspicuous motions, doth 
not hinder but a voluntary agent may sometimes com 
municate particular impressions to the fine aethereal 
medium, which in the world answers the animal spirit 
in man. Which two (if the} are two), although invisible 
and inconceivably small, yet seem the real latent springs 
whereby all the "parts of this visible world are moved ; 
albeit they are not to be regarded as a true cause, but 
only an instrument, of motion ; and the instrument, not 
as a help to the Creator, but only as a sign to the 

262. Plotinus supposeth that the Soul of the universe is 
not the original cause or author of the species, but receives 
them from Intellect, the true principle of order and dis 
tinction, the source and giver of forms *. Others consider 
the vegetative soul only as some lower faculty of a higher 
soul which animates the fiery aethereal spirit (sect. 178). 
As for the blots and defects which appear in the course of 
this world which some have thought to proceed from 
a fatality or necessity in nature, and others from an evil 
principle that same philosopher r observes, that it may 
be the Governing Reason produceth and ordaineth all 
those things ; and, not intending that all parts should be 
equally good, maketh some worse than others by design : 
as all parts in an animal are not eyes ; and in a city, 
comedy, or picture, all ranks, characters, and colours are 
not equal or alike ; even so excesses, defects, and con 
trary qualities conspire to the beauty and harmony of the 

263. It cannot be denied that, with respect to the Uni 
verse of things, we in this mortal state are like men 
educated in Plato s cave, looking on shadows with our 
backs turned to the light. But though our light be dim, 

1 The co-existence of natural thus to create disorder? 

law and voluntary agency, "in con- * Soul, here distinguished from 

SBteacy too with the Divine Ration- Intellect, is that by which the 

ality of the concrete whole, is one universe is immediately animated. 

aspect of die perplexity in which Ficinus speaks of I-**1V^* as the 

the final problem involves a merely fitter, and Matter as the mother of 

liiMMMSlilUnimi How can scien - UK data of sense, 

tific prevision, which pmuppuKj > Flotillas, Third fTtnHJ, Lib. 

order, be reconciled with volun- IX. c. I. 
tary ijJlMJf. fnc to &> evil aad 


and our situation bad, yet if the best use be made of both, 
perhaps something may be seen 1 . Proclus, in his Com 
mentary on the Theology of Plato, observes there are two 
sorts of philosophers, the one placed Body first in the 
order of beings, and made the faculty of thinking depend 
thereupon, supposing that the principles of all things are 
corporeal : that Body most really or principally exists, 
and all other things in a secondary sense, and by virtue 
of that. Others, making all corporeal things to be de 
pendent upon Soul or Mind, think this to exist in the first 
place and primary sense, and the being of Bodies to be 
altogether derived from, and presuppose that of the Mind -. 
264. Sense and experience acquaint us with the course 
and analogy of appearances or natural effects. Thought, 
reason, intellect introduce us into the knowledge of their 
causes. Sensible appearances, though of a flowing, un 
stable, and uncertain nature, yet having first occupied the 
mind, they do by an early prevention render the aftertask 
of thought more difficult; and, as they amuse the eyes 
and ears, and are more suited to vulgar uses and the 
mechanic arts of life, they easily obtain a preference, in 
the opinion of most men, to those superior principles, 
which are the later growth of the human mind arrived to 
maturity and perfection ; but, not affecting the corporeal 
sense, are thought to be so far deficient in point of solidity 
and reality, sensible and real, to common apprehensions, 
being the same thing 2 . Although it be certain that the 
principles of science are neither objects of sense nor 
imagination ; and that intellect and reason are alone the 
sure guides to truth 3 . 

1 Compare this modest estimate cognition of reality as forms in the 

of the intellectual faculty of irun principles of science theuniver- 

with the sanguine view suggested sal relations of Intellect which are 

in the Principles. Introduction, apprehended in Sense, presentative 

sect. 1-3. and representative, at the best. 

In Plfitm t Tktologi*m, Lib. only in a dim and confused way. 
I. c. 3. Human thought stffl This section is a characteristic ex- 
oscillates between these extremes. presskw of Berkeley s later pfaflo- 
Proclus lived in the fifth century. sophy, influenced by Plato and 

A.D. ; :-.-.-. 

3 Cf. Pn^far T sect. 36, 89. In cates the 1 A |H iident reality 

~wis 9 jummtcfl by tbc i^atomc of sciisblc uUDgs^ winch he now 
spirit, he rises to a 

2 5 


265. The successful curiosity of the present age, in 
arts, and experiments, and new systems, is apt to elate 
men, and make them overlook the Ancients. But, not 
withstanding that the encouragement and purse of princes, 
and the united endeavours of great Societies in these later 
ages, have extended experimental and mechanical know 
ledge very far, yet it must be owned that the ancients too 
were not ignorant of many things (sect. 166, 167, 168, 241, 
242, &c.), as well in physics as metaphysics, which perhaps 
are more generally, though not first, known in these 
modern times 1 . 

266. The Pythagoreans and Platonists had a notion of 
the true system of the world 2 . They allowed of mechanical 
principles, but actuated by soul or mind : they distinguished 
the primary qualities in bodies from the secondary, making 
the former to be physical causes 3 ; and they understood 

1 In what follows (sect. 266-368) 
Berkeley vindicates, by the au 
thority of Ancient Philosophers, 
Greek and Oriental, his conception 
of the concrete universe, as con 
stantly dependent on, and ulti 
mately explicable, substantially 
and causally, only in living Mind. 
He thus ascends from sense and 
sensuous imagination to the prin 
ciples of Science, those uncreated 
necessities of Intellect, through 
which the data of sense are intel 
ligibly connected. 

Not to speak of preceding his 
torical inquirers, Hegel, Erdmann, 
Ueberweg, and Zeller have modi 
fied and extended the conception 
of Greek opinions and their con 
catenation, attainable by Berkeley. 

2 Sect. 100, 232, 251-254. The 
spirit of Sin s is reflected in the 
pregnant summary of Greek philo 
sophy given in sect. 266, 267. 

3 In the First Dialogue between 
Hylas and Philonous this distinc 
tion of qualities is referred to as 
unavailable in defence of abstract 
Matter. Both sorts, it is argued, are 
relative and mutable. Here the 

Pythagoreans and Platonists are 
praised for regarding the primary 
qualities as physical causes, or 
sensible signs, of the secondary. 
This is done perhaps on the prin 
ciple that visible and tangible exten 
sions, and their relations (because 
permanent, impersonal, and uni 
versally characteristic of sensible 
things), are more appropriately re 
garded as signs of transient tastes, 
smells, and sounds, than these 
last of the former. So-called 
secondary qualities (qualities pro 
per) are thus referred, as (physi 
cal) effects, to the modes of sensi 
ble extent (primary qualities) with 
which they are severally connected 
by natural law ; but not vice 
versa. The atomic theory of the 
material world, in part adopted 
by Locke, so far accords with this. 
With Plato, extension and its geo 
metrical implicates are, it seems, 
the qualities exclusively regarded 
as irrelative or primary true for 
all minds ; all the others, including 
solidity, are relative to the condi- 
tionsof sense in man. See Timcvits, 
pp. 61-64. 


physical causes in a right sense 1 : they saw that a Mind 
infinite in power, unextended, invisible, immortal, governed, 
connected, and contained all things * : they saw there was 
no such thing as real absolute space 3 : that mind, soul, or 
spirit truly and really exists 4 : that bodies exist only in 
a secondary and dependent sense 5 : that the soul is the 
place of forms : that the sensible qualities are to be 
regarded as acts only in the cause, and as passions in us : 
they accurately considered the differences of intellect, 
rational soul, and sensitive soul, with their distinct acts of 
intellection, reasoning, and sensation 7 , points wherein the 
Cartesians and their followers, who consider sensation as 
a mode of thinking, seem to have failed. They knew 
there was a subtle aether 8 pervading the whole mass of 
corporeal beings, and which was itself actually moved and 
directed by a mind : and that physical causes were only 
instruments, or rather marks and signs". 

267. Those ancient philosophers understood the genera 
tion of animals to consist in the unfolding and distending 
of the minute imperceptible parts of pre-existing animal 
cules 10 , which passeth for a modern discovery ; this they 
took for the work of nature, but nature animate and 
intelligent (sect. 172): they understood that all things 
were alive and in motion n : they supposed a concord and 
discord, a union and disunion, in particles, some attracting, 
others repelling each other; and that those attractions 
and repulsions, so various, regular, and useful, could not 
be accounted for, but by an Intelligence presiding and 
directing all particular motions, for the conservation and 
benefit of the Whole 12 . 

268. The Egyptians, who impersonated nature, had 
made her a distinct principle, and even deified her under 

1 Cf. sect. 279, 288, 300, 320, R Cf. sect. 152, i66 f 171, 177, 
322-329. 211,277. 

2 Cf. sect. 270,271,289, 242, 293, 9 Cf. sect. 155, 160, 231, 235, 
304, 318. 247-249, 251-254. 

Cf. sect. 290-295. 10 Cf. sect. 282. 

4 Cf. sect. 306, 311-318. " Cf. sect. 153, 276. 

5 Cf. sect. 269, 310, 328. 1: Cf. sect. 162, 164, 165, 234, 

6 Cf. sect. 289, 304. 237, 251, 271, 272. 

7 Sect. 275, 302-304. 


the name of Isis. But Osiris was understood to be Mind 
or Reason, chief and sovereign of all. Osiris, if we may 
believe Plutarch , was the first, pure, unmixed, and holy 
principle, not discernible by the lower faculties ; a glimpse 
whereof, like lightning darting forth, irradiates the under 
standing ; with regard to which Plutarch adds, that Plato 
and Aristotle termed one part of philosophy eVoTTTi/coV ; to 
wit, when having soared above common mixed objects, 
and got beyond the precincts of sense and opinion, they 
arrive to contemplate the first and most simple Being, free 
from all matter and composition. This is that ovvia. OVTOOS 
ovo-a of Plato, which employeth mind alone ; which alone 
governs the [ 2 worldj. And the soul is that which im 
mediately informs and animates nature. 

269. Although the Egyptians did symbolically represent 
the supreme Divinity sitting on a lotus 3 , and that gesture 
hath been interpreted to signify the most holy and vene 
rable Being to be utterly at rest reposing within himself; 
yet, for any thing that appears, this gesture might denote 
dignity as well as repose. And it cannot be denied, that 
Jamblichus 4 , so knowing in the Egyptian notions, taught 
that there was an intellect that proceeded to generation, 
drawing forth the latent powers into light in the formation 
of things. Nor was this to be understood of an external 
world, subsisting in real absolute space ; for it was a 
doctrine of those ancient sages, that Soul was the place of 
forms, as may be seen in the twelfth book of the arcane 
part of divine wisdom, according to the Egyptians \ This 
notion was embraced by divers philosophers of Greece, 
who may be supposed to have derived it from the same 

1 Isis et Osiris, c. 78 ; also 4 See the paraphrase by Ficinus 
Cudworth s Intellectual System, of the work De Mysteriis ^Egyp- 
Bk. I. ch. 4. 18. According to tiomtn, formerly attributed to 
Ritter, Isis connected the transi- Jamblicus. 

tory and phenomenal with Osiris See Cudworth s Intellectual 

or Absolute Deity like the System, Bk. I. c. 4. 18, where the 

Ao7<>y of Philo. Cf. sect. 279 of Egyptian cosmogony and arcane 

Siris. theology or metaphysics (airup- 

2 soul in the first edition. prjros 0fo\oyia) are discussed. The 

3 See Wilkinson s Manners of pretended Aristotlelick book, 
the Ancient Egyptians. Lepsius De Secretiorc parte Divina: Sapientice 
and Bunsen have opened avenues secundmn sEgyptios, is referred to 
into ancient Egypt which were by Cudworth. 

closed to Berkeley. 


source from whence many of their other opinions were 

270. The doctrine of real, absolute, external Space 1 
induced some modern philosophers 2 to conclude it was 
a part or attribute of God, or that God himself was 
space ; inasmuch as incommunicable attributes of the 
Deity appeared to agree thereto, such as infinity, im 
mutability, indivisibility, incorporeity, being uncreated, 
impassive, without beginning or ending; not considering 
that all these negative properties may belong to nothing. 
For, nothing hath no limits, cannot be moved, or changed, 
or divided, is neither created nor destroyed. A different 
way of thinking appears in the Hermaic as well as other 
writings of the ancients. With regard to absolute space, 
it is observed in the Asclepian Dialogue 3 , that the word 
space or place hath by itself no meaning; and again, that 
it is impossible to understand what space alone or pure 
space is. And Plotinus acknowledgeth no place but soul 
or mind, expressly affirming that the soul is not in the 

1 Sect. 270-284 contrast the thematicians a huge, infinitely 

modern assumption of absolute extended, self-subsistcnt entity, 

Space, as well as blind Necessity supposed to condition all existence; 

or Fate, with the ancient and more so that everything in the universe 

spiritual doctrine of aninia ittundi ; must be extended, and spiritual or 

that immaterial but unconscious unextended beings arc impossible, 

influence, with Plato intermediate every thing consisting of partcs 

between the archetypal Ideas and extra partes necessarily external 

Matter, and with others the to each other. According to the 

supreme vital force of the uni- Principles, Space is sensible exten- 

verse. sion created, not infinitely divisi- 

* e. g. Samuel Clarke. With ble, of which the original elements 

Berkeley this Space is an empty are contributed in touch and sight, 

negation. Sensible extension founded upon established associa- 

is the only actual space he re- tions between what we see and 

cognises. Insensible Space, like what we touch. But according to 

insensible Matter, is for him a Sin s Space is neither a datum 

meaningless abstraction, a thing of sense, nor our intellectual no- 

merely visionary ; sect. 271). Cf. tion, and so is regarded otherwise 

New Theory of Vision, sect. 122- than in the Principles. 
126; Principles of Human Know- 3 Asclepius, a reputed disciple 

ledge, sect. 116, 117; De Motn, of Hermes. The work referred 

sect. 52-57, 63. The Space against to is the famous dialogue between 

which Berkeley argues is that of Hermes and Asclepius, De Natura 

some ancient and many modern Deonitti. 
mechanical philosophers and ma- 


world, but the world in the soul. And farther, the place 
of the soul, saith he, is not body, but soul is in mind, and 
body in the soul. See the third chapter of the fifth book 
of the fifth Ennead. 

271. Concerning absolute space, that phantom of the 
mechanic and geometrical philosophers (sect. 250), it may 
suffice to observe that it is neither perceived by any sense, 
nor proved by any reason, and was accordingly treated by 
the greatest of the ancients as a thing merely visionary. 
From the notion of absolute space springs that of absolute 
motion ; and in these are ultimately founded the notions 
of external existence, independence, necessity, and fate. 
Which Fate, the idol of many moderns, was by old 
philosophers differently understood, and in such a sense 
as not to destroy the cu re&a o-iov of God or man. Par- 
menides, who thought all things to be made by necessity 
or fate, understood justice and Providence to be the same 
with fate ; which, how fixed and cogent soever with respect 
to man, may yet be voluntary with respect to God. 
Empedocles declared fate to be a cause using principles 
and elements. Heraclitus taught that fate was the general 
reason that runs through the whole nature of the uni 
verse ; which nature he supposed to be an sethereal body, 
the seed of the generation of all things. Plato held fate 
to be the eternal reason or law of nature. Chrysippus 
supposed that fate was a spiritual power which disposed 
the world in order ; that it was the reason and law of 
those things which are administered by Providence 2 . 

272. All the foregoing notions of fate, as represented by 
Plutarch, do plainly shew that those ancient philosophers 
did not mean by fate, a blind, headlong, unintelligent 

1 [Our judgment in these matters whose authors being utterly at 

is not to be overborne by a pre- variance, and inconsistent with 

sumed evidence of mathematical each other, instruct bystanders 

notions and reasonings, since it is what to think of their pretensions 

plain the mathematicians of this to evidence.] AUTHOR. 

age embrace obscure notions, and Berkeley of course refers in this 

uncertain opinions, and are puzzled note to the Analyst controversy, 

about them, contradicting each and repeats former conclusions, 

other and disputing like other men : 2 See Ps.-Plutarch, De Placit. 

witness their doctrine of Fluxions, Philos. Lib. I. cap. 25-28, for the 

about which, within these ten opinions of those philosophers on 

years, I have seen published about Fate. Berkeley seems to have 

twenty tracts and dissertations, those chapters in his eye here. 


principle, but an orderly settled course of things, conducted 
by a wise and provident Mind. And as for the Egyptian 
doctrine, it is indeed asserted in the Pimander, that all 
things are produced by fate 1 . But Jambltchus, who drew 
his notions from Egypt, affirms that the whole of things 
is not bound up in fate ; but that there is a principle of 
the soul higher than nature, whereby we may be raised 
to a union with the gods, and exempt ourselves from fate 2 . 
And in the Asclepian Dialogue 3 it is expressly said that 
fate follows the decrees of God. And indeed, as all the 
motions in nature are evidently the product of reason 
(sect. 154), it should seem there is no room for necessity 
in any other sense than that of a steady regular course. 

273. Blind fate and blind chance are at bottom much the 
same thing, and one no more intelligible than the other. 
Such is the mutual relation, connexion, motion, and sym 
pathy of the parts of this world, that they seem as it were 
animated and held together by one Soul : and such is 
their harmony, order, and regular course, as sheweth the 
soul to be governed and directed by a Mind. It was an 
opinion of remote antiquity that the World was an Animal 
(sect. 153, 172). If we may trust the Hermaic writings, the 
Egyptians thought all things did partake of life. This 
opinion was also so general and current among the Greeks 
that Plutarch 4 asserts all others held the world to be an 
Animal, and governed by Providence ; except Leucippus, 
Democritus, and Epicurus. And although an Animal con 
taining all bodies within itself could not be touched or 
sensibly affected from without 5 , yet it is plain they 
attributed to it an inward sense and feeling, as well as 
appetites and aversions ; and that from all the various 

1 The dialogue called Pcetnander, the human soul, in possession of 
which treats of nature in its ulti- which man is in the image of God. 
mate relations to Divine Power We have fragments of Jamblicus, 
and Wisdom, is the most memor- DC Fato, recovered from the Pala- 
able of the Hermic works. It is tine MSS. (ed. 1668), and Ficinus, 
probably Neo-platonic, and of the DC Mysteriis (De Fato) ; also Pro- 
fourth century after Christ, though clus on Providence and Fate, 
long ascribed to the Egyptian 3 Cap. 14, De Fatis. 
Hermes. In the Pccmander the 4 De Placit. Philos. Lib. II. 
individuality of man seems lost in c. 3. 
the Supreme Power. a As it were extra-organically. 

i. e. the spiritual principle in 


tones, actions, and passions of the universe, they suppose 
one symphony, one animal act and life to result. 

274. Jamblichus 1 declares the world to be one Animal, 
in which the parts, however distant each from other, are 
nevertheless related and connected by one common nature. 
And he teacheth, what is also a received notion of the 
Pythagoreans and Platonics, that there is no chasm in 
nature 2 , but a Chain or Scale of beings, rising by gentle 
uninterrupted gradations from the lowest to the highest, 
each nature being informed and perfected by the participa 
tion of a higher 3 . As air becomes igneous, so the purest 
fire becomes animal, and the animal soul becomes intel 
lectual : which is to be understood not of the change of 
one nature into another, but of the connexion of different 
natures; each lower nature being, according to those 
philosophers, as it were a receptacle or subject for the next 
above it to reside and act in. 

275. It is also the doctrine of Platonic philosophers, 
that Intellect is the very life of living things, the first 
principle and exemplar of all, from whence by different 
degrees are derived the inferior classes of life : first the 
rational 4 , then the sensitive, after that the vegetal ; but so 
as in the rational animal there is still somewhat intel 
lectual, again in the sensitive there is somewhat rational, 
and in the vegetal somewhat sensitive, and lastly, in 
mixed bodies, as metals and minerals, somewhat of vegeta 
tion. By which means the whole is thought to be more 
perfectly connected. Which doctrine implies that all the 
faculties, instincts, and motions of inferior beings, in their 

1 De Mystcriis Opinio Egyptio- 4 i. e. discursive reason, as distin- 
rum de Deo. See the relative guished from intuitive reason, or 
Commentary of Ficinus. Intellect proper. The ancient no- 

2 no chasm in nature, i. e. tion of a graduated organic unity 
natural order is continuous. in the universe, referred to in this 

:l The notion of a Chain (aetpa, section traversed by the Cartesian 

dim. ereip<j, whence Sin s) in nature, antithesis of thought and extension 

connecting the phenomena and conscious human agents and me- 

cvents of the universe with one chanically moved brutes reap- 

another, and with God, in a Cosmos pears in speculation of last, and still 

or orderly system in which each more of this century, e.g. Fichte s 

phenomenon is rationally linked Die Bcstimmiing des Mensc/ien, and 

with every other, was not foreign in the favourite modern conception 

to the ancient world. So Milton, of evolution or development. 
Par. Lost, V. 469-490. 


several respective subordinations, are derived from, and 
depend upon Mind and Intellect. 

276. Both Stoics and Platonics held the world to be 
alive ; though sometimes it be mentioned as a sentient 
animal, sometimes as a plant or vegetable J . But in this, 
notwithstanding what hath been surmised by some learned 
men, there seems to be no Atheism. For, so long as the 
world is supposed to be quickened by elementary fire or 
spirit, which is itself animated by soul, and directed by 
understanding, it follows that all parts thereof originally 
depend upon, and may be reduced unto the same indi 
visible stem or principle, to wit, a Supreme Mind ; which 
is the concurrent doctrine of Pythagoreans, Platonics, and 
Stoics 2 . 

277. There is, according to those philosophers, a life 
infused throughout all things : the irvp i/oepoV, irvp re^vi/coV, 
an intellectual and artificial fire (sect. 166, 168, 174, 175, 
<S:c.) an inward principle, animal spirit, or natural life, 
producing and forming within as art doth without ; regu 
lating, moderating, and reconciling the various motions, 
qualities, and parts of this mundane system. By virtue 
of this life the great masses are held together in their 
orderly courses, as well as the minutest particles governed 
in their natural motions, according to the several laws of 
attraction, gravity, electricity, magnetism, and the rest. It 
is this gives instincts, teaches the spider her web, and the 
bee her honey. This it is that directs the roots of plants 
to draw forth juices from the earth, and the leaves and 
corticle vessels to separate and attract such particles of 
air, and elementary fire, as suit their respective natures 3 . 

278. Nature seems to be not otherwise distinguished 
from the anitna tnundi than as life is from soul 4 , and, upon 

1 Cf. sect. 153. See Ps.-Plutarch, although moral and religious con- 
De Plant. Philos. Lib. I. c. 3 ; Dio- ceptions, and intellectually neces- 
genes Laert. Lib. VII. sary truths may be developed in 

2 Faith in the absolute suprc- human consciousness under this 
macy of Omnipotent Intelligence, law, as a condition of their devclop- 
is here recognised, under various ment, the results evolved are un- 
forms of expression, as latent in the accountable by this or any other 
gradual evolution of vegetable into natural law. 

animal life, and of animal into 3 Cf. sect 257. 

rational and moral life. Evolution 4 Soul, i.e. animating principle, 

is a physically scientific, not an as distinguished from its effects or 

ultimate or philosophic conception ; manifestations that are presented 



the principles of the oldest philosophers, may not im 
properly or incongruously be styled the life of the world. 
Some Platonics, indeed, regard life as the act of nature, 
in like manner as intellection is of the mind or intellect. 
As the First Intellect acts by understanding, so nature 
according to them acts or generates by living. But life is 
the act of the soul, and seems to be very nature itself, 
which is not the principle, but the result of another and 
higher principle, being a life resulting from soul, as cogi 
tation from intellect. 

279. If nature be [ supposed] the life of the world, 
animated by one soul, compacted into one frame, and 
directed or governed in all parts by one mind : this system 
cannot be accused of Atheism ; though perhaps it may of 
mistake or impropriety. And yet, as one presiding Mind 
gives unity to the infinite aggregate of things, by a mutual 
communion of actions and passions, and an adjustment ol 
parts, causing all to concur in one view to one and the 
same end the ultimate and supreme good of the whole ; 
it should seem reasonable to say, with Ocellus Lucanus 
the Pythagorean, that as life holds together the bodies of 
animals, the cause whereof is the soul ; and as a city is 
held together by concord, the cause whereof is law, even 
so the world is held together by harmony, the cause 
whereof is God. And in this sense the world or Universe 
may be considered either as one Animal or one city 
(sect. 172, 277). 

280. Aristotle 3 disapproves the opinion of those who 
hold a soul to be diffused throughout the world ; and for 
this reason, because the elements are not alive. Though 

to our senses all nature being, by ( Fragmentum ex Stobaco Egl. Phys. 
the supposition, animated. Soul Lib. I. cap. 16) now rejected as 
(^i/X T) was distinguished from body, spurious, with the other fragments 
on the one hand, and from reason attributed to Ocellus Lucanus. His 
(i/oCs), on the other mediating be- teaching is apt to be identified with 
tween them. The ancient notion Hylozoism, or the conception of 
of the animation of the Universe the universe as living Matter. Con- 
appears, in one form or another, sciouslifeinman is thenatransitory 
among the physical philosophers manifestation of the Matter, under 
of the sixteenth and seventeenth certain conditions all inconsis- 
centuries, for instance, Telesius tent with a fundamentally ethical 
and Campanella. or theistic conception of the Power 

1 Not in the early editions. for ever and finally at work. 

- Ocelli Lucani De Legibus 3 Cf. sect. 230. 


perhaps it may not be easy to prove that blood and animal 
spirit are more alive in man, than water and fire in the 
world. That philosopher, in his books of the Soul , 
remarks upon an opinion set forth in the Orphics, of the 
soul s entering from the universe into living creatures 
being borne by winds that this cannot be true of plants, 
or of certain animals which do not breathe. But air 
vessels are by later experiments allowed to be found in 
all plants and animals -. And air may in some sort not 
improperly be said to be the carrier or vehicle of the soul, 
inasmuch as it is the vehicle of fire, which is the spirit 
immediately moved and animated by the soul (sect. 163, 

281. The living fire, the living, omniform seminary of 
the world, and other expressions of the like nature, 
occurring in the Ancient and Platonic philosophy 3 , how 
can they be understood exclusive of light or elemental 
fire, the particles of which are known to be heterogeneous, 
and, for aught we know, may some of them be organised, 
and, notwithstanding their wonderful minuteness, contain 
original seeds which, being formed and sown in a proper 
matrix, do gradually unfold and manifest themselves, still 
growing to a just proportion of the species. 

282. May not this aethereal seminary, consistently with 
the notions of that philosophy which ascribed much of 
generation to celestial influence, be supposed to impregnate 
plants and animals with the first principles, the stamina, 
or those animalcules which Plato, in his Timceus*, saith 
are invisible for their smallness, but, being sown in a 
proper matrix, are therein gradually distended and ex 
plicated by nourishment, and at length the animals brought 
forth to light? Which notion hath been revived and 
received of late years by many, who perhaps are not aware 
of its antiquity, or that it was to be found in Plato. 
Timaeus Locrensis, in his book of the Soul of the World " , 
supposeth even souls to be derived from the celestial 
luminaries, excepting only the rational or intellectual part. 

De Anima, Lib. I. c. 5. revived by Lcuwenhoeck (1632- 

a Cf. sect. 29. 1733), the Dutch naturalist. Cf. 

3 So also in Ficinus, in many sect. 267, 283. 

passages. 5 Timaei Locri De Anima Mttndi, 

4 P. 91. This Platonic notion was cap. 4 now regarded as spurious 

i 2 


But what influence or influx is there from the celestial 
bodies which hath not light for its vehicle? (sect. 43). 

283. What other nature there should be intermediate 
between the soul of the world (sect. 171) and this gross 
corporeal system, which might be the vehicle of life, or, to 
use the language of philosophers, might receive or be 
impressed with the forms of things, is difficult to com 
prehend. It is a vulgar remark, that the works of art 
do not bear a nice microscopical inspection, but the more 
helps are used, and the more nicely you pry into natural 
productions, the more do you discover of the fine mechanism 
of nature, which is endless or inexhaustible ; new and 
other parts, more subtle and delicate than the precedent, 
still continuing to offer themselves to view. And these 
microscopical observations have confirmed the ancient 
theory concerning generation, delivered in the Timceus of 
Plato. But that theory or hypothesis, how agreeable soever 
to modern discoveries, is not alone sufficient to explain 
the phaenomena, without the immediate action of a mind. 
And Ficinus, notwithstanding what himself and other 
Platonics say of a plastic nature, is obliged to own that 
with the mundane force or soul it is to be understood there 
is joined an intelligence, upon which the seminal nature 
constantly depends, and by which it is governed. 

284. Alcinous, in his tract of the Doctrine of Plato , 
saith that God hath given the world both mind and soul : 
others include both in the word soul, and suppose the 
soul of the world to be God. Philo- appears to be of 
this opinion in several parts of his writings. And VirgiF, 
who was no stranger to the Pythagorean and Platonic 
tenets, writes to the same purpose : 

Deum namque ire per omnes 

Terrasquc, tractusque maris, ccehimque profundum. 
Hinc pecudes, armenta, viros, genus omne ferarum, 
Quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas. 

1 The De Doctrina Platonia of tributed to him. With the Stoics, 

Alcinous, cap. 14, an exposition he seems to ascribe the central 

of Platonism, at one time in high activity in all change to Deity, and 

repute. mere passivity to matter, in analogy 

* The syncretism of Philo, the with the suggestion of the text. On 

Jewish philosopher (a contempo- the other hand, the mysterious in- 

rary of Christ), is so little con- cffability of Deity, and antithesis 

structed upon consistent principle, between God and the universe, arc 

that it is difficult to determine suggested by his writings, 

whether this opinion should be at- J Gcorg. IV. 221-24. 


Thus much the schools of Plato and Pythagoras seem 
agreed in, to wit, that the Soul of the World (sect. 153, 
172), whether having a distinct mind of its own, or directed 
by a superior mind (sect. 154, 279), doth embrace all its 
parts, connect them by an invisible and indissoluble 
Chain, and preserve them ever well adjusted and in good 

285. Naturalists , whose proper province it is to consider 
phcenomena, experiments, mechanical organs and motions, 
principally regard the visible frame of things or corporeal 
world ; supposing soul to be contained in body. And 
this hypothesis may be tolerated in physics, as it is not 
necessary in the arts of dialling or navigation to mention 
the true system or earth s motion. But those who, not 
content with sensible appearances, would penetrate into 
the real and true causes (the object of theology, meta 
physics, or the pliilosopJria prima*}, will rectify this error, 
and speak of the world as contained by the soul, and not 
the soul by the world. 

286. Aristotle hath observed there were indeed some 
who thought so grossly as to suppose the universe to be one 
only corporeal and extended nature : but in the first book 
of his Metaphysics 3 he justly remarks they were guilty of 
a great mistake ; forasmuch as they took into their account 
the elements of corporeal beings alone, whereas there are 
incorporeal beings also in the universe ; and while they 
attempted to assign the causes of generation and corrup 
tion, and account for the nature of all things, they did 
at the same time destroy the very cause of motion. 

287. It is a doctrine among other speculations contained 
in the Hermaic writings that all things are One. And 
it is not improbable that Orpheus, Parmenides, and others 

1 In sect. 285-296 the ultimate of the universe, and would re- 
dependence of sensible things and soh e physical cosmology into an 
space on all-containing and all- expanded biology. See Pseudo- 
regulating Mind, the source of Plutarch, Lib. II. c. 35 ; also Bessa- 
unity and identity, harmony and rion, and Cudworth. 
order, existence and stability 2 Cf. sect. 263. With Aristotle 
(sect. 295 ) of which the doctrine these arc one. See Mctaph. Lib. 
of anima mundi is an imperfect VI. c. i and Lib. XL c. 7. 
adumbration is further unfolded. " Metapli. Lib. I. c. 3. 
Atnina innndi involves the vitality 


among the Greeks, might have derived their notion of 
To"Ei>, THE ONE, from Egypt. Though that subtle meta 
physician Parmenides, in his doctrine of eV eV?, seems to 
have added something of his own. If we suppose that 
one and the same Mind is the Universal Principle of order 
and harmony throughout the world, containing and con 
necting all its parts, and giving unity to the system, there 
seems to be nothing atheistical or impious in this suppo 
sition *. 

288. Number is no object of sense : it is an act of the 
mind. The same thing in a different conception is one or 
many 2 . Comprehending God and the creatures in one 
general notion, we may say that all things together make 
one universe, or TO -n-av. But if we should say that all 
things make one God, this would, indeed, be an erroneous 
notion of God ; but would not amount to Atheism, so long 
as Mind or Intellect was admitted to be the TO ^ye/xovt/coV, 
the governing part 3 . It is, nevertheless, more respectful, 
and consequently the truer notion of God, to suppose 
him neither made up of parts, nor to be himself a part 
of any whole whatsoever. 

289. All those who conceived the Universe to be an 
Animal must, in consequence "of that notion, suppose all 
things to be One. But to conceive God to be the sentient 
soul of an animal is altogether unworthy and absurd. 
There is no sense nor sensory, nor any thing like a sense 
or sensory, in God. Sense implies an impression from 
some other being, and denotes a dependence in the soul 
which hath it. Sense is a passion : and passions imply 
imperfection. God knoweth all things, as pure mind or 
intellect ; but nothing by sense, nor in nor through a 
sensory. Therefore to suppose a sensory of any kind 
whether space 4 or any other in God, would be very 
wrong, and lead us into false conceptions of His nature 5 . 

1 Here and elsewhere in Sin s, 3 It is a theism, when so ex- 
he is in sympathy with the con- pressed, that is difficult to recon- 
ception of the immanence of Deity cile with free moral agency in the 
in nature, favoured by the Neo- universe, unless we distinguish 
platonists, and by the Alexandrian moral agents from things. 
theologians with whom he became 4 As Newton suggests, 
familiar in his later years. " He accordingly rejects the 

2 Cf. Principles, sect. 12, 13, supposition that the things of sense 
1 19-122. are perceived sensibly in the Divine 


The presuming there was such a thing as real, absolute, 
uncreated space seems to have occasioned that modern 
mistake. But this presumption was without grounds . 

290. Body is opposite to spirit or mind. We have a 
notion of spirit from thought and action. We have a 
notion of body from resistance 2 . So far forth as there is 
real power, there is spirit. So far forth as there is resist 
ance, there is inability or want of power : that is, there is 
a negation of spirit. We are embodied, that is, we are 
clogged by weight, and hindered by resistance. But in 
respect of a perfect spirit, there is nothing hard or impene 
trable : there is no resistance to the Deity : nor hath he 
any body : nor is the Supreme Being united to the world 
as the soul of an animal is to its body ; which necessarily 
implieth defect, both as an instrument, and as a constant 
weight and impediment 3 . 

291. Thus much it consists with piety to say that 
a Divine Agent doth by his virtue permeate and govern the 
elementary fire or light (sect. 157, 172), which serves as 
animal spirit to enliven and actuate the whole mass, and 
all the members of this visible world 4 . Nor is this doctrine 

Intelligence, holding that in God 3 He thus sees that the analogy 

they are realised in a wholly between the relation of the soul of 

intellectual way, whatever that man to his body, and that of God 

means. The passivity character- to the universe, must be imperfect, 

istic of sense implies a reality in respectof the Divine omniscience 

that is independent of each in- and omnipotence ; also in respect 

dividual percipient. It is thus of the sentient beings and moral 

that the events of sense, by their agents included in the universe, to 

independence of my personal which nothing corresponds in the 

agency, awaken in me the sense human body. 

of my own individual personality, * We have here a hint of the 

rounded off by omnipresent Power origin of Berkeley s inclination to 

other than my own. the fire philosophy. He seemed 

1 Cf. sect. 270, 271, 378, where to, by this means, escape the need 

Berkeley gives reasons for re- for conceiving God to be the sentient 

jecting real, absolute, uncreated soul of the animal Universe. It 

space. is one of the many attempts to 

2 Berkeley notes (passive) resis- unify physics under one supreme 

tance and solidity, not extension, as dynamic law, immediately sub- 

the characteristic of body. So too ordinate to God thus harmonising 

in his early philosophical works. our ultimate conception in physics 

But how, under his conception with religious faith. The anima 

of the reality of matter, are tangi- nmndi of Plato, the archans of 

ble realisations more real than Paracelsus, and the plastic nature 

visual or audible ? of Cudworth, may perhaps be 

264 smis : A CHAIN OF 

less philosophical than pious. We see all nature alive or 
in motion. We see water turned into air, and air rarefied 
and made elastic (sect. 149, 152, 200) by the attraction of 
another medium, more pure indeed, more subtle, and 
more volatile, than air. But still, as this is a moveable, 
extended, and consequently a corporeal being (sect. 207), 
it cannot be itself the principle of motion, but leads us 
naturally and necessarily to an incorporeal spirit or agent. 
We are conscious that a spirit can begin, alter, or determine 
motion ; but nothing of this appears in body. Nay, the 
contrary is evident, both to experiment and reflexion. 

292. Natural pheenomena are only natural appearances. 
They are, therefore, such as we see and perceive them . 
Their real and objective" natures are, therefore, the same : 
passive without anything active ; fluent and changing with 
out anything permanent in them. However, as these 
make the first impressions, and the mind takes her first 
flight and spring, as it were, by resting her foot on these 
objects, they are not only first considered by all men, but 
most considered by most men. They and the phantoms 
that result from those appearances the children of im 
agination grafted upon sense such for example as pure 
space (sect. 270), are thought by many the very first in 
existence and stability, and to embrace and comprehend 
all other beings. 

293. Now, although such phantoms as corporeal forces, 
absolute motions, and real spaces do pass in physics for 
causes and principles (sect. 220, 249, 250), yet are they 
in truth but hypotheses ; nor can they be the objects of 
real science 3 . They pass nevertheless in physics, con 
versant about things of Sense, and confined to experiments 
and mechanics. But when we enter the province of the 
philosophia prima, we discover another order of beings 
Mind and its acts; permanent being; not dependent on 
corporeal things ; nor resulting, nor connected, nor con 
tained, but containing, connecting, enlivening the whole 

similarly explained. Note what is * objective here means ap- 

said of sense in sect. 259. parent or phenomenal. 

1 They are in short only data of 3 Cf. De Modi, which criticises 

sense, to which we must attribute those favourite abstractions of 

nothing that is not actually pre- natural philosophers, and their 

sented to the senses. This is the working hypotheses, 
refrai n also throughout the De Mo fn. 


frame ; and imparting those motions, forms, qualities, and 
that order and symmetry, to all those transient phae- 
nomena, which we term the Course of Nature. 

294. It is with our faculties as with our affections : what 
first seizes holds fast (sect. 264). It is a vulgar theme, 
that man is a compound of contrarieties, which breed a 
restless struggle in his nature, between flesh and spirit, 
the beast and the angel, earth and heaven, ever weighed 
down and ever bearing up . During which conflict the 
character fluctuates : when either side prevails, it is then 
fixed for vice or virtue. And life from different principles 
takes a different issue. It is the same in regard to our 
faculties. Sense at first besets and overbears the mind. 
The sensible appearances are all in all : our reasonings 
are employed about them : our desires terminate in them : 
we look no farther for realities or causes ; till Intellect 
begins to dawn, and cast a ray on this shadowy scene. 
We then perceive the true principle of unity, identity, 
and existence -. Those things that before seemed to 
constitute the whole of Being, upon taking an intellectual 
view of things, prove to be but fleeting phantoms. 

295. From the outward form of gross masses which 
occupy the vulgar, a curious inquirer proceeds to examine 
the inward structure and minute parts, and, from observing 
the motions in nature, to discover the laws of those motions. 
By the way he frames his hypothesis, and suits his 
language to this natural philosophy. And these fit the 
occasion and answer the end of a maker of experiments 
or mechanic ; who means only to apply the powers of 
nature, and reduce the phenomena to rules. But if, pro 
ceeding still in his analysis and inquiry, he ascends from the 
sensible into the intellectual world", and beholds things in 
a new light and a new order, he will then change his system, 
and perceive that what he took for substances and causes 
are but fleeting shadows : that the Mind contains all, and 
acts all, and is to all created beings the source of unity and 
identity, harmony and order, existence and stability 4 . 

1 So Pascal in the Pensees. Compare this and what follows 

- Namely, Spirit or Mind. with Berkeley s juvenile jets of 

3 Rising from science that is thought in his Commonplace Book, 

only physical to metaphysical in which mind seems almost 

philosophy. to resolve into empirical data of 


296. It is neither acid, nor salt, nor sulphur, nor air, nor 
aether, nor visible corporeal fire (sect. 155), much less 
the phantom Fate or Necessity, that is the real agent, 
but, by a certain analysis, a regular connexion and climax, 
we ascend through all those mediums to a glimpse of the 
First Mover, invisible, incorporeal, unextended, intellectual 
source of life and being. There is, it must be owned, 
a mixture of obscurity and prejudice in human speech and 
reasonings. This is unavoidable, since the veils of pre 
judice and error are slowly and singly taken off one by 
one. But, if there are many links in the Chain which 
connects the two extremes of what is grossly sensible and 
purely intelligible, and it seems a tedious work, by the 
slow helps of memory, imagination, and reason ] , oppressed 
and overwhelmed, as we are, by the senses, through 
erroneous principles, and long ambages of words and 
notions, to struggle upwards into the light of truth ; yet, 
as this gradually dawns, farther discoveries still correct 
the style and clear up the notions. 

297. The Mind her acts and faculties, furnish a new 
and distinct class of objects (sect. 163, 266), from the con 
templation whereof arise certain other notions, principles, 
and verities, so remote from, and even so repugnant to, 
the first prejudices which surprise the sense of mankind 
that they may well be excluded from vulgar speech and 
books, as abstract from sensible matters, and more fit for 
the speculation of truth, the labour and aim of a few, than 
for the practice of the world, or the subjects of experi 
mental or mechanical inquiry 2 . Nevertheless, though, 
perhaps, it may not be relished by some modern readers, 
yet the treating in physical books concerning metaphysical 
and divine matters can be justified by great authorities 
among the ancients : not to mention that he who pro 
fessedly delivers the elements of a science is more obliged 
to method and system, and tied down to more rigorous 

sense, and abstract intellectual ne- mind. Put the perceptions and 
cessities to be disparaged. Pure you put the mind. Sensual plea- 
intellect I understand not. We sure is the sitninntm boniirtt. 
must with the mob place certainty 1 reason discursive thought 
in the senses. Mind is a congeries or reasoning, not intuitive reason, 
of perceptions. Take away per- 2 Former hostility to abstrac- 
ceptions and you take away the tions seems abated here. 


laws, than a mere essay writer. It may, therefore, be 
pardoned if this rude Essay doth, by insensible transitions, 
draw the reader into remote inquiries and speculations, 
that were not, [ J perhaps, j thought of either by him or by 
the author at first setting out. 

298. There are traces of profound thought as well as 
primeval tradition in the Platonic, Pythagorean, Egyptian, 
and Chaldaic philosophy (sect. 179, 266). Men in those 
early days were not overlaid with languages and literature. 
Their minds seem to have been more exercised, and less 
burdened, than in later ages ; and, as so much nearer the 
beginning of the world, to have had the advantage of 
patriarchal lights handed down through a few hands 1 . 
It cannot be affirmed indeed (how probable soever it may 
seem) that Moses was that same Mochus, with whose 
successors, priests and prophets, Pythagoras is said to 
have conversed at Sidon. Yet the study of philosophy 
appears to be of very great antiquity and remote original ; 
inasmuch as Timseus Locrensis, that ancient Pythagorean, 
author of the book concerning the Soul of the World *, 
speaks of a most ancient philosophy, even in his time, 
a Trpearftvo-ra (f>i\o<ro<f>ia., stirring up and recovering the soul 
from a state of ignorance to the contemplation of Divine 
things. And though the books attributed to Mercurius 
Trismegistus were none of them wrote by him, and are 
allowed to contain some manifest forgeries, yet it is also 
allowed that they contain tenets of the ancient Egyptian 
philosophy, though dressed, perhaps, in a more modern 
garb. To account for which, Jamblichus observes that the 
books under his name contain indeed mercurial opinions, 
though often expressed in the style of the Greek philoso 
phers ; as having been translated from the Egyptian 
tongue into Greek. 

299. The difference of Isis from Osiris (sect. 268) 
resembles that of the moon from the sun, of the female 
from the male, of natura naturata (as the schoolmen speak) 
from natura naturans. But Isis, though mostly taken for 

1 Not in the early editions. 3 De Anitna Mundi, cap. V. 

- In what respect is this sup- 15. But this work is probably of 

posed to be an advantage ? Cf. late date. 
sect. 301, 339. 


nature, yet (as the Pagan divinities were very fluctuating 
things! it sometimes signified TO -ar. And we find in 
Mountfaucon an Isis of the ordinary form with this in 
scription, ecu- -aiTo ?. And in the incnsa Isiaca, which 
seems to exhibit a general system of the religion and 
superstition of the Egyptians, Isis on her throne possessed: 
the centre of the table. Which ma} seem to signify that 
the universe or TO z-ar was the centre of the ancient secret 
religion of the Egyptians ; their Isis or TO -av comprehend 
ing both Osiris the Author of nature and his work. 

300. Plato and Aristotle considered God as abstracted 
or distinct from the natural world l . But the Egyptians 
considered God and nature as making one Whole, or all 
things together as making one Universe. In doing which 
they did not exclude the intelligent mind, but considered 
it as containing all things. Therefore, whatever was wrong 
in their way of thinking, it doth not, nevertheless, imply or 
lead to Atheism -. 

301. The human mind is so much clogged and borne 
downward, by the strong and early impressions of sense 
(sect. 264), that it is wonderful how the ancients should 
have made even such a progress, and seen so far into 
intellectual matters, without some glimmering of a divine 
tradition. Whoever considers a parcel of rude savages 
left to themselves, how they are sunk and swallowed up 
in sense and prejudice, and how unqualified by their 
natural force to emerge from this state, will be apt to think 

1 Cf. sect. 323. This is illustrated and Ps.-Plutarch, De Placif. P/ii/os. 

by passages in Plato, e. g. Rcptib. Lib. I. 7. 

Lib. VI. pp. 506, 508. See Alria In his early writings Berkele3^ 
it Pliilcbns die pcrsonliche Gotthdt discusses what we ought to mean 
dcs Plato, oder Plato kcin Pantheist. by the reality we attribute to matter. 
Von G. F. Rettig, Bern 1866. This In Siris, and so far in Alciphron, 
writer founds on passages in the he advances to the deeper question 
Philebits. As regards Aristotle the of the meaning of * real when 
case is not so clear. He seems to applied to God, and what consti- 
distinguish God from nature, but tutes atheism ; but with less in 
hardly to regard Deity as personal. Siris than in Alciphron about verify - 
His universe is eternal, and neces- ing the reality of Divine Being 
sarily developed according to ab- by sense and its suggestions, and 
stract ideals or ends. SeeMcfafi/i. more about finding God in the con- 
XL 6-10, and X. 7, where he stitution of intuitive reason, 
identifies metaphysics with theo- * Cf. sect. 288. 
logy; also Ps. DC Mttndo, VI. 30, 


that the first spark of philosophy was derived from heaven ; 
and that it was (as a heathen writer expressed! it) 

302. The lapsed state of human kind is a thing to which 
the ancient philosophers were not strangers ! . The AiVns, 
the <5iyi/, the roAr/yawna, shew that the Egyptians and 
Pythagoreans, the Platonists and Stoics, had all some 
notion of this doctrine, the outlines of which seem to 
have been sketched out in those tenets f . Theology and 
philosophy gently unbind the ligaments that chain the 
soul down to the earth, and assist her flight towards the 
sovereign Good. There is an instinct or tendency of 
the mind upwards, which sheweth a natural endeavour to 
recover and raise ourselves from our present sensual and 
low condition, into a state of light, order, and purity. 

303. The perceptions of sense are gross : but even in 
the senses there is a difference : . Though harmony and 
proportion are not objects of sense, yet the eye and the 
ear are organs which offer to the mind such materials by 
means whereof she may apprehend both the one and the 
other. By experiments of sense we become acquainted 
with the lower faculties of the soul ; and from them, 
whether by a gradual (sect. 275) evolution or ascent, we 
arrive at the highest. Sense supplies images to memory. 
These become subjects for fancy to work upon. Reason 
considers and judges of the imaginations. And these acts 
of reason become new objects to the understanding. In 
this scale, each lower faculty is a step that leads to one 
above it. And the uppermost naturally leads to the Deity ; 
which is rather the object of intellectual knowledge than 
even of the discursive faculty, not to mention the sensitive. 

1 Phado. e.g. Thecrtftus. p. 176. Sense and Intellect; the evanesce -: 

Tawaws, pp. 30. 86. &c. Evil, as character of our mrtttitl world ; 

Plato represents it, is due to apos- the innate notions, latent in the 
tacy from an original good. 

* PWdh, pp. 8a-8. So Ploti- lect ; the dependence of space and 
nus, whose life was an endea- the whole sensible world upon 
\ our to unite, by philosophy, the Mind all interspersed with refer- 
di vine in man with all-pervading ences to Pythagoras, Plato, Aris- 

- Sect. 303-319 are among die ties. Thc jKaie* niaBdLyfrdis- 
inost pregnant in Svss. suggesting tingnisbes in human knowledge 

- - - ..-.:............ - :.:.-.:. - - 


There runs a Chain throughout the whole system of beings. 
In this Chain one link drags another. The meanest things 
are connected with the highest. The calamity therefore 
is neither strange nor much to be complained of, if a low 
sensual reader shall, from mere love of the animal life, 
find himself drawn on, surprised and betrayed, into some 
curiosity concerning the intellectual. 

304. There is, according to Plato, properly no know 
ledge, but only opinion concerning things sensible and 
perishing (sect. 263, 264) ; not because they are naturally 
abstruse and involved in darkness, but because their 
nature and existence are uncertain, ever fleeting and 
changing. Or rather, because they do not in strict truth 
exist at all, being always generating or in fieri, that is, 
in a perpetual flux, without any thing stable or permanent 
in them to constitute an object of real science. The 
Pythagoreans and Platonics distinguish between TO ytyvo^vov 
and TO 6V, that which ever generated and that which exists. 
Sensible things and corporeal forms are perpetually pro 
ducing and perishing, appearing and disappearing, never 
resting in one state, but always in motion and change ; 
and therefore, in effect, not one being but a succession of 
beings : while TO 6V is understood to be somewhat of an 
abstract or spiritual nature, and the proper object of in 
tellectual knowledge. Therefore, as there can be no 
knowledge of things flowing and unstable, the opinion of 
Protagoras and Thesetetus, that sense was science, is 
absurd l . And indeed nothing is more evident than that 
the apparent sizes and shapes, for instance, of things are 
in a constant flux, ever differing as they are viewed at 
different distances, or with glasses more or less accurate. 
As for those absolute magnitudes and figures, which 
certain Cartesians and other moderns suppose to be in 
things ; that must seem a vain supposition ; to whoever 

(aiaOrjffis ) ; the representative, in different persons, and in the same 

memory and imagination ((f>ai/- person at different times. 
raaia) ; and discursive thought or Thecetetiis, p. 154. The refer- 

inference (Siavoia) all culminating ence is to the homo mensura of 

in intuitive reason (i/ovs), and intel- Protagoras, argued against by 

lectual knowledge. Logically dis- Plato, with whom God, not man, 

tinguishable, these elements are least of all any individual man, 

in fact inseparable, although they is the intellectual measure of the 

appear in varying proportions in universe. 


considers, it is supported by no argument of reason, and 
no experiment of sense. 

305, As understanding perceiveth not, that is, doth not 
hear, or see, or feel, so sense knoweth not : and although 
the mind may use both sense and fancy, as means whereby 
to arrive at knowledge, yet sense or soul, so far forth as 
sensitive, knoweth nothing. For, as it is rightly observed 
in the Thecetctus of Plato, science consists not in the 
passive perceptions, but in the reasoning upon them r<5 
ircpl tKfivwv (nAAoyioyxw 1 . 

306. In the ancient philosophy of Plato and Pythagoras, 
we find distinguished three sorts of objects : In the first 
place, a form or species that is neither generated nor 
destroyed, unchangeable, invisible, and altogether imper 
ceptible to sense, being only understood by the Intellect. 
A second sort there is, ever fluent and changing (sect. 
292, 293), generating and perishing, appearing and vanish 
ing; this is comprehended by Sense and Opinion. The 
third kind is Matter, which, as Plato teacheth, being 
neither an object of understanding nor of sense, is hardly 
to be made out by a certain spurious way of reasoning 

Aoyio-/i,a> TLVI v66u> //.oyt? ITKTTQV. (See his Timceus"*.) The 

same doctrine is contained in the Pythagoric treatise 
DC Anima Mundi z , which, distinguishing ideas, sensible 
things, and matter, maketh the first to be apprehended by 
Intellect, the second by Sense, and the last, to wit, Matter, 
Aoyioy/,w vo 0u> 4 . Whereof Themistius the Peripatetic 5 as 
signs the reason. For, saith he, that act is to be esteemed 
spurious, whose object hath nothing positive, being only 

1 Thecctctus, p. 186. Sense is In the Platonic philosophy, the 

realised in thought ; which last concrete sensible universe implies 

therefore cannot be derived from Idea or Form (TO tlSos), and Matter 

sense. (TO atrtipov and TO trepov of Plato, 

- Where he distinguishes inde- and the -npurrj v\rj of Aristotle), 

terminate materia prima from the That phenomenal reality implies 

Divine Ideas, and from the Cos- these two unphcnomenal elements 

mos of determinate sensible things is an opinion with which Berkeley 

which results from their correla- is, I think, more in sympathy in 

tion. Sin s than in his early works. 

" De Anima Mundi, cap. I. * What is here said of Matter 

2, 6 formerly attributed to is elsewhere said of Space. Cf. 

Tiincens the Locrian. The words sect. 319. It is the result of \oyt- 

are : Td Si ^vfiwavra, I8tav, v\av, 07*05 voOos? 

alaOrjTov re, olov ettyovov Tuvrtcuv. 5 P. 34, ed. Venet. 1554- 


a mere privation, as silence or darkness. And such he 
accounteth Matter. 

307. Aristotle maketh a threefold distinction of objects, 
according to the three speculative sciences. Physics he 
supposeth to be conversant about such things as have 
a principle of motion in themselves ; Mathematics about 
things permanent but not abstracted ; and Theology about 
Being abstracted and immoveable ; which distinction may 
be seen in the ninth book of his Metaphysics 1 . Where 
by abstracted, x w P to " ro/l > ne understands separable from 
corporeal beings and sensible qualities. 

308. That philosopher held that the mind of man was 
a tabula rasa *, and that there were no innate ideas. Plato, 
on the contrary, held original ideas in the mind ; that is, 
notions which never were or can be in the sense, such as 
being, beauty, goodness, likeness, parity. Some, perhaps, 
may think the truth to be this : that there are properly 
no ideas, or passive objects, in the mind but what were 
derived from sense : but that there are also besides these 
her own acts or operations ; such are notions . 

309. It is a maxim of the Platonic philosophy, that the 
soul of man was originally furnished with native inbred 
notions, and stands in need of sensible occasions, not 
absolutely for producing them, but only for awakening, 
rousing, or exciting into act what was already pre-existent, 
dormant, and latent in the soul ; as things are said to be 
laid up in the memory, though not actually perceived until 
they happen to be called forth and brought into view by 
other objects. This notion seemeth somewhat different 
from that of innate ideas, as understood by those moderns 
who have attempted to explode them 1 . To understand 

1 See Metaph. Lib. V. c. i ; also lation his later Idealism in short. 

Lib. X. c. i. The ideas or passive objects, of 

2 DC Aiiiina, Lib. III. c. 4. But which Berkeley says so much in 

the tabula rasa of Aristotle seems the Principles and the Three Dia- 

not inconsistent with the potential lognes of his Dublin life, are data 

existence of the Ideas by which of sense : notions, of which he 

sensible things are determined of began even then to speak, and the 

which things the Ideas and po- Divine Ideas of Sins, are latent in 

tential Matter are co-constituents. the mind of man, who participates 

:i In this section, we have in the Divine Intelligence, 

a glimpse of Berkeley s later * Especially Locke, who opens his 

thoughts on Sense and Intellect Essay with an argument against 

Matter and Idea and their corrc- innate ideas and principles, ac- 


and to be are, according to Parmenides, the same thing 1 . 
And Plato in his seventh Letter 2 makes no difference 
between vovs and e7rm7//, mind and knowledge. Whence 
it follows that mind, knowledge, and notions, either in 
habit or in act, always go together. 

310. And albeit Aristotle considered the soul in its 
original state as a blank paper \ yet he held it to be the 
proper place of forms T-TJV tyvjmv emu TOTTOV eiSwv (sect. 269). 
Which doctrine, first maintained by others, he admits, 
under this restriction, that it is not to be understood of 
the whole soul, but only of the vo^n/a/ ; as is to be seen 
in his third book DC Anitna 4 . Whence, according to 
Themistius in his commentary on that treatise, it may be 
inferred that all beings are in the soul. For, saith he, 
the forms are the beings. By the form every thing is 
what it is. And he adds, it is the soul that imparteth 
forms to matter ; rrjv vX-rfv /Aop<o>o-a 7roi/Aais /xop^ttt?. There 
fore they are first in the soul. He farther adds that the 
mind is all things, taking the forms of all things it becomes 
all things by intellect and sense. Alexander Aphrodisaeus 
saith as much, affirming the mind to be all things, /cara re 
TO roetv /cai TO aicrOdvea-Qai. And this in fact is Aristotle s 
own doctrine, in his third book DC Anima , where he also 
asserts, with Plato, that actual knowledge and the thing 
known are all one. To 8 avro IO-TIV rj KO.T t ve pyaav 7rto-Try/x7/ 
TU> Trpay/Acm. Whence it follows, that the things are where 
the knowledge is, that is to say, in the mind. Or, as it is 
otherwise expressed, that the soul is all things. More 
might be said to explain Aristotle s notion, but it would 
lead too far. 

cording to his inadequate interprc- tinction of potential and actual, 

tation of innateness. 4 C. 8, where Aristotle identifies 

1 Frag. V. 40, TO avro votiv rt KCU the al09ifrut6v with the alffOTjrov, 

flvai. and the tTnGrrmoviicuv with the 

- P. 342. The Epistles arc not tiriffrijTui , through their forms 

now attributed to Plato. ( 57 ?) the potential intellect being 

:: Cf. sect. 308, 315. So too with him, as with Plato, the place 

Locke, Let us suppose the mind of forms r6iros (ldui>. For The- 

to be, as we say, white paper, mistius, see p. 35, ed. Venet. 1534. 

void of all character, without any " Cap. 7. See the preceding 

ideas how comes it to be fur- note. For the Aphrodisian, see 

nished? Essay, II. i. 2. But De Aniina, p. 139 (ed. Venet. 

Locke neglects Aristotle s dis- J 534). 



311. As to an absolute actual existence of sensible or 
corporeal things (sect. 264, 292, 294), it doth not seem to 
have been admitted either by Plato or Aristotle l . In the 
Thecetctus ~ we are told that if any one saith a thing is, or 
is made, he must withal say, for what, or of what, or in 
respect of what, it is, or is made ; for, that any thing 
should exist in itself or absolutely is absurd. Agreeably 
to which doctrine it is also farther affirmed by Plato, that 
it is impossible a thing should be sweet and sweet to 
nobody. It must, nevertheless, be owned with regard to 
Aristotle, that even in his Metaphysics there are some 
expressions which seem to favour the absolute existence 
of corporeal things. For instance, in the eleventh book ;! , 
speaking of corporeal sensible things, what wonder, saith 
he, if they never appear to us the same, no more than to 
sick men ; since we are always changing and never remain 
the same ourselves ? And again, he saith, sensible things, 
although they receive no change in themselves, do never 
theless in sick persons produce different sensations and 
not the same. These passages would seem to imply a 
distinct and absolute existence of the objects of sense. 

312. But it must be observed, that Aristotle distinguisheth 
a twofold existence potential and actual. It will not 
therefore follow that, according to Aristotle, because a 
thing is, it must actually exist . This is evident from 
the eighth book 5 of his Metaphysics, where he animadverts 

1 In sect. 311-319, Berkeley, in cap. 6, where Aristotle argues 

consideration of the transitoriness against Protagoras, and in behalf 

of the data of sense, and their im- of permanence in sensible things, 
plication of percipient sustaining 4 For we cannot say that its 

mind, returns to the favourite pro- realisation in individual percipients 

blem of his youth the meaning is necessarily implied in its poteii- 

of real existence when predicated of tial existence in God. 
the sensible world. He summons 5 C. 3, in which potential .(tv 

Plato and Aristotle as witnesses Swajuei) is distinguished from 

to the truth, that its existence is actual existence (kv fvfpytia, or 

relative; that unperceived Matter iv ei>T(\exei<}) , and the Megaric 

and Space are absurd abstractions. theory, limiting existence to the 

Cf. Principles of Human Know- latter, is identified with the scep- 

ledge. Sensible things are not tical subjectivity of Protagoras, 

to be confounded with the a-ntipov With Berkeley, when sensible 

of Plato, or the v\rf of Aristotle. things exist ev, they exist 

" P. 160. in the ever-living power of God. 

3 The passage is in Lib. X. (XI.) But what is to be understood by 


on the Megaric philosophers, as not admitting a possible 
existence distinct from the actual : from whence, saith he, 
it must follow, that there t s nothing cold, or hot, or sweet, 
or any sensible thing at all, where there is no perception. 
He adds that, in consequence of that Megaric doctrine, we 
can have no sense but while we actually exert it : we are 
blind when we do not see, and therefore both blind and 
deaf several times in a day. 

313. The eVreAe xetat Trpwrat of the Peripatetics, that is, 
the sciences, arts, and habits, were by them distinguished 
from the acts or evrtA^xetat Se^Ve/oat, and supposed to exist 
in the mind, though not exerted or put into act 1 . This 
seems to illustrate the manner in which Socrates, Plato, 
and their followers, conceive innate notions to be in the 
soul of man (sect. 309). It was the Platonic doctrine 2 , 
that human souls or minds descended from above, and 
were sowed in generation ; that they were stunned, stupi- 
fied, and intoxicated by this descent and immersion into 
animal nature ; and that the soul, in this (Wpwis or 
slumber, forgets her original notions, which are smothered 
and oppressed by many false tenets and prejudices of 
sense. Insomuch that Proclus :! compares the soul, in 
her descent invested with growing prejudices, to Glaucus 
diving to the bottom of the sea, and there contracting 
divers coats of seaweed, coral, and shells, which stick 
close to him, and conceal his true shape. 

314. Hence, according to this philosophy, the mind of 
man is so restless to shake off that slumber, to disengage 
and emancipate herself from those prejudices and false 
opinions that so straitly beset and cling to her, to rub off 
those covers that disguise her original form, and to regain 
her primeval state and first notions : hence that perpetual 
struggle to recover the lost region of light, that ardent 
thirst and endeavour after truth and intellectual ideas ; 
which she would neither seek to attain, nor rejoice in, nor 
know when attained, except she had some prenotion or 

this sort of existence ? Berkeley gies of the Peripatetics, 

hardly recognises this question, * Tiniceus, p. 52. 

and its difficulties for us. 3 Comment, in Alcib. Plat. Prim. 

1 The acquisition of a habit im- De Anima et Daemone. A Latin 

plies previous potentiality, as well edition by Ficinus, consisting of 

as the manifestation of the habit. excerpta, appeared in 1497, at 

Hence the first and second encr- Venice. 


anticipation of them, and they had lain innate and dor 
mant, like habits and sciences in the mind, or things 
laid up, which are called out and roused by recollection 
or reminiscence. So that learning seemeth in effect 
reminiscence 1 . 

315. The Peripatetics themselves distinguish between 
reminiscence and mere memory. Themistius observes 
that the best memories commonly go with the worst parts ; 
but that reminiscence is most perfect in the most in 
genious minds. And, notwithstanding the tabula rasa of 
Aristotle (sect. 308), yet some of his followers have under 
taken to make him speak Plato s sense. Thus Plutarch 
the Peripatetic teacheth, as agreeable to his master s 
doctrine, that learning is reminiscence, and that the vovs 
Ko.8 egw is in children. Simplicius also, in his commentary 
on the third book of Aristotle, Trepi i/a^s, speak eth of a 
certain interior reason in the soul, acting of itself, and 
originally full of its own proper notions, TrA^pv/s dc lavrov 

316. And, as the Platonic philosophy supposed intel 
lectual notions to be originally inexistent, or innate in the 
soul (sect. 309, 314), so likewise it supposed sensible 
qualities to exist (though not originally) in the soul, and 
there only 3 . Socrates saith to Theaetetus 4 , You must not 
think the white colour that you see is in any thing without 
your eyes, or in your eyes, or in any place at all. And in 
the Timceus*, Plato teacheth that the figure and motion 
of the particles of fire dividing the parts of our bodies 

1 On the Platonic doctrine, it Aristotle with Plato. Plutarch the 
follows that we remember, by con- Peripatetic seems to be Plutarch 
tingent association, the contingen- son of Nestorius, the Neo-plato- 
cies of sense-experience ; we are nist, who is said to have written 
reminiscent of the intellectual a commentary, now lost, on the De 
ideas or necessities that can be Anima. With Aristotle, remini- 
evolved by reflexion. scence (dva/^ffts) implies, I think, 

2 In connexion with this section, not all that Plato symbolised by 
see Themistius, In De Memoria et reminiscence of a life before birth. 
Reminiscentia, fol. 97 (ed. Venet. there does not imply locality 
1534); and Simplicius, De Anitna, spaaal relation. Cf. sect. 329. 
Lib. III. c. 9. To Simplicius, The forms of knowledge are latent 
who lived in the sixth century, in sensuous perception : pure 
we owe valuable expositions sensation is negation. 

of Aristotle, especially the De 4 Theatetus, pp. 184, 185. 

Anima. He attempts to reconcile 5 Pp. 61, 62. 


produce that painful sensation we call heat. And Plotinus, 
in the sixth book of his second Ennead 1 , observes that 
heat and other qualities are not qualities in the things 
themselves, but acts : that heat is not a quality, but act in 
the fire : that fire is not really what we perceive in the 
qualities, light, heat, and colour. From all which it is 
plain that whatever real things they suppose to exist 
independent of the soul, those were neither sensible things 
nor clothed with sensible qualities. 

317. Neither Plato nor Aristotle by Matter, vXrj, under 
stood corporeal substance, whatever the moderns may 
understand by that word 2 . To them certainly it signified 
no positive actual being. Aristotle :! describes it as made 
up of negatives, having neither quantity, nor quality, nor 
essence. And not only the Platonists and Pythagoreans, 
but also the Peripatetics themselves declare it to be known, 
neither by sense, nor by any direct and just reasoning, 
but only by some spurious or adulterine method, as hath 
been observed before. Simon Portius 4 , a famous Peri 
patetic of the sixteenth century, denies it to be any substance 
at all ; for, saith he, Ncqitit per sc subsistcrc, quid sequcretur, 
id quod non cst in actu esse in actu. If Jamblichus may 
be credited, the Egyptians supposed Matter so far from 
including aught of substance or essence, that, according 
to them, God produced it by a separation from all sub 
stance, essence, or being, a-rro OVO-IO TT/TOS ciTroxio-tfeio-^s vXoTr)- 
TOS. That Matter is actually nothing, but potentially all 
things, is the doctrine of Aristotle, Theophrastus, and 
all the ancient Peripatetics . 

318. According to those philosophers, Matter is only 
a pura potcntia, a mere possibility. But Anaximander, 
successor to Thales, is represented as having thought 

1 Cap. 3. * See the De Rcrum Natiiraliuin 

" TO aiTfipov, or TO trepov of Principiis (1551), Lib. I. c. n, of 

Plato according to Hegel, a ne- Simon Porta or Portius a Nea- 

cessitated otherness. What is politan Professor of Philosophy at 

popularly meant by matter, i. e. Pisa, and the most famous of the 

sensible things, is not to be con- pupils of Pomponatius. 
founded with the formless Matter & DC JEgyptionim Mystcriis. See 

of Aristotle that dark, undefin- the paraphrase of Ficinus. 
able presupposition underlying this " Metapli. Lib. VI. c. 7. 15, Lib. 

ordered world. VII. c. i ; De Aninia, Lib. III. 

3 Metaph. Lib. VI. c. 3. c. 5. 


the supreme Deity to be infinite Matter. Nevertheless, 
though Plutarch 1 calleth it Matter, yet it was simply TO 
ttTreipoj/, which means no more than infinite or indefinite. 
And although the moderns teach that Space is real and 
infinitely extended, yet, if we consider that it is no in 
tellectual notion 2 , nor yet perceived by any of our senses, 
we shall perhaps be inclined to think with Plato in his 
Titneeus, that this also is the result of Aoytcr/Aos vdflos, or 
spurious reasoning, and a kind of waking dream. Plato 
observes that we dream, as it were, when we think of 
place, and believe it necessary that whatever exists should 
exist in some place. Which place or space (sect. 250, 
270), he also observes, is /ACT dvutcr$?70-ias a-n-rov, that is, 
to be felt as darkness is seen, or silence heard, being 
a mere privation. 

319. If any one should think to infer the reality, or 
actual being, of Matter from the modern tenet, that 
gravity is always proportionable to the quantity of matter, 
let him but narrowly scan the modern demonstration of 
that tenet, and he will find it to be a vain circle, concluding 
in truth no more than this that gravity is proportionable 
to weight, that is, to itself. Since Matter is conceived 
only as defect and mere possibility ; and since God is 
absolute perfection and act ; it follows there is the greatest 
distance and opposition imaginable between God and 
Matter. Insomuch that a material God would be alto 
gether inconsistent. 

320. The force that produces, the intellect that orders, 
the goodness that perfects all things is the Supreme 
Being :! . Evil, defect, negation, is not the object of God s 

1 De Pladt. Philos. Lib. I. c. 3. Tintaus, p. 52 ; and cf. sect. 306. 

2 With Berkeley intellectual no- Sect. 320-329, in accumulating 
tions and ideas of sense are consti- authorities favourable to the re- 
tuent elements of our knowledge. In ference of all change ultimately 
his early philosophy, he concerned to spiritual agency, suggest the 
himself chiefly with the former ; manner of the relation of the 
in Sin s with the latter. In his physical Cosmos to the Universal 
later as in his earlier philosophy Power ; also the elasticity of 
he teaches that absolute Space is our theistic conception, adapted 
a negation ; actualised in sensible to theological eclecticism, and to 
extension created and depen- tolerance of diversity in theological 
dent for its actual reality upon expression. They also revert to 
percipient mind. For Plato, sec the aniina nnnidi. 


creative power. From motion the Peripatetics trace out 
a first immoveable Mover. The Platonics make God 
author of all good, author of no evil, and unchangeable ] . 
According to Anaxagoras, there was a confused mass 
of all things in one chaos ; but Mind supervening, lirtXdwv, 
distinguished and divided them. Anaxagoras, it seems, 
ascribed the motive faculty to mind ~ ; which mind some 
subsequent philosophers have accurately discriminated 
from soul and life, ascribing to it the sole faculty of 

321. But still God was supposed the first Agent, the 
source and original of all things ; which he produceth, 
not occasionally or instrumentally, but with actual and 
real efficacy. Thus the treatise De Sccrctiore Parte Diviucc 
Sapicnticc sccundiim JEgyptios, in the tenth book, saith 
of God, that he is not only the first Agent, but also that 
he it is who truly acts or creates, qui vcrc cfficit. 

322. Varro, Tully, and St. Augustin, understand the 
soul to be vis ; the power or force that acts, moves, 
enlivens. Now although, in our conception, vis, or spirit, 
might be distinguished from mind, it would not thence 
follow that it acts blindly or without mind, or that it 
is not closely connected with intellect. If Plutarch 3 is 
to be trusted in his account of the opinions of philo 
sophers, Thales held the mind of the world to be God ; 
Democritus held the soul of the world to be an igniform 
deity (sect. 166, 168, 277) ; Pythagoras taught that God 
was the monad and the good, or T AyafloV ; Socrates also 
and Plato pronounced him to be TO "Ei/ (sect. 287), the 
single, self-originate One, essentially good. Each of which 
appellations and forms of speech directly tends to and 
determines in Mind, as rw vow o-7rer8ei, saith Plutarch. 

323. Whence that author concludes, that, in the sense 
of those philosophers, God is a Mind, -^pLtrrov e?8os ; not 
an abstract idea compounded of inconsistencies, and pre 
scinded from all real things, as some moderns understand 

1 Tiniceus, pp. 29, 30. Whence sive education of persons in good- 
then comes the suffering and mornl ness ? 

evil which perplex us on this 2 i. e. i/oi/y. See Diogen. Laert. 

planet? Is it not through the Lib. II. c. 6; also Ps.-Plutarch, De 

power of persons to do evil, which Placit. Lib. I. c. 3. 

is implied in the universe being J DC Placit. Philos. Lib. I. c. 7 ; 

a moral economy, for the progres- also Arist. DC Anima, Lib. I. c. 2. 


abstraction ; but a really existing Spirit, distinct or 
separate from all sensible and corporeal beings. And 
although the Stoics are represented as holding a corporeal 
deity, or that the very system of the world is God, yet 
it is certain they did not, at bottom, dissent from the 
forementioned doctrine ; inasmuch as they supposed the 
world to be an animal (sect. 276, 279) consisting of soul 
or mind, as well as body. 

324. This notion was derived from the Pythagoreans, 
who held the world, as Timseus Locrus 2 teacheth, to be 
one perfect animal, endued with soul and reason : but 
then they believed it to have been generated : whereas 
the Stoics looked on the world as the Supreme God, 
including therein mind or intellect. For the elementary 
fire, or, if one may so speak, the animal spirit of the world, 
seemeth, according to them, to have been the vehicle of the 
soul of the world (sect. 277, 284), since they styled the 
Divinity -n-vp voepov (sect. 272), or intellectual fire. 

325. The Egyptians, if we may credit the Hermaic 
writings, maintained God to be all things, not only actual, 
but possible. He is styled by them, That which is made 
and that which is unmade. And therein it is said, Shall 
I praise thee for those things thou hast made manifest, 
or for the things thou hast hidden ? Therefore, in their 
sense, to manifest was to create ; the things created having 
been before hidden in God. 

326. Now, whether the vovs be abstracted from the 
sensible world, and considered by itself, as distinct from 
and presiding over the created system ; or whether the 
whole Universe, including mind together with the mundane 
body, is conceived to be God (sect. 300), and the creatures 
to be partial manifestations of the Divine essence there 
is no Atheism in either case, whatever misconceptions 
there may be ; so long as Mind or Intellect is understood 
to preside over, govern, and conduct, the whole frame of 
things 4 . And this was the general prevailing opinion 
among the philosophers. 

1 Cf. Principles, Introd. sect. 6- Lib. I. c. n. Cf. sect. 153 of Sin s. 
17. See Arist. Metaph. Lib. XI. c. s and soul itself the vehicle of 
7, 12. intellect or vovs in first edition. 

2 De Anima Mundi, cap. 2. See Cf. sect. 287, 300. We find 
also Ps.-Plutarch, De Plant. Philos. similar language in the Alexandrian 


327. Nor if any one, with Aristotle in his Metaphysics^, 
should deny that God knows anything without himself 
seeing that God comprehends all things, could this be 
justly pronounced an atheistical opinion. Nor even was 
the following notion of the same author to be accounted 
Atheism, to wit that there are some things beneath the 
knowledge of God, as too mean, base, and vile ; however 
wrong this notion may be, and unworthy of the Divine 
perfection 2 . 

328. Might we not conceive that God may be said to 
be All in divers senses; as he is the cause and origin 
of all beings; as the vo>s is the VOT/TU, a doctrine both of 
Platonics and Peripatetics (sect. 309, 310) ; as the vo?s 
is the place of all forms ; and as it is the same which 
comprehends and orders (sect. 320) and sustains the whole 
mundane system. Aristotle declares that the Divine force 
or influence permeates the entire universe (sect. 173), and 
that what the pilot is in a ship, the driver in a chariot, 
the precentor in a choir, the law in a city, the general 
in an army, the same God is in the world 3 . This he 
amply sets forth in his book DC Mimdo ; a treatise which, 
having been anciently ascribed to him, ought not to be 
set aside from the difference of style ; which (as Patricius 
rightly observes), being in a letter to a king, might well 
be supposed to differ from the other dry and crabbed 
parts of his writings 4 . 

329. And, although there are some expressions to be 

Fathers, and in Cudworth. Berke- and moral) vivified or personified, 

ley is satisfied to conceive God as not capricious interference with 

immanent in nature and in spirit ; Order, is the profound lesson at 

provided there is practical acknow- once of philosophy and true 

ledgement of perfect Intelligence religion. This theistic faith is 

at the heart of the universe, the virtually postulated in all human 

physical necessarily subordinate to experience, 

the spiritual. 4 Cap. VI. 34. As already 

1 Lib. XI. c. 6-9. said, the De Mundo is not ac- 

2 Theism involves the absolute cepted as genuine. But see the 
universality of Divine Providence reference to it in Cud worth s 7;/(W- 
or the adaptation of all that exists lectual System, Bk. IV. c. 26. Patri- 
and happens to the Divine Ideal cius (1529-97) was one of the 
of progressive goodness in moral Christian Platonists of his day, 
agents. Nothing accordingly can and a critical expositor of Aris- 
be too insignificant for recognition totle. In his Disatssiones Pen- 
in the providential moral order. pateticce, he refers to the De 

3 That God is Order (physical Mundo. 


met with in the philosophers, even of the Platonic and 
Aristotelic sects, which speak of God as mixing with, or 
pervading all nature and all the elements ; yet this must 
be explained by force, and not by extension, which was 
never attributed to the mind (sect. 290, 293, 297, 319), 
either by Aristotle or Plato. This they always affirmed 
to be incorporeal : and, as Plotinus remarks 1 , incorporeal 
things are distant each from other not by place, but (to 
use his expression) by alterity. 

330. These disquisitions will probably seem dry and 
useless to such readers as are accustomed to consider 
only sensible objects. The employment of the mind on 
things purely intellectual is to most men irksome ; whereas 
the sensitive powers, by constant use, acquire strength. 
Hence, the objects of sense more forcibly affect us (sect. 
264, 294), and are too often counted the chief good. For 
these things men fight, cheat, and scramble. Therefore, 
in order to tame mankind, and introduce a sense of virtue, 
the best human means is to exercise their understanding, 
to give them a glimpse of another world, superior to the 
sensible, and, while they take pains to cherish and main 
tain the animal life, to teach them not to neglect the 

331. Prevailing studies are of no small consequence 
to a state, the religion, manners, and civil government 
of a country ever taking some bias from its philosophy ; 
which affects not only the minds of its professors and 
students, but also the opinions of all the better sort, 
and the practice of the whole people, remotely and con 
sequentially indeed, though not inconsiderably. Have 
not the polemic and scholastic philosophy been observed 
to produce controversies in law and religion ? And have 
not Fatalism and Sadducism gained ground, during the 
general passion for the corpuscularian and mechanical 
philosophy, which hath prevailed for about a century ? 
This, indeed, might usefully enough have employed some 
share of the leisure and curiosity of inquisitive persons. 
But when it entered the seminaries of learning, as a 

1 Third Ennead, Lib. VI. c. 15, by alterity, TJJ freporrjn a re 
markable term. 


necessary accomplishment and most important part of 
education, by engrossing men s thoughts, and fixing their 
minds so much on corporeal objects, and the laws of 
motion, it hath, however undesignedly, indirectly, and 
by accident, yet not a little, indisposed them for spiritual, 
moral, and intellectual matters. Certainly had the philo 
sophy of Socrates and Pythagoras prevailed in this age, 
among those who think themselves too wise to receive 
the dictates of the Gospel, we should not have seen 
interest take so general and fast hold on the minds of 
men, nor public spirit reputed to be ytwalav ev-^OcLav, a 
generous folly, among those who are reckoned to be the 
most knowing as well as the most getting part of man 
kind \ 

332. It might very well be thought serious trifling to 
tell my readers that the greatest men had ever a high 
esteem for Plato ; whose writings are the touchstone ~ of 
a hasty and shallow mind ; whose philosophy has been 
the admiration of ages ; which supplied patriots, magis 
trates, and lawgivers to the most flourishing states, as 
well as fathers to the Church, and doctors to the schools. 
Albeit in these days the depths of that old learning are 
rarely fathomed ; and yet it were happy for these lands 
if our young nobility and gentry, instead of modern maxims, 
would imbibe the notions of the great men of antiquity. 
But, in these freethinking times, many an empty head 
is shook at Aristotle and Plato, as well as at the Holy 
Scriptures. And the writings of those celebrated ancients 
are by most men treated on a foot with the dry and 
barbarous lucubrations of the schoolmen. It may be 
modestly presumed there are not many among us, even 
of those who are called the better sort, who have more 
sense, virtue, and love of their country than Cicero, who 
in a Letter to Atticus 3 could not forbear exclaiming, 

1 The eloquent appeal on behalf ing, which occupy the remaining 

of a Spiritual, as contrasted with sections of Siris. 

the, then and now, prevalent 2 Sir J. Mackintosh applies this 

Mechanical, or Materialistic Philo- term to Berkeley s own philosophy, 

sophy, and the eloge of Plato, con- His immaterialism is chiefly valu- 

tained in this and the next section, able as a touchstone of metaphy- 

is the prelude to the fragments of sical sagacity (Diss. p. 208). 

Platonic and Neo-platonic specula- 3 Epist. XIV. 9. 
tion regarding Triune Divine Be- 


Socrates et Socratici viri! nunquam vobis gratiam rc- 
feram. Would to God many of our countrymen had the 

same obligations to those Socratic writers ! Certainly, 
where the people are well educated, the art of piloting 
a state is best learned from the writings of Plato. But 
among bad men, void of discipline and education, Plato, 
Pythagoras, and Aristotle themselves, were they living, 
could do but little good. Plato hath drawn a very 
humourous and instructive picture of such a state ; which 

1 shall not transcribe for certain reasons \ But whoever 
has a mind may see it, in the seventy-eighth page of the 
second tome of Aldus s edition of Plato s works. 

333. Proclus, in the first book 2 of his Commentary on 
the Theology of Plato, observes that, as in the mysteries, 
those who are initiated at first meet with manifold and 
multiform gods, but, being entered and thoroughly initiated, 
they receive the Divine illumination, and participate the 
very Deity : in like manner, if the soul look abroad, she 
beholds the shadows and images of things ; but returning 
into herself, she unravels and beholds her own essence : 
at first she seemeth only to behold herself; but having 
penetrated farther she discovers the mind. And again, 
still farther advancing into the innermost sanctuary of the 
soul, she contemplates the 6tw yeW. And this, he saith, 
is the most excellent of all human acts, in the silence and 
repose of the faculties of the soul to tend upwards to the 
very Divinity ; to approach and be closely joined with 
that which is ineffable and superior to all beings. When 
come so high as the first principle, she ends her journey 
and rests. Such is the doctrine of Proclus. 

334. But Socrates in the First Alcibiades 3 teacheth, 

1 The passage here referred to is a Cap.3. We have here a rough 
in Repub. Lib. VI. pp. 487 -489 D, version of the original ; according 
Elfv, (lTTOf...8if\r]\vda^(v, in which to which all things are potentially 
the position of the philosopher in in the soul, which is thus poten- 
the state is likened to that of the tially omniscient, 
able steersman, among a rebellious 3 P. 33. The passage in Pro- 
crew. Berkeley s reason for not clus, quoted in the preceding sec- 
quoting it might have been the tion, is a commentary on this part 
length of the passage. He could of the First Alcibiades, where 
hardly have fancied that it might Socrates has it that in knowing 
be applied to himself, and the the reasonable soul and its ideas 
government under which he lived. we know God, and thus in know- 


on the other hand, that the contemplation of God is the 
proper means to know or understand our own soul. As 
the eye, saith he, looking steadfastly at the visive part or 
pupil of another eye, beholds itself, even so the soul 
beholds and understands herself, while she contemplates 
the Deity, which is wisdom and virtue, or like thereunto. 
In the Phaedon l , Socrates speaks of God as being T AyaOw 
and TO AeW (sect. 260, 322) ; Plotinus 2 represents God as 
order ; Aristotle :! as law 4 . 

335. It may seem, perhaps, to those who have been 
taught to discourse about substratums, more reasonable 
and pious, to attribute to the Deity a more substantial 
being than the notional entities of wisdom, order, law, 
virtue, or goodness; which being only complex ideas, 
framed and put together by the understanding, are its own 
creatures, and have nothing substantial, real, or indepen 
dent in them. But it must be considered that, in the 
Platonic system, order, virtue, law, goodness, and wisdom 
are not creatures of the soul of man, but innate, and 
originally existent therein, not as an accident in a sub 
stance, but as light to enlighten, and as a guide to govern. 
In Plato s style, the term idea doth not merely signify an 
inert inactive object of the understanding, but is used as 
synonymous with alnov and dpx r /> cause and principle r> . 
According to that philosopher, goodness, beauty, virtue, 
and such like are not figments of the mind, nor mere 
mixed modes, nor yet abstract ideas in the modern sense, 

ing God know ourselves. Plato tween the sensuous ideas of 

thus maintains the divinity of the Berkeley s early writings, and the 

reasonable soul. The First Aid- Divine Ideas of Plato which he 

biades, Platonic in its tone, is by now appreciates ; by participation 

many regarded as spurious. in which the relations of things 

1 Phado, p. 80. are necessarily determined ; and in 

2 Sixth Ennead, Lib. VIII. ad which, as principles, speculative 
finem ; also Fifth Ennead, Lib. V. inquiry seeks its satisfaction. Phy- 
Cf. sect. 328, note i, with this and sical science is the issue of man s 
the next note. tentative endeavours to resolve 

3 De Mtitido, cap. VI. 36. Not events in external nature under 
Aristotle. their rational rules of procedure. 

* This is a pregnant sentence. But its provisional generalisations, 

Is not God rightly conceived as, limited by the data of human 

relatively to us, perfect Goodness, experience in sense, are far short 

Order and Law vivified, and eter- of the Divine Thought, which con- 

nally operative? See next section. structive Idealism has tried in vain 

5 Note here the contrast be- to express fully in the concrete. 


but the most real beings, intellectual and unchangeable : 
and therefore more real than the fleeting, transient objects 
of sense (sect. 306), which, wanting stability, cannot be 
subjects of science (sect. 264, 266, 297), much less of 
intellectual knowledge. 

336. By Parmenides, Timaeus, and Plato a distinction 
was made, as hath been observed already, between gcnitum 
and ens. The former sort is always generating or in fieri 
(sect. 304, 306), but never exists ; because it never con 
tinues the same, being in a constant change, ever perishing 
and producing. By entia they understand things remote 
from sense, invisible and intellectual, which never changing 
are still the same, and may therefore be said truly to exist. 
Ova-La, which is generally translated substance, but more 
properly essence, was not thought to belong to things 
sensible and corporeal, which have no stability ; but rather 
to intellectual ideas, though discerned with more difficulty, 
and making less impression on a mind stupefied and 
immersed in animal life, than gross objects that continually 
beset and solicit our senses, 

337. The most refined human intellect, exerted to its 
utmost reach, can only seize some imperfect glimpses of 
the Divine Ideas (sect. 313, 330), abstracted from all 
things corporeal, sensible, and imaginable. Therefore 
Pythagoras and Plato treated them in a mysterious manner, 
concealing rather than exposing them to vulgar eyes ; so 
far were they from thinking that those abstract things, 
although the most real, were the fittest to influence common 
minds, or become principles of knowledge, not to say duty 
and virtue, to the generality of mankind. 

338. Aristotle 1 and his followers have made a monstrous 
representation of the Platonic ideas ; and some of Plato s 
own school have said very odd things concerning them. But 
if that philosopher himself was not read only, but studied 
also with care, and made his own interpreter, I believe 
the prejudice that now lies against him would soon wear 
off (sect. 309, 313), or be even converted into a high 
esteem for those exalted notions and fine hints that sparkle 
and shine throughout his writings ; which seem to contain 

1 See, for instance, Aristotle s known passages, upon the Platonic 
Metaph. Lib. I. c. 9, and the inter- doctrine of the absoluteness of the. 
pretation put by Aristotle, in well- Ideas. See also Mctaplt. XII. 4. 


not only the most valuable learning of Athens and Greece, 
but also a treasure of the most remote traditions and early 
science of the East. 

339. In the Titna iis 1 of Plato mention is made of ancient 
persons, authors of traditions, and the offspring of the 
gods. It is very remarkable that, in the account of the 
creation contained in the same piece, it is said that God 
was pleased with His work, and that the night is placed 
before the day. The more we think, the more difficult 
shall we find it to conceive, how mere man, grown up in 
the vulgar habits of life, and weighed down by sensuality, 
should ever be able to arrive at science, without some 
tradition (sect. 298, 301, 302) or teaching, which might 
either sow the seeds of knowledge, or call forth and excite 
those latent seeds that were originally sown in the soul - . 

340. Human souls in this low situation, bordering on 
mere animal life, bear the weight and see through the 
dusk of a gross atmosphere, gathered from wrong judg 
ments daily passed, false opinions daily learned, and early 
habits of an older date than either judgment or opinion. 
Through such a medium the sharpest eye cannot see 
clearly (sect. 292, 293, 294). And if by some extraordinary 
effort the mind should surmount this dusky region, and 
snatch a glimpse of pure light, she is soon drawn back 
wards, and depressed by the heaviness of the animal 
nature to which she is chained. And if again she 
chanceth, amidst the agitation of wild fancies and strong 
affections, to spring upwards, a second relapse speedily 
succeeds into this region of darkness and dreams. 

341. Nevertheless, as the mind gathers strength by 
repeated acts, we should not despond, but continue to 
exert the prime and flower of our faculties, still recovering, 
and reaching on, and struggling, into the upper region, 
whereby our natural weakness and blindness may be in 

1 Pp. 23 and 37. Cf. sect. 298, that are latent in each human 

301, for illustrations of Berkc- mind, make men responsive to 

ley s reverence for ancient philoso- their analogues, presented out- 

phy, as a supposed repository of an wardly by tradition or in history, 

original Divine Revelation. So Cud- The outward revelation may thus 

worth, and afterwards the Cheva- awaken a corresponding inspiration 

lier Ramsay. in the individual. 

2 Spiritual ideas and principles 


some degree remedied, and a taste attained of truth and 
intellectual life. Beside the constant prevailing opinion 
of the greatest men of antiquity, that there is both an 
universal Spirit, author of life and motion, and an univer 
sal Mind, enlightening and ordering all things, it was 
a received tenet among them, that there is also TO "Ev or r 
Aya#ov (sect. 322), which they looked on as the Fons 
Deitatis, the first hypostasis in the Divinity. 

342. The ONE, or TO "Ev, being immutable and indi 
visible, always the same and entire, was therefore thought 
to exist truly and originally, and other things only so far 
as they are one and the same, by participation of TO "Ei/. 
1 This gives unity, stability, and reality, to things (sect. 
264, 306). Plato describes God, as Moses 2 , from His 
being. According to both, God is He who truly is, 6 oWws 
wv. Change and division were esteemed defects or bad. 
Evil scatters, divides, destroys. Good, on the contrary, 
produceth concord and union, assembles, combines, per 
fects, and preserves entire. The several beings which 
compose the universe are parts of the same system ; they 
combine to carry on one end, and perfect one whole. 
And this aptness and concurrence thereunto furnishes the 
partial particular idea of Good in the distinct creatures. 
Hence it might have come to pass that T Aya0dV and TO "Ev 
were regarded as one and the same. 

343. Light and sight (saith Plato in the sixth book ;! oi 
his Republic) are not the sun : even so truth and know 
ledge are not the good itself, although they approach 

1 The Platonic and Neo-pla- rather than with absolute, immu- 
tonic conception of God is touched table Being with development, in 
in this section ; also what finite short ; and orderly development, 
personality means a finite Ego animated by Spirit. Unity in a 
in itself, in its relation to God, necessary Trinity, is Berkeley s 
also to nature, including its own implied ultimate conception of 
sentient organism. The specula- TO Uav. 

tion of the ONE belongs eminently :! This section of Sin s is a 

to Parmenides, and to Plotinus and description of what Plato says 

Proclus. In this and the following in the Republic; though I do 

sections, Berkeley mixes up the not think he says expressly that 

opinions of Plato with those of the One and the Good are the 

earlier and later philosophers. same, unless this may be inferred 

2 Exodus III. 14. Some mo- from the end of the second book of 
dern critics connect the name the Republic, and the end of the 
Jehovah (Yahwc) with becoming Phikbus, 


thereunto. And again, what the sun is in a visible place 
with respect to sight and things seen, that same is r 
AyaOov or Good in an intelligible place, with respect to 
understanding and things understood. Therefore the 
Good or One is not the light that enlightens, but the 
source of that light. 

344. Every moment produceth some change in the parts 
of this visible creation. Something is added, or diminished, 
or altered, in essence, quantity, quality, or habitude. 
Wherefore all generated beings were said by the ancients 
to be in a perpetual flux (sect. 304, 336). And that which, 
on a confused and general view, seems one single constant 
Being, shall upon a nearer inspection appear a continued 
series of different beings. But God remains for ever one 
and the same. Therefore God alone exists. This was the 
doctrine of Heraclitus, Plato, and other ancients. 

345. It is the opinion of Plato and his followers l that in 
the soul of man, prior and superior to intellect, there is 
somewhat of a higher nature, by virtue of which we are 
One ; and that by means of our one or unit, we are most 
closely joined to the Deity. And, as by our intellect we 
touch the Divine Intellect, even so by our TO lv or unit, the 
very flower of our essence, as Proclus expresseth it -, we 
touch the first One. 

346. According to the Platonic philosophy, ens and 
union are the same. And consequently our minds par 
ticipate so far of existence as they do of unity. But it 
should seem that Personality is the indivisible centre of 
the soul or mind ; which is a monad so far forth as she 
is a person. Therefore Person is really that which exists ; 
inasmuch as it participates the Divine Unity. In man the 
monad or indivisible is the ai-ro avro, the self-same self, 
or very self; a thing in the opinion of Socrates, much and 
narrowly to be inquired into and discussed, to the end 

1 In this and the preceding sec- chapters may have been in Berkc- 

tion there is more than is found ley s view, in this and the three 

in Plato. Proclus, In Theol. Plat., foregoing sections. 

Lib. II. cap. 4-12, expounds and 2 In Theol. Plat., Lib. III. c. 4. 

defends Plato s doctrine of the In the first part of this book, Pro- 

ONE, referring especially to pas- clus speculates on the manner in 

sages in the Parmenides, Republic, which human souls participate in 

Philebus, and Sophista. These the One. 


that, knowing ourselves, we may know what belongs to 
ourselves and to our happiness. 

347. Upon mature reflexion, the person or mind of all 
created beings seemeth alone indivisible, and to partake 
most of unity 1 . But sensible things are rather considered 
as one than truly so, they being in a perpetual flux or 
succession, ever differing and various. Nevertheless, all 
things together may be considered as one universe (sect. 
287, 288) ; one by the connexion, relation, and order of 
its parts, which is the work of mind, whose unit is, by 
Platonics, supposed a participation of the first TO "Ev. 

348. Socrates, in the Thecvtctus of Plato, speaketh of 
two parties of philosophers the peWres, and ol TOV oXov 
o-Tao-tomxt : the flowing philosophers, who held all things 
to be in a perpetual flux, always generating and never 
existing ; and those others who maintained the universe to 
be fixed and immovable 2 . The difference seems to have 
been this, that Heraclitus, Protagoras, Empedocles, and 
in general those of the former sect, considered things 
sensible and natural ; whereas Parmenides and his party 
considered TO TTO.V, not as the sensible but as the intelligible 
world (sect. 293, 294, 295), abstracted from all sensible 

349. In effect, if we mean by tilings the sensible objects, 
these, it is evident, are always flowing ; but if we mean 
things purely intelligible, then we may say on the other 
hand, with equal truth, that they are immovable and 
unchangeable. So that those who thought the Whole, 
or TO Hav, to be tV Ej/ eo-Tok, a fixed or permanent One, seem 
to have understood the Whole of real beings ; which in 
their sense was only the intellectual world, not allowing 
reality of being to things not permanent 3 . 

350. The displeasure of some readers may perhaps be 
incurred, by surprising them into certain reflexions and 
inquiries for which they have no curiosity. But perhaps 

1 Our own continued personality z P. 181. On the flowing 

and personal identity, revealed in philosophers, see Cudworth s 

memory, is, with Berkeley, our Eternal and Immutable Morality, 

concrete type of all sameness and pp. 242, &c. 

unify that from which we origin- 3 Compare this with the con- 
ally derive the meaning of those ception of reality in the Piin- 
terms. riplts. 


some others may be pleased to find a dry subject varied 
by digressions, traced through remote inferences, and 
carried into ancient times, whose hoary maxims (sect. 298, 
301), scattered in this Essay, are not proposed as principles, 
but barely as hints to awaken and exercise the inquisitive 
reader, on points not beneath the attention of the ablest 
men. Those great men, Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, 
the most consummate in politics, who founded states, or 
instructed princes, or wrote most accurately on public 
government, were at the same time most acute at all 
abstracted and sublime speculations ; the clearest light 
being ever necessary to guide the most important actions. 
And, whatever the world thinks, he who hath not much 
meditated upon God, the human mind, and the siuniniun 
bontim, may possibly make a thriving earthworm, but will 
most indubitably make a sorry patriot and a sorry statesman. 

351. According to the nice metaphysics of those ancient 
philosophers, TO "Ei/ \ being considered as what was first 
and simplest in the Deity, was prescinded even from 
entity, to which it was thought prior and superior ; and 
is therefore by the Platonics styled super-essential. And 
in the Parmenides it is said, ro"Ej/ doth not exist 2 ; which 
might seem to imply a negation of the Divine Being. 
The truth is, Zeno and Parmenides argued that a thing 
existing in time was older and younger than itself; there 
fore the constant immutable TO "Ev did not exist in time : 
and if not in time, then in none of the differences of time 
past, present, or to come ; therefore we cannot say that it 
was, is, or will be. But, nevertheless, it is admitted, in 
the same Parmenides, that TO vvv is everywhere present to 

1 The contemplation of TO "Ec, generally disallowed, and has long 

or that ineffable Hypostasis which been, even in England. See Caesar 

is first and simplest in Deity, Morgan s Investigation of the Trinity 

suggests further speculation on of Plato andcfPtiilo-Jndcetts(^i^g^) f 

Divine Being, as involving also This is one of the assumptions 

Intellect and Life. This intro- of Parmenides, when he unfolds 

duces the ultimate Trinity, after his conception of the One. The 

which 5*V/s concludes, in sec- dialogue appears to be a sort of 

tions of exquisite beauty. Cf. dialectical entertainment, not con- 

Cudworth s Intellectual System, Bk. taining the real views of Parme- 

IV. c. 36. That Plato taught nides or of Plato, 
u Trinity of Hypostases is now 

U ^ 


TO *Ev; that is, instead of a temporary succession of 
moments, there is one eternal Now, or punctum stans, as it 
is termed by the schoolmen. 

352. The simplicity of TO "Ei/ (the Father in the Pytha- 
goric and Platonic Trinity) is conceived such as to exclude 
intellect or mind, to which it is supposed prior ; and that 
hath created a suspicion of Atheism in this opinion : for, 
saith the learned Doctor Cudworth , shall we say that the 
first Hypostasis or Person is avovg and aAoyos, senseless 
and irrational, and altogether devoid of mind and under 
standing? or would not this be to introduce a kind of 
mysterious Atheism ? To which it may be answered, that 
whoever acknowledgeth the universe to be made and 
governed by an Eternal Mind cannot be justly deemed an 
Atheist (sect. 154, 276, 279, 287). And this was the tenet 
of those ancient philosophers. In the Platonic doctrine, 
the generation of the Nous or Aoyos was not contingent but 
necessary; not temporary but from everlasting. There 
never was a time supposed wherein TO "Ev subsisted with 
out Intellect ; the priority having been understood only as 
a priority of order or conception, but not a priority of age. 
Therefore, the maintaining a distinction of priority between 
TO "Er and Nous doth not infer that the one ever existed 
without the other. It follows, therefore, that the Father, 
or TO "Ev, may, in a certain sense, be said to be avous 
without Atheism, or without destroying the notion of a 
Deity ; any more than it would destroy the notion of 
a human soul, if we should conceive a distinction between 
self and intellect, or intellect and life 2 . To which we may 

1 Shall we say that the First (Cudworth, Intellectual System, Bk. 

Hypostasis or Person in the Pla- IV. ch. 36. p. 585, ed. 1678.) Cf. 

tonic Trinity (if not the Christian Alciphron, Dial. IV. sect. 17, 18 ; 

also) is dvovs or 01X070$, senseless also the references to Archbishop 

and irrational, and altogether de- King, Bishop Browne, and the 

void of mind or understanding? writings attributed to the Areo- 

Or would not this be to introduce pagite Dionysius, on the amount 

a certain kind of mysterious Athe- of theological knowledge that is 

ism, and under pretence of magni- possible in a human intelligence, 

fying and advancing the Supreme 2 The so-called triune faculties 

Deity, monstrously to degrade the of the human soul are manifested 

same ? For why might not sense- in their distinguishable mental 

less Matter be supposed to be the products. The analogy is applied 

first original of all things, as well to the triune manifestation of 

as a senseless incorporeal Being ? Deity, according to Plato and Plo- 


farther add, that it is a doctrine of Platonics, and agrees 
with their master s tenets, to say that TO"EI/, or the first 
Hypostasis, contains all Excellence and Perfection, whereof 
it is the original source, and is einiiicnter, as the schools 
speak, intellect and life, as well as goodness ; while the 
second Hypostasis is essentially Intellect, and, by partici 
pation, goodness, and life ; and the third, Life essentially, 
and, by participation, goodness, and intellect. 

353. Therefore, the whole being considered, it will not 
seem just to fix the imputation of Atheism upon those 
philosophers who held the doctrine of TO "Ei/ (sect. 287, 
288) ; whether it be taken in an abstracted or collective, 
a metaphysical or merely vulgar meaning (sect. 300) : that 
is, whether we prescind Unity from essence and intellect ; 
since metaphysical distinctions of the divine attributes do 
not in reality divide them : or whether we consider the 
universal system of beings as One ; since the union, con 
nexion, and order of its members do manifestly infer a 
mind or intellect to be cause thereof. 

354. The One, or TO *Ki>, may be conceived either by 
composition or division. For as, on the one hand, we 
may say the world or universe is One Whole, or One 
Animal ; so we may, on the other hand, consider TO "Ev 
by division or abstraction, as somewhat in the order of 
things prior to mind. In either sense there is no atheism, 
so long as mind is admitted to preside and direct the 
Animal ; and so long as the Unuin, or TO "Kv, is supposed 
not to exist without mind (sect. 287, 288). So that neither 
Heraclitus, nor Parmenides, nor Pythagoras, nor Plato ; 
neither the Egyptians, nor Stoics, with their doctrine of 
a Divine Whole or Animal ; nor Xenophanes with his er 
KO.I -rrav, are justly to be accounted Atheists. Therefore, 
modern Atheism 1 , be it of Hobbes, Spinosa, Collins 2 , or 
whom you will, is not to be countenanced by the learning 
and great names of antiquity. 

355. Plato teacheth 3 that the doctrine concerning the 

tinus. So also Hegel, with whom realised in living Mind, 

the universal, the particular, and - Collins, so often criticised by 

the singular correspond to Intel- implication in Alciphron and else- 

lect, Feeling, and Will the trinity where, is here named. He died 

o! human consciousness. fifteen years before Sin s appeared. 

1 Atheism abstracts the uni- :; Republic, pp. 256, 257. 
verse from Omnipotent Goodness 


One or Unit is a means to lead and raise the mind to the 
knowledge of Him who truly is (sect. 294, 295). And it is 
a tenet both of Aristotle and Plato, that identity is a 
certain unity. The Pythagoreans also, as well as the 
Platonic philosophers, held ununi and ens to be the same. 
Consistently with which, that only can be said to exist 
which is one and the same. In things sensible and 
imaginable, as such, there seems to be no unity, nothing 
that can be called one, prior to all act of the mind ; since 
they, being in themselves aggregates, consisting of parts 
or compounded of elements, are in effect many. Ac 
cordingly, it is remarked by Themistius 1 , the learned 
interpreter of Aristotle, that to collect many notions into 
one, and to consider them as one, is the work of intellect, 
and not of sense or fancy. 

356. Aristotle himself, in his third book of the Soul 2 , 
saith it is the mind that maketh each thing to be one, TO & 
v TroLovVf TOVTO o j/oi>s (.xacTTov. H ow this is done, I hemistius 
is more particular, observing that, as being conferreth 
essence, the mind, by virtue of her simplicity, conferreth 
simplicity upon compounded beings. And, indeed, it 
seemeth that the mind, so far forth as person, is individual 
(sect. 345, 346, 347) ; therein resembling the Divine One 
by participation, and imparting to other things what itself 
participates from above. This is agreeable to the doctrine 
of the ancients ; however the contrary opinion of sup 
posing number to be an original primary quality in things, 
independent of the mind, may obtain among the moderns 3 . 

357. The Peripatetics taught that in all divisible things 
there was somewhat indivisible, and in all compounded 
things somewhat simple. This they derived from an act 
of the mind. And neither this simple indivisible unit, nor 
any sum of repeated units, consequently no number, can 
be separated from the things themselves, and from the 
operation of the mind. Themistius goeth so far as to 
affirm that it cannot be separated from the words or signs ; 
and, as it cannot be uttered without them, so, saith he, 
neither can it be conceived without them. Thus much 

1 In his Commentary on the DC the commentary of Themistius. 

Anima, Lib. III. 3 As with the Cartesians and 

" C. 6, \vhere Aristotle teaches Locke, 
how error becomes possible. Cf. 


upon the whole may be concluded, that, distinct from the 
mind and her operations, there is in created beings neither 
unit nor number 1 . 

358. Of inferior beings the human mind, self, or person, 
is the most simple and undivided essence (sect. 347). And 
the Supreme Father is the most perfect One. Therefore 
the flight of the mind towards God is called by the 
Platonics (f>vyrj p.ovov 7zyx>s /xoVoj/. The Supreme Being, 
saith Plotinus 2 , as he excludes all diversity, is ever alike 
present. And we are then present to Him, when, recol 
lected and abstracted from the world and sensible objects, 
we are most free and disengaged from all variety (sect. 
268). He adds that in the intuition of the Supreme Deity 
the soul finds her wished-for end and repose ; which that 
philosopher calls awaking out of his body into himself. 

359. In the tenth book of the Arcane, or Divine Wisdom 
of the Egyptians , we are taught that the Supreme Being 
is not the cause of any created thing ; but that he pro 
duced or made the Word ; and that all created beings 
were made by the Word ; which is accordingly styled the 
Cause of all causes : and that this was also the doctrine of 
the Chaldeans. Plato, likewise, in his Letter 4 to Hermias, 
Erastus, and Coriscus, speaks of God, the ruler and cause of 
all things, as having a Father: and, in his Epinomis 5 , he 
expressly teacheth that the Word or Ao yos made the world. 
Accordingly, Saint Augustine, in his Commentary on the 
beginning of Saint John s Gospel, having declared that 
Christ is the Wisdom of God by which all things were 
made, observes that this doctrine was also found in the 
writings of philosophers, who taught that God had an only 
begotten Son, by whom are all things. 

360. Now, though Plato had joined with an imagination 
the most splendid and magnificent, an intellect not less 
deep and clear; yet it is not to be supposed that either 
he or any other philosophers of Greece or the East had 

1 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. - Fifth Ennead, Bk. V. c. 9. 

109, also Principles, sect. 12, 13, 3 Cf. sect. 288. 

with this and the two preceding * Epist. VI. p. 323 not now 

sections the earlier with the latest assigned to Plato, 

expression of his thought on this " P. 978. The Epinomis is not 

subject. regarded as genuine. 


by the light of nature obtained an adequate notion of the 
holy Trinity ; nor even that their imperfect notion, so far 
as it went, was exactly just ; nor perhaps that those sub 
lime hints, which dart forth like flashes of light in the 
midst of a profound darkness, were originally struck from 
the hard rock of human reason ; but rather derived, at 
least in part, by a Divine tradition, from the Author of all 
things (sect. 298, 301). It seems a remarkable confirma 
tion of this, what Plotinus observed in his fifth Ennead , 
that this doctrine of a Trinity Father, Mind, and Soul 
was no late invention, but an ancient tenet. 

361. Certain it is that the notion of a Trinity is to be 
found in the writings of many old heathen philosophers ; 
that is to say, a notion of Three Divine Hypostases. 
Authority, Light, and Life did, to the eye of reason, 
plainly appear to support, pervade, and animate the mun 
dane system or Macrocosm. The same appeared in the 
microcosm 2 , preserving soul and body, enlightening the 
mind, and moving the affections. And these were con 
ceived to be necessary universal principles ; co-existing 
and co-operating, in such sort as never to exist asunder, 
but on the contrary to constitute One Sovereign of all 
things. And, indeed, how could power or authority avail 
or subsist without knowledge ? or either without life and 
action ? 

362. In the administration of all things, there is Au 
thority to establish, Law to direct, and Justice to execute. 
There is first the source of all perfection, or Fans Deitatis ; 
secondly, the supreme Reason, order, or Ao yos ; and lastly, 
the Spirit which quickens and inspires. We are sprung 
from the Father, irradiated or enlightened by the Son, 
and moved by the Spirit. Certainly, that there is Father, 
Son, and Spirit ; that these bear analogy to the sun, light, 

1 Fifth Ennead, Bk. I. c. 5. Fici- manner triune involving the ele- 

nus, in his Commentary, here ments of Sensibility, Intellect, and 

says : Pythagorici fingunt, in Will. These three are in different 

quadam quasi processione ipsius proportions in different persons, 

Unius, oriri Binarium, in quodam but they coexist and co-operate in 

Binarii termino Ternarium sub- all. Intellect in man also involves 

oriri, similiterque deinceps : Pla- a sort of triunity Sense, Idea- 

tonici similiter de prima essentia tion, and Reason, discursive and 

judicant. intuitive* 

- Human consciousness is in a 


and heat ; and are otherwise expressed by the terms Prin 
ciple, Mind, and Soul; by One or TO "Ki/, Intellect, and 
Life ; by Good, Word, and Love ; and that generation 
was not attributed to the second Hypostasis, the Nous or 
Aoyos, in respect of time (sect. 352), but only in respect 
of origin and order, as an eternal necessary emanation ; 
these are the express tenets of Platonists, Pythagoreans, 
Egyptians, and Chaldeans. 

363. Though it may be well presumed there is nothing 
to be found on that sublime subject in human writings 
which doth not bear the sure signatures of humanity ; yet 
it cannot be denied that several Fathers of the Church 
have thought fit to illustrate the Christian doctrine of the 
holy Trinity, by similitudes and expressions borrowed 
from the most eminent heathens, whom they conceived 
to have been no strangers to that mystery ; as hath been 
plainly proved by Bessarion \ Eugubinus 2 , and Doctor 
Cudworth 3 . 

364. Therefore, how unphilosophical soever that doctrine 
may seem to many of the present age, yet it is certain 
that men of greatest fame and learning among the ancient 
philosophers held a Trinity in the Godhead. It must 
be owned, that upon this point some later Platonists of the 
Gentile world seem to have bewildered themselves (as many 
Christians have also done), while they pursued the hints 
derived from their predecessors with too much curiosity. 

365. But Plato himself considered that doctrine as a 
venerable mystery, not to be lightly treated of, or rashly 
divulged. Wherefore in a Letter to Dionysius 4 , he writes 

1 Cardinal Bessarion ,1395- Greek philosophy with Chris- 

1470), the learned Platonist. See tianity, as to the Divine Trinity 

his Adversns Calnmniatorem Pla- in Unity, creation, and the im- 

tonis. Lib. II. c. 3. mortality of souls. Berkeley seems 

- In the treatise DC Percnni to have studied the De Percnni 

Philosophic* ( 1540^, Lib. II. c. 7-18, Philosopliia. a curious and little- 

of Augustinus Steuchus, Eugu- known book. 

binus (i. e. of Iguvium, now a See Intellectual System, Bk. IV. 

Gubbio, in Central Italy). He c. 36. 

was born in the end of the fifteenth Epist. II. p. 312 not Plato s, 

century, and died in 1550. This See the comment on this passage, 

Cretan bishop and Platonising in the second book of Proclus on 

divine gathered into the treatise the Theology of Plato, quoted in 

referred to a medley of illustrations Taylor s Plato, 
of the harmony of Eastern and 


(as he himself professeth) enigmatically and briefly in the 
following terms, which he giveth for a summary of his 
notion concerning the Supreme Being, and which, being 
capable of divers senses, I leave to be deciphered by the 

learned reader : He/at TOV TTO.VTWV /SacnAe o, TTUVT COTI", KOL 
fKfivov eveKa Traj/ra, KCU eKeivo OLTLOV aTravrtov rwv KaXwr. 8eb - 
repov 8e, Trepl TO. 8ctTpa, KOL Tpirov TTfpl ra rpira. Plato enjoins 
Dionysius, over and over, with great earnestness, not 
to suffer what he communicates concerning the mysteries 
of the Divine nature to fall into illiterate or vulgar hands, 
giving it withal as a reason for this caution, that nothing 
would seem more ridiculous or absurd to the common run 
of mankind. He adds that, in regard writings might 
miscarry, the prudent way was to write nothing at all on 
those matters, but to teach and learn them by word of 
mouth : for which reason, saith he, I have never wrote 
anything thereon ; nor is there, nor shall there ever be, 
anything of Plato s extant on the subject. He farther 
adds, as for what hath been now said, it belongs all to 

366. And, indeed, what this philosopher in his Phccdnts 1 
speaketh of the super-celestial region, and the Divinity 
resident therein, is of a strain not to be relished or com 
prehended by vulgar minds; to wit, Essence, really exis 
tent, object of intellect alone, without colour, without figure, 
without any tangible quality. He might very justly con 
ceive that such a description must seem ridiculous to 
sensual men. 

367. As for the perfect intuition of divine things, that 
he supposeth to be the lot of pure souls, beholding by 
a pure light, initiated, happy, free and unstained from 
those bodies, wherein we are now imprisoned like oysters. 
But, in this mortal state, we must be satisfied to make the 
best of those glimpses within our reach (sect. 335, 337). 
It is Plato s remark, in his Thecctctus*, that while we sit 
still we are never the wiser ; but going into the river, and 
moving up and down, is the way to discover its depths and 
shallows. If we exercise and bestir ourselves, we may 
even here discover something. 

368. The eye by long use comes to see even in the 

1 Pp. 246-258. Cf. Symposium, p. 211. 2 P. 200. 


darkest cavern : and there is no subject so obscure but we 
may discern some glimpse of truth by long poring on it. 
Truth is the cry of all, but the game of a few. Certainly, 
where it is the chief passion, it doth not give way to vulgar 
cares and views ; nor is it contented with a little ardour 
in the early time of life ; active, perhaps, to pursue, but 
not so fit to weigh and revise. He that would make a 
real progress in knowledge must dedicate his age as well 
as youth, the later growth as well as first fruits, at the 
altar of Truth. 

Cujusvis est errare ; nullius nisi insipientis in errorc perseverarc. 

Cic. [Orat. Pliilip. XII. 2.] 





First published in 1744-1747 






Non sibi, scd toti. 

1 Nothing is more difficult and disagreeable than to argue men out of 
their prejudices ; I shall not, therefore, enter into controversies on this 
subject, but, if men dispute and object, shall leave the decision to Time 
and Trial. Sin s, Sect. 68. 

i. AMONG the great numbers who drink Tar-water in 
Dublin, your letter informs me, there are | :i some] that 
make or use it in an undue manner. To obviate [ 4 these ] 

1 T P , Esq., in the original 

This Letter to Thomas Prior 
the Irish patriot and Berkeley s 
old friend, was published in Dub 
lin (reprinted at the same time 
in London, for M. Cooper, at 
the Globe in Paternoster Row, 
price sixpence ), in July, 1744, 
about three months after the 
first appearance of Sin s. Ap 
pended to it was An Answer to 
a supposed Physician s Letter to the 
Right Reverend the Bishop of 
Cloy ne, occasioned by his Treatise 
on the Virtues of Tar-water. The 
Physician s Letter had been pub 
lished in May, 1744. 

Berkeley s Letter was a contri 
bution to the Tar-water Contro 
versy of 1744 and several years 

following a controversy occa 
sioned by the sudden and extra 
ordinary popularity of the pro 
posed medicine, and by its claim 
to be a Panacea or Catholicon, 
due to Siris. It was a medical, 
not a metaphysical controversy ; 
the medicinal virtues of Tar- 
water being the only question 
discussed. See Editor s Preface 
to Siris. 

A second edition of this Letter 
appeared along with the Second 
Letter, in May, 1746, as an Appen 
dix to a new edition of Mr. Prior s 
Authentic Narrative of the Success of 
Tar-water. The second motto 
(Siris, sect. 68) was added in the 
second edition. 

;! several in first edition. 

1 those in first edition. 


inconveniences, and render this water as generally useful 
as possible, you desire I would draw up some rules and 
remarks in a small compass, which accordingly I here 
send you. 

2. [ J Pour a gallon of cold water on a quart of liquid 
tar; stir, mix, and work them thoroughly together; with 
a wooden ladle, or flat stick, for the space of five or six 
minutes. Then let the vessel stand close covered three 
days and nights, that the tar may have full time to subside. 
After which, having first carefully skimmed it without 
moving the vessel, pour off the clear water, and keep 
it in bottles, well corked for use. This method will 
produce a liquor stronger than that first published in 
St n s, but not offensive, if carefully skimmed.] It is a 
good general rule, but, as stomachs and constitutions are 
various, it may admit of some latitude. Less water or 
more stirring makes it stronger, as more water or less 
stirring makes it weaker. [ 2 It is to be noted that if 
several gallons are made at once in the same vessel, you 
must add five or six minutes stirring for every gallon. 
Thus two gallons of water and two quarts of tar require 
ten or twelve minutes stirring.] 

3. The same tar will not do so well a second time, 
but may serve for other common uses : the putting oft 
tar that hath been used for fresh tar would be a bad fraud. 
To prevent which, it is to be noted that tar already used 
is of a lighter brown than other tar. The only tar that 
I have used is that from our northern Colonies in America, 
and that from Norway; the latter, being thinner, mixeth 
easier with water, and seems to have more spirit. If 
the former be made use of (as I have known it with 
good success), the tar-water will require longer stirring 
to make it. 

4. Tar-water, when right, is not paler than French, 
nor deeper colour than Spanish white wine, and full as 
clear; if there be not a spirit very sensibly perceived 

1 In the first edition, instead of close covered for eight and forty 

the sentences within brackets, we hours, that the tar may subside, 

have Put a gallon of cold water Then pour off the clear water, and 

to a quart of tar, stir and work them keep it in bottles, well corked, 

strongly together, for about four for use. Cf. Sin s, sect. i. 

minutes. Let the vessel stand * Not in the first edition. 


you may conclude the tar-water is not good ; 
if you would have it good, see it made yourself. Those 
who begin with it little and weak may by habit come 
to drink more and stronger. According to the season, 
or the humour of the patient, it may be drank either cold 
or warm; [ in colics, I take it to be best warm. If 
it disgusts a patient warm, let him try it cold, and vice 
versa. If at first it create to some squeamish persons a 
little sickness at the stomach, or nauseating, it may be 
reduced both in quality and quantity. In general, small 
inconveniences are either removed, or borne with small 
trouble ;] it lays under no restraint as to air, exercise, 
clothes, or diet, and may be taken at all times in the 

5. As to the quantity in common chronical indispositions, 
one pint of tar-water a day may suffice, taken on an empty 
stomach, at two or four times, to wit, night and morning, 
and about two hours after dinner and breakfast ; more 
may be taken by strong stomachs. Alteratives in general, 
taken in small doses, and often, mix best with the blood 
how oft or how strong each stomach can bear, experience 
will shew. But those who labour under great and in 
veterate maladies must drink a greater quantity ; at least 
one quart [ -every twenty-four hours), taken at four, six, 
or eight glasses, as best suits the circumstances and case 
of the drinker. All of this class must have much patience, 
and perseverance in the use of this as well as of all other 
medicines, which, if sure and safe, must yet, from the 
nature of things, be slow in the cure of inveterate chronical 
disorders. In acute cases, fevers of all kinds, it must 
be drank in bed, warm, and in great quantity, the fever 
still enabling the patient to drink perhaps a pint every 
hour, which I have known to work surprising cures. 
| 3 But it works so quick, and gives such spirits, that the 
patients often think themselves cured before the fever 
hath quite left them. Such, therefore, should not be 
impatient to rise, or apply themselves too soon to business, 
or their usual diet. 

6. To some, perhaps, it may seem, that a slow altera- 

1 The words within brackets were 3 What follows within brackets 

not in the first edition. to the end of sect. 7, was added in 

- per diem in first edition. the second edition. 



live in chronical cases cannot be depended on in fevers 
and acute distempers, which demand immediate relief. 
But I affirm that this same medicine, which is a slow 
alterative in chronical cases, I have found to be also 
a most immediate remedy, when copiously taken, in acute 
and inflammatory cases. It might indeed be thought 
rash to have tried it in the most threatening fevers and 
pleurisies without bleeding, which in the common practice 
would have been held necessary. But for this I can say, 
that I had patients who would not be bled, and this 
obliged me to make trials of tar-water without bleeding, 
whicli trials I never knew unsuccessful. The same tar- 
water I found a slow alterative, and a sudden febrifuge. 
If the reader is surprised, I own myself to be so too. 
But truth is truth, and from whatever hand it comes 
should be candidly received. If physicians think they 
have a right to treat of religious matters, I think I have 
an equal right to treat of medicine. 

7. Authority I have no pretence to. But reason is the 
common birthright of all. My reasons I have given in 
Sin s. My motives every one will interpret from his own 
breast. But he must own himself a very bad man, who 
in my case (that is, after long experience, and under full 
conviction of the virtues and innocence of tar-water) would 
not have done as much. All men are, I will not say 
allowed, but obliged, to promote the common benefit. 
And, for this end, what I could not in conscience con 
ceal, that I do and shall publicly declare, maugre all 
the spleen and raillery of a world which cannot treat 
me worse than it hath done my betters.] 

8. As the morning s draught is most difficult to nice 
stomachs, such may lessen, or even omit it at the be 
ginning, or rather postpone it till after breakfast, and 
take a larger dose at night : the distance from meal-time 
need not be more than one hour, [ ] for common stomachs, 
when the liquor is well clarified and skimmed. The oil 
that floated on the top and was skimmed off should be 
carefully laid by, and kept for outward sores.] [ 2 In the 

1 The first edition reads when rest of the liquor, or skimmed off, 

the stomach is strong, or the glasses and kept for outward sores. 

small : the oil that swims on the 2 Not in the first edition, 
top may cither be drank with the 


variety of cases and constitutions, it is not amiss that 
there should be different manners of preparing and taking 
tar-water. Trial will direct to the best.) Whether there 
be any difference between old tar and new tar, or which 
of all the various tars, produced from different trees, or 
in different parts of the world, is most medicinal, future 
trials must determine. 

9. I have made a second sort of tar-water to be used 
externally as a wash [ l or lotion] for the itch, scabs, 
ulcers, [ evil,] leprosy, and all such foul cases, which 
I have tried with | - very good] success, and recommend 
it to the trial of others. For inveterate cases of that kind, 
tar-water should be drank, a quart every twenty-four 
hours, at L 2 f ur >J si x . r eight glasses: and, | 3 after this 
hath been done at least for a fortnight, the lotion is to 
be j applied outwardly and warm, by bathing, fomenting, 
and steeping, and this several times in the twenty-four 
hours, to heal and dry up the sores, [ the drinking being 
still continued]. This water, for external use, is made 
in the following manner: Pour two quarts of boiling 
water on a quart of tar ; stir and work it strongly with 
a flat stick or ladle, a full quarter of an hour : let it stand 
six hours, then pour it off, and keep it close covered for 
use. It may be made weaker or stronger as there is 

[ 10. From what I have observed of the lotion, I am 
inclined to think it may be worth while, in obstinate 
cutaneous ailments, leprosy, and weakness of limbs, to 
try a bath of tar-water ; allowing a gallon of tar to every 
ten gallons of boiling-hot water ; stirring the ingredients 
a full half hour ; suffering the vessel to stand eight or 
ten hours, before the water is poured off; and using the 
bath a little more than milk warm. This experiment may 
be made in different proportions of tar and water. In 
Dublin many cases occur for trial which are not to be 
met with here in the country.] 

ii. My experiments have been made in various cases, 

Not in the first edition in 3 In first edition at the same 

which also sect. 9 is part of the time the wash. 
preceding one. Sect. 10 was added to the 

2 Not in the first edition. second edition. 

\ 2 


and on many persons ; and I make no doubt its virtues 
will soon be more fully discovered ; as tar-water is now 
growing into general use, though not without that opposi 
tion which usually attends upon novelty. The great 
objection I find made to this medicine is that it promises 
too much. What, say the objectors, do you pretend to 
a panacea, a thing strange, chimerical, and contrary to 
the opinion and experience of all mankind ? Now, to speak 
out, and give this objection or question a plain and direct 
answer I freely own that I suspect tar-water is a panacea. 
I may be mistaken, but it is worth trial : for the chance 
of so great and general benefit, I am willing to stand the 
ridicule of proposing it. And, as the old philosopher 
cried aloud from the house-tops to his fellow-citizens 
Educate your children, so, I confess, if I had a situation 
high enough, and a voice loud enough, I would cry out 
to all the valetudinarians upon earth Drink tar-water. 

12. Having thus frankly owned the charge, I must 
explain to you, that by a panacea is not meant a medicine 
which cures all individuals (this consists not with mortality), 
but a medicine that cures or relieves all the different 
species of distempers ] . And, if God hath given us so 
great a blessing, and made a medicine so cheap and 
plenty as tar to be withal so universal in its effects, to 
ease the miseries of human life, shall men be ridiculed 
or bantered out of its use, especially when they run no 
risk in the trial ? \ 2 For I can truly affirm, that I never 
knew any harm attend it, more than sometimes a little 
nausea, which, if the liquor be well cleared, skimmed, 
and bottled, need not, I think, be apprehended.] 

13. It must be owned I have not had opportunities of 
trying it myself in all cases ; neither will I undertake 
to demonstrate a priori that tar-water is a panacea. But 
yet methinks I am not quite destitute of probable reasons, 
which, joined to what facts I have observed, induced me 
to entertain such a suspicion \ 

14. 1 [ 3 knew] tar was used to preserve cattle from 

1 The claim of tar-water to be controversy, and to which the 

a panacea, which Berkeley offers most plausible objections are made, 

only as a suggestion, is what is " Not in the first edition. 

chiefly discussed in the Tar-water 3 Know in first edition. 


contagion ; and this may be supposed to have given rise 
to that practice of drinking tar-water for a preservative 
against the small-pox. But, as the tar-water used for that 
purpose was made by mixing equal quantities of tar and 
water, it proved a most offensive potion : besides, as a 
fresh glass of water was put in for each glass that was 
taken out, and this for many days on the same tar, it 
follows that the water was not equally impregnated 
with the fine volatile spirit, though all alike strongly 
saturated with gross particles. 

15. Having found this nauseous draught very useful 
against the small-pox to as many as could be prevailed 
on to take it, I began to consider the nature of tar 1 . 
I reflected that tar is a balsam flowing from the trunks 
of aged evergreens ; that it resists putrefaction ; that 
it hath the virtues of turpentine, which in medicine are 
known to be very great and manifold ; but I observed 
withal that turpentines or balsams are very offensive in 
the taking. I therefore considered distinctly the several 
constituent parts of balsams ; which were those wherein 
the medicinal virtues resided, and, which were to be 
regarded rather as a viscous matrix to receive, arrest, 
and retain the more volatile and active particles ; and, 
if these last could be so separated and disengaged from 
the grosser parts as to impregnate a clear and potable 
liquor, I concluded that such liquor must prove a medicine 
of great force and general use. I considered that nature 
was the best chemist and preparer of medicines, and that 
the fragrance and flavour of tar argued very active quali 
ties and virtues. 

16. I had, of a long time, entertained an opinion, 
agreeable to the sentiments of many ancient philosophers, 
That Fire may be regarded as Hie Annual Spirit of tliis 
visible world 2 . And it seemed to me that the attracting 
and secreting of this fire, in the various pores, tubes, and 
ducts of vegetables, did impart their specific virtues to 
each kind ; that this same light or fire was the immediate 
instrumental or physical cause of sense and motion, and 
consequently of life and health to animals; that, on account 

1 Cf. Sin s, sect. 10-39, with this work of a large part of Sin s. Cf. 
section. especially sect. 152-230. 

- This opinion is the ground- 


of this solar light or fire, Phoebus was in the ancient 
mythology reputed the god of medicine. Which light, 
as it is leisurely introduced, and fixed in the viscid juice of 
old firs and pines, so the setting it free in part, that is, the 
changing its viscid for a volatile vehicle, which may mix 
with water, and convey it throughout the habit copiously 
and inoffensively, would be of infinite use in physic, 
extending to all cases whatsoever inasmuch as all dis 
tempers are in effect a struggle between the vis vita 
and the peculiar miasma or fames morbi ; and nothing 
strengthens nature, or lends such aid and vigour to life, as 
a cordial which doth not heat. 

17. The solar light, in great quantity during the space of 
many successive years, being attracted and detained in the 
juice of ancient evergreens, doth form and lodge itself in 
an oil so fine and volatile as shall mix well with water, and 
lightly pass the primce vice, and penetrate every part and 
capillary of the organical system, when once exempt 
and freed from the grosser nauseous resin. It will not, 
therefore, seem unreasonable to whoever is acquainted 
with the medicinal virtues of turpentine in so many 
different distempers, for which it hath been celebrated 
both by ancient and modern physicians, and withal reflects 
on the nausea or clog that prevents their full operation and 
effect on the human body; it will not, I say, seem un 
reasonable to such a one to suppose that, if this same clog 
were removed, numberless cures might be wrought in a 
great variety of cases. 

18. The desideratum was how to separate the active 
particles from the heavy viscid substance which served to 
attract and retain them ; and so to order matters that the 
vehicle of the spirit should not on the one hand be volatile 
enough to escape, nor on the other gross enough to offend. 
For the performing of this, I have found a most easy, 
simple, and effectual method, which furnisheth a potable 
inoffensive liquor, clear and fine as the best white wine, 
cordial and stomachic, to be kept bottled, as being endued 
with a very sensible spirit, though not fermented. 

19. I tried many experiments as to the quantity of water, 
and the time of stirring and standing, in order to im 
pregnate and clarify it, and after all, fixed on the fore- 


mentioned receipt, as the most generally useful for making 
this salutiferous liquor well impregnated, and not offensive 
to common stomachs, and even drank with pleasure by 
many ; in which the most medicinal and active particles, 
that is, the native salts [ spirit] and volatile oil [ 2 of the 
balsam], being disentangled [-and separated] from its 
gross oil and viscous resin [ 2 do, combined together, form 
a fine balsamic and vegetable soap, which not only] can 
j 1 freely] pass the [ 2 stomach and] primes vice, but also 
insinuate [ :i itself into the minutest capillaries,] and per 
vade the whole animal [ 4 system]; and that in such full 
proportion and measure as suiteth every case and con 

20. The foregoing general considerations put me upon 
making experiments in many various and unlike cases, 
which otherwise I should never have thought of doing, and 
the success answered my hopes. Philosophical principles 
led me to make safe trials, and on those trials is founded 
my opinion of the salutary virtues of tar-water; which 
virtues are recommended from, and depend on, experiments 
and matters of fact, and neither stand nor fall with any 
theories or speculative principles whatever. Howbeit, 
those theories, as I said, enlarged my views of this 
medicine, led me to a greater variety of trials, and thereby 
engendered and nourished my suspicion that it is a 
panacea. I have been the more prolix in these particulars, 
hoping that, to as many as shall candidly weigh and 
consider them, the high opinion I conceive of this medicine 
will not seem altogether an effect of vain prepossession, or 
blind empiric rashness, but rather the result of free thought 
and inquiry, and grounded on my best reason, judgment, 
and experience. [ 5 Much complaint is indeed made of the 
iniquity of the times : however, it is hoped they will not 
condemn one man s tar-water for another s pill or drop, 
any more than they would hang one man for another s 
having stolen a horse.] 

21. Those who have only the good of mankind at heart 
will give this medicine fair play ; if there be any who act 

1 Omitted in second edition. into the smallest ducts. 

- Not in first edition. * machine in first edition. 

J In first edition themselves Not in the early editions. 


from other motives, the public will look sharp and beware. 
To do justice to tar-water, as well as to those who drink it, 
regard must be had to the particular strength and case of 
the patients. Grievous or inveterate maladies must not 
be treated as common cases. I cured a horrible case, 
a gangrene in the blood, which had broke out in several 
sores, and threatened speedy death, by obliging the person 
to drink nothing but this liquor for several weeks, as much 
and as often as his stomach would bear. Common sense 
will direct a proportionable conduct in other cases. But 
this must be left to the conscience and discretion of the 
givers and takers. 

22. After all that can be said, it is most certain that 
a panacea sounds odd, and conveys somewhat shocking to 
the ear and sense of most men, who are wont to rank the 
Universal Medicine with the philosopher s stone, and 
the squaring of the circle ; whereof the chief if not sole 
reason I take to be, that it is thought to be incredible the 
same things should produce contrary effects, as it must do 
if it cures opposite distempers. And yet this is no more 
than every day s experience verifies. Milk, for instance, 
makes some costive and others laxative. This regards the 
possibility of a panacea in general ; as for tar-water in 
particular, I do not say it is a panacea, I only suspect it to 
be so time and trial will shew. 

23. But I am most sincerely persuaded, from what I have 
already seen and tried, that tar-water may be drank with 
great safety and success, for the cure or relief of most if 
not all diseases of ulcers, itch, scald-heads, leprosy, the 
foul disease, and all foul cases, scurvies of all kinds, 
disorders of the lungs, stomach, and bowels, [ in rheumatic,] 
gouty, and nephritic ailments, [ megrims, inveterate head 
aches,] pleurisies, peripneumonies, erysipelas, [ small 
pox,] and all kinds of fevers, [ J colics,] hysteric and all 
nervous cases, dropsies, decays, and other maladies. 
I 1 Note that for agues it should be drank warm and often, 
in small glasses, both in and out of the fit, and continued 
for several days to prevent a relapse.] Nor is it of use 
only in the cure of sickness ; it is also useful to preserve 
health, and guard against infection ; and in some measure 

1 Not in first edition. 


even against old age, as it gives lasting spirits, and in 
vigorates the blood. I am even induced, by the nature 
and analogy of things, and its wonderful success in fevers 
of all kinds, to think that tar-water may be very useful 
against the plague, both as a preservative and a cure. 

24. But I doubt no medicine can withstand that execrable 
plague of distilled spirits, which do all, without exception, 
(the fire of the hot still imparting a caustic and coagulating 
quality to all distilled spirits , whatever the subject or 
ingredients may be), operate as a slow poison, preying on 
the vitals, and wasting the health and strength of body and 
soul ; which pest of human kind is, I am told, gaining 
ground in this country, already too thin of inhabitants. 

I am, cScc. 

1 Cf. Sin s, sect. 107. 108 ; and Second Letter to Pn or. sect. 9. 




1. YOUR attention to whatever promotes the public good 
of your country, or the common benefit of mankind, having 
engaged you in a particular inquiry concerning the virtues 
and effects of Tar- water, you are entitled to know what 
farther discoveries, observations, and reflexions I have 
made on the subject. 

2. Tar- water, in the several editions of Stris, hath been 
directed to be made by stirring three, four, five, or six 
minutes, a gallon of water and a quart of tar. But, 
although it seems best made, for general use, within those 
limits, yet the stomach of the patient is the best rule 
whereby to direct the strength of the water ; with a little 
more stirring, six quarts of good tar-water may be made 
from one of tar ; and with eight minutes stirring, I have 
known a gallon of tar-water produced from second-hand 
tar, which proved a good remedy in a very bad fever, 
when better tar could not be had. For the use of travellers, 
a tar-water may be made very strong, for instance, with 
one quart of water, and a quart of tar, stirred together for 
the space of five minutes. A bottle of this may serve long 
on a road, a little being put to each glass of common 
water, more or less, as you would have it stronger or 
weaker. Near two years ago, a quart of about this strength 
was given to an old woman, to be taken at one draught by 
direction of a young lady, who had consulted one in my 

1 First published in 1746, as Narrative, along with an amended 
an Appendix to Prior s Authentic edition of the First Letter. 


family, about the method of preparing and giving tar- 
water, which yet she happened to mistake. But even 
thus, it did service in the main, though it wrought the 
patient violently all manner of ways : which shews that 
errors and excesses in tar-water are not so dangerous as 
in other medicines. 

3. The best tar I take to be that which is most liquid, 
or first running from the billets of fir or pine which grew 
on the mountains : it hath a greater share of the anti 
scorbutic vegetable juices, which are contained not only in 
the leaves and tender tops, but in all parts of the wood : 
and these, together with the salts of wood-soap, being in 
the composition of tar superadded to turpentine, render 
tar-water a medicine, if I am not mistaken, much more 
extensive and efficacious than any that can be obtained 
from turpentine alone. 

4. The virtues of the wood-juices shew themselves in 
spruce-beer, made of molasses, and the black spruce-fir 
in the northern parts of America ; and the young shoots 
of our common spruce-fir have been put to malt liquor in 
my own family, and make a very wholesome drink. 

5. Tar-water seldom fails to cure, or relieve, when rightly 
made of good tar, and duly taken. I say, of good tar, 
because the vile practice of adulterating tar, and of selling 
the dregs of tar, or used tar for fresh, is grown frequent, 
to the great wrong of those who take it. Whoever hath 
been used to good tar-water can readily discern the bad 
by its flat taste, void of that warm cordial quality found in 
the former; it may also be expedient, for knowing fresh 
tar, to observe whether a fat oily scum floats on the top of 
the water, which is found to be much less, if any at all, on 
the second making of tar-water. This scum was directed 
to be taken off, not from its being apt to do harm when 
drank, but to render the tar-water more palatable to 
nice stomachs. Great quantities of tar are produced in 
Germany, Italy, and other parts of the world. The different 
qualities or virtues of these it may be worth while to try, 
and I wish the trial were made principally by observing, 
which giveth most sense of a lively cordial spirit upon 
drinking the water. 

6. This medicine of tar-water worketh various ways, by 
urine, by perspiration, as a sudorific, carminative, cardiac, 


astringent, detergent, restorative, alterative, and sometimes 
as a gentle purgative or emetic, according to the case or 
constitution of the patient, or to the quantity that is taken ; 
and its operation should not be disturbed. I knew two 
brothers ill of a fever about the same time ; it wrought on 
the one by copious sweating, on the other altogether by 
urine ; and I have known it to act at different times 
differently, even on the same person, and in the same 
disorder; one while as a diaphoretic, or sudorific, another 
as a diuretic. Its general character is diuretic, which 
shews that it cleanseth the urinary passages, preventing 
thereby both stone and gravel, against which it hath been 
found very useful, and much safer than mineral waters, by 
reason of its balsamic healing quality. 

7. Tar-water doth recover and impart vital heat, but 
imparts no inflaming heat. I have seen a wonderful cure 
wrought on a child about eight years old, and past all 
hopes, by pouring several spoonsful of tar-water down his 
throat, as he lay quite subdued by a most violent fever, 
without any appearance of sense or motion, the nostrils 
drawn back, the eyes fixed, the complexion deadly wan. 
And yet tar- water, forced down by spoonsful, seemed to 
kindle up life anew ; and this after sage-tea, saffron, 
milk-water, Venice treacle, &c. had been used without any 

8. This is of itself a sufficient cordial, friendly and 
congenial to the vital heat and spirits of a man. If, 
therefore, strong liquors are in the accustomed quantity 
superadded, the blood being already, by tar-water, suffi 
ciently warmed for vital heat, the strong liquors super- 
added will be apt to overheat it, which overheating is not 
to be imputed to the tar-water, since, taken alone, I could 
never observe it attended with that symptom. 

9. And, though it may be no easy matter to persuade 
such as have long indulged themselves in the free use of 
strong fermented liquors and distilled spirits to forsake 
their pernicious habits, yet I am myself thoroughly per 
suaded that, in the weakness or fatigue of body, or in low 
spirits, tar-water alone doth far surpass all those vulgarly- 
esteemed cordials, which heat and intoxicate, and which 
coagulate the fluids, and, by their caustic force, dry up, 
stiffen, and destroy the fine vessels and fibres of the 


unhappy drinkers, obstructing the secretions, impairing 
the animal functions, producing various disorders, and 
bringing on the untimely symptoms of old age. Nothing 
doth so much obstruct the good effects of tar-water as the 
abuse of strong liquors. Where this is avoided, it seems 
no chronical malady can keep its ground or stand before 
tar-water, constantly and regularly taken, not even here 
ditary distempers, as the most inveterate king s evil, nor 
even the most confirmed gout ; provided it be drank 
a quart a day, at six or eight glasses, and at all seasons, 
both in and out of the fit, and that for a great length of 
time, the longer the better. It is to be noted that in fits 
of the gout, colic, or fever, it should be always drank 
warm. On other occasions, warm or cold, as the patient 

10. The inference I make is, that those who expect 
health from tar-water have less need of any other cordial, 
and would do well to sacrifice some part of their pleasure 
to their health. At the same time, I will venture to 
affirm that a fever produced either from hard drinking, or 
any other cause, is most effectually and speedily subdued, 
by abstaining from all other cordials, and plentifully 
drinking of tar-water : for it warms the cold, and cools the 
hot ; simple water may cool, but this, at the same time 
that it cools, gives life and spirit. It is, in truth, a specific 
for all kinds of fevers ; the same medicine, which is a 
leisurely alterative in chronical disorders, being taken in 
larger quantities, is a speedy cure in acute ones. 

11. Those who, without knowledge or experience of 
tar-water, have been so active and earnest to discredit its 
virtues, have much to answer for, especially with regard to 
acute inflammatory distempers, in which it doth wonders. 
It is in those disorders, so fatal and frequent, that I have 
had most opportunities of observing its virtues ; nor can 
the world ever know the just value of this medicine, but 
by trying it in the like cases. 

12. When patients are given over, and all known methods 
fail, it is allowed to try new remedies. If tar-water was 
tried in such cases, I do verily believe, that many patients 
might thereby be rescued from the jaws of death : par 
ticularly, I would recommend the trial of it in the most 
malignant and desperate fevers or small-pox, attended 


with purple, livid, or black spots. It is my sincere opinion 
that warm tar-water, drank copiously, may often prove 
salutary, even in those deplorable cases. 

13. My opinion is grounded on its singular virtues in 
correcting, sweetening, and invigorating the blood, and 
in curing cancers and gangrenes, or beginning mortifica 
tions, such as those spots do indicate. I have lately 
known it drunk with good success in a very painful and 
unpromising wound ; and am persuaded that if it were 
drank plentifully, during the dressing of all sorts of 
dangerous wounds, it might assuage the anguish, and 
forward the cure ; as it abates feverish symptoms, and, 
by rendering the blood balsamic and disposing the parts 
to heal, prevents a gangrene. 

14. Tar itself is an excellent medicine, being spread on 
a cloth, and applied warm to an ulcer or wound. I have 
known the same applied to a very large and painful 
tumour, caused by a sprain or bruise, speedily assuage 
the pain, and reduce the swelling. I may add that tar 
(mixed with honey to make it less offensive, and) taken 
inwardly, is an admirable balsam for the lungs ; and 
a little of this, taken together with tar-water, hastens its 
effect in curing the most obstinate and wasting coughs ; 
and an egg-shell full of tar, swallowed and washed down 
with a quart of tar-water, night and morning, hath been 
found very useful for the same disorder in horses. 

15. Sitting over the vapour of the heated lotion, des 
cribed in my former letter, is excellent in the case of piles 
or fistula ; especially if fomenting with the same lotion be 
added, as also anointing with the oil scummed from the 
top of tar-water. Tar-water hath been snuffed up the 
nostrils, with good success, for a great heaviness of 
the head and drowsiness. It is a very useful wash for 
weak, dry, or itching eyes ; an excellent preservative for 
the teeth and gums ; also a good drink and gargle for a 
throat : I may add that I have known it succeed in cases 
where it has been tried without hopes of success, par 
ticularly in deafness. I have known life sustained many 
days together only by drinking of tar-water, without any 
other nourishment, and without any remarkable diminu 
tion of strength or spirits ; it may therefore be of singular 
use, and save many lives in the distress of famine at sea, 


or in sieges, and in seasons of great scarcity. The virtue 
of tar-water, flowing like the Nile from a secret and 
occult source, brancheth into innumerable channels, con 
veying health and relief, wherever it is applied ; nor is it 
more easy and various in its use than copious in quantity. 
Mow great havoc, nevertheless, is made by the small-pox, 
raging like a plague in New England, and other parts of 
America, which yet abound with tar ! And how many 
thousand sailors, in all parts of the world, are rotting by 
the scurvy with their remedy at hand ! 

16. Many in this town of Cloyne have, by the copious 
drinking of tar-water alone, been recovered of the most 
violent fevers, attended with the most threatening symp 
toms, and much heightened by relapses from mismanage 
ment. It would be tedious to enumerate all the cases of 
this kind which have happened at Cloyne and in my own 
family; where many fevers, pleuritic as well as others, 
attended with violent stitches, difficulty of breathing, and 
spitting of blood, have been cured by tar-water : and this 
I can with truth affirm, that I never knew it regularly 
tried, in any inflammatory case, without success : but then 
it must be given in bed warm, and very copiously, with all 
due caution against cold, noise, and improper diet. 

17. I have often observed, when a patient, on the first 
attack of a fever, hath betaken himself to his bed, and 
drank tar-water regularly and constantly, that he hath had 
such favourable symptoms, so good appetite, and so sound 
sleep, that the fever passed almost as nothing ; nor was to 
be distinguished otherwise than by a quickness of pulse, 
a little feverish heat, and thirst. The more that patients 
in a fever drink, the better they find themselves; and 
their liking to tar-water grows with their want of it, by 
a certain instinct or dictate of nature ; insomuch that 
I have known children in very high fevers, who, at other 
times, could hardly be prevailed on to drink a single glass, 
drink six or eight in an hour. 

18. I can truly affirm that, for the cases within my own 
observation, inflammatory acute distempers cured by tar- 
water have been at least ten times the number of any 

[The Nile was by the ancient though not so commonly used as 
Egyptians called Sin s, which word Sira.] AUTHOR. 
also signifies, in Greek, a chain, 


other. These indeed oftenest occur, as causing the chief 
destruction and general ravage of mankind : who are 
consequently debarred from the principal use and benefit 
of this medicine, so long as they give ear to the sugges 
tions of those who, without any experience thereof, would 
persuade them it is of a heating or inflaming nature ; 
which suggestion, as I am convinced myself, by long and 
manifold experience, that it is absolutely false, so may 
all others also be sufficiently convinced of its falsehood, 
by the wonderful fact, attested by a solemn affidavit 1 of 
Captain Drape at Liverpool ; whereby it appears that of 
170 negroes seized at once by the small-pox on the coast 
of Guinea one only died, who refused to drink tar-water ; 
and the remaining 169 all recovered, by drinking it, 
without any other medicine, notwithstanding the heat of 
the climate, and the incommodities of the vessel. A fact 
so well vouched must, with all unbiassed men, outweigh 
the positive assertions of those who have declared them 
selves adversaries of tar-water, on the score of its pretended 
heating or inflaming quality 2 . 

19. The skill and learning of those gentlemen, in their 
profession, I shall not dispute ; but yet it seems strange 
that they should, without experience, pronounce at once 
concerning the virtues of tar-water, and ascribe to it per 
nicious qualities, which I, who have watched its workings 
and effects for years together, could never discover. 
These three last years I have taken it myself without one 
day s intermission ; others in my family have taken it near 
the same time, and those of different ages and sexes ; 
several in the neighbourhood have done as much, all 
without any injury, and much benefit. 

20. It is to be noted, the skin and the belly are antago 
nists ; that is, the more passeth by perspiration, the less 
will pass another way. Medicines, therefore, which cause 
the patient to perspire will be apt to make him costive. 
Therefore, when tar-water worketh much by perspiration, 
the body may chance to be bound. But such symptom, 
though it should be attended with a little more than or 
dinary warmth, need not be dreaded by the. patient; it 
being only a sign that his cure is carried on by driving the 

1 Captain Drape s affidavit, ap- o/t/ieSitcccsso/T(ir-water,pp. 18-20. 
pears in Prior s Authentic Narrative " Cf. Sin s, sect. 7. 


peccant matter through the skin ; which is one of the 
ways whereby tar-water worketh its effect. And, when 
this effect or cure is wrought, the body of itself returneth 
to its former natural state ; and, if some have been bound 
in their bodies, I have known others affected in a con 
trary manner upon drinking tar-water, as it hath happened 
to operate either in the shape of a diaphoretic, or of a 
gentle opening medicine. I have even known a costive 
habit more than once removed by it, and that when the 
case was inveterate, and other methods had failed. 

21. I mentioned the foregoing article, upon calling to 
mind, that two or three patients had, for a time, complained 
of a binding quality in tar-water. I likewise remember 
that one in a high degree of the scurvy was discouraged 
from the use of tar-water, by its having caused an uneasy 
itching all over his body. But this was a good symptom, 
which shewed the peccant humours to be put in motion, 
and in a fair way of being discharged through the skin. 

22. An humour or flatus put in motion, and dislodged 
from one part, often produceth new pains in some other 
part ; and an efficacious medicine, as it produceth a 
change in the economy, may be attended with some 
uneasiness, which yet is not to be accounted a distemper, 
but only an effect or symptom of the cure. 

23. The salts of tar-water have nothing of the fiery and 
corrosive nature of lixivial salts produced by the incinera 
tion of the subject ; they not being fixed salts, made by 
the extreme force of fire, but volatile salts, such as pre 
existed in the vegetable, and would have ascended in 
smoke, if not prevented by the sods or covering of the 
billet piles. This, though already hinted in Sin s, and 
plain from the manner of making tar, I have thought fit to 
repeat and inculcate, because, if duly attended to, it may 
obviate suspicions about tar-water, proceeding only from 
an ignorance of its nature. 

24. Every step that I advanced in discovering the virtues 
of tar-water, my own wonder and surprise increased, as 
much as theirs to whom I mentioned them. Nor could I, 
without great variety and evidence of facts, ever have been 
induced to suspect that all sorts of ailments whatsoever it 
might relieve or cure, which at first sight may seem 
incredible and unaccountable ; but, on maturer thought, 



will perhaps appear to agree with, and follow from, the 
nature of things. For, it is to be noted that the general 
notion of a disease seemeth to consist in this that what 
is taken in is not duly assimilated by the force of the 
animal economy ; therefore it should seem whatever assists 
the vis vitcc may be of general use in all diseases, enabling 
nature either to assimilate or discharge all unsubdued 
humours and particles whatsoever. But the light or 
aether detained in the volatile oil which impregnates tar- 
water, being of the same nature with the animal spirit, 
is an accession of so much strength to the constitution, 
which it assists to assimilate or expel whatever is alien or 










They provoked Him to anger with their own inventions, and the 
Plague brake in upon them. Ps. cvi. 29. 

You observe, in a late letter of yours, that I had for 
merly hinted Tar-water might be useful in the Plague ; 
and desire to know the reasons whereon my opinion was 
grounded, and that I would communicate my thoughts at 
large on the subject. I am the more willing to satisfy 
you in this particular, as the Plague now raging in Barbary 
hath in some measure alarmed the public, and I think 
it may not be amiss to contribute my mite of advice 
towards averting or lessening the present danger; and, 
as fear begets caution, to possess my countrymen with an 
apprehension of this, the greatest of all temporal calamities, 
sufficient to put them on their guard, and prepare them 
against the worst that can happen. 

1 First published in Dublin, and Row, and Davis in Holbourn, in 
reprinted in London, for Innys, 1747, in the same pamphlet with 
Hitch, and Cooper, Paternoster Berkeley s Letter to Dr. Hales. 

Y 2 


A learned physician of our own observes that the 
plague does not visit these Britannic islands oftener than 
once in thirty or forty years ; and it is now above twice 
that time since we felt the hand of the destroying angel . 

It is also the opinion of physicians that the infection 
cannot spread except there is a suitable disposition in 
the air to receive it ; the signs of which are wet summers, 
leaves and fruits blasted, an unusual quantity of insects, 
epidemical distempers among the cattle, to which I pre 
sume may be added long easterly winds all which signs 
seem to have discovered themselves pretty plainly in the 
course of this present year. 

Beside these natural forerunners of a plague or pestilence 
in the air, it is worth observing that a prognostic may be 
also made from the moral and religious disposition of the 
inhabitants. Certainly that the digitus Dei (the TO Oclov 
of Hippocrates) doth manifest itself in the plague was 
not only the opinion of mankind in general, but also in 
particular of the most eminent physicians throughout all 
ages down to our own. How far we of these islands have 
reason to expect this messenger of Divine vengeance will 
best appear if we take a view of the prevailing principles 
and practices of our times, which many think have long 
called aloud for punishment or amendment. 

Analogy and probability prevail in medicine : these 
are the proper guides where experience hath not gone 
before. I knew that tar-water was useful to prevent 
catching the small-pox, and consequently that its nature 
was contrary to the taint or venom producing that dis 
temper; and therefore I concluded that it might be use 
fully applied to cure the same, though I never heard nor 
knew that it had been applied to that purpose, and the 
success answered my hopes. 

In like manner, having known the virtue of tar-water in 
preserving from epidemical infection, I conceive in general 
it may be useful for the cure of distempers caused by such 
infection. Besides, being very well assured that tar-water 
was sovereign in the cure of all sorts of fevers, I think 
it not unreasonable to infer that it may prove a successful 

1 In 1665 eighty-two years be- unless in 1900, when a few case 
lore this was written. The plague were reported in Glasgow, 
has not since visited these islands, 


medicine for the plague, although I have never known it 
used in that distemper, forasmuch as the plague with all 
its symptoms may be considered as a species of fever, and 
hath been actually considered as such both by Hippo 
crates and Sydenham, not to mention others. 

Having observed surprising effects of tar-water in the 
most deplorable cases, for instance, pleurisies, small-pox, 
spotted and erysipelatous fevers, I am induced to entertain 
great hopes of its success in pestilential fevers or plagues ; 
which are also confirmed by its operating as a powerful 
diaphoretic and sudorific, when given warm and in great 
quantities. Add to this, that it frequently throws out 
pustules and ulcers, is apt to terminate the worst of fevers 
by an irruption of boils in various parts of the body ; that 
it raises the spirits, is a great alexipharmacum and cordial, 
and must therefore be of the greatest use in malignant 

In cachexy, scurvy, gout, as well as in the close of fevers, 
I have often known tar-water cause troublesome eruptions 
or boils (the very method taken by nature in casting forth 
the venom of the plague) to break out in the surface of 
the body, expelling the morbific humours, the cause and 
relics of the disease, to the signal benefit of the patients ; 
except such who, being frightened at the symptoms, have 
supposed the tar-water to produce those humours which 
it only drives out, and, in consequence of such their 
groundless suspicion, laid it aside, or perhaps took other 
medicines to hinder its effect, and thereby deprive them 
selves of the benefit they might otherwise have received. 

In the plague are observed head-ache, drowsiness, 
anxiety, vigils, sinking of spirits, and weakness, for all 
which tar-water hath been found an effectual remedy. 
Bloody urine and spitting blood, which are also dangerous 
symptoms observed in the plague, have been often removed 
by the same medicine, which from numberless experiments 
I have found to be peculiarly fitted for purifying and 
strengthening the blood, and for giving it a due consis 
tence, as well as a proper motion. 

In the plague, pleurisies are esteemed mortal symptoms, 
and in the cure of these I never knew tar-water fail, if 
given warm in bed, a pint or more an hour, though the 
patient was neither bled nor blistered. The carbuncles 


and spots which shew themselves in the plague are of 
a gangrenous nature, tending to mortification. And gan 
grenes I have known effectually cured by copious drinking 
of tar-water. 

An erysipelas, which sheweth a degree of malignity 
nearest to the plague, is easily cured by plentiful drinking 
of tar-water. I knew a person who had been six weeks 
ill of an erysipelas under the care of a celebrated physician, 
during which time she struggled with many dangerous 
symptoms, and hardly escaped with life. This person 
was a year after seized again in the same manner, and 
recovered in a week, by the sole use of tar-water. Cos- 
tiveness is reckoned a very hopeful prognostic in the 
plague; and it is also a symptom which often attends the 
drinking of tar-water, when it throws out the venom of 
a distemper through the skin. 

Diseases of the same season generally bear some affinity 
to each other in their nature and their cure ; and it may 
not be improper on this occasion to observe that the 
reigning distemper of the black cattle hath been often 
cured by tar-water, and would (I am persuaded) have done 
much less mischief, if the practice had been general to 
have given each distempered beast three gallons the first, 
two the second, and one the third day, in warm doses 
(from a pint to a quart), and at equal intervals. 

Diemerbroeck l recommends in the first appearance of 
a plague the use of sudorifics, putting the patient to bed, 
and covering him warm, till a copious sweat be raised, 
the very method I constantly follow in the beginning of 
fevers, using no other medicine than tar-water; which, 
after numberless experiments, I take to be the best sudorific 
that is known, inasmuch as it throws out the morbific 
miasma, without either heating the patient or weakening 
him, the common effects of other sudorifics, whereas this, 
at the same time that it allays the feverish heat, proves 
a most salutary cordial, giving great and lasting spirits. 

Upon the whole, I am sincerely persuaded that for the 
cure of the plague there cannot be a better method 
followed, more general for use, more easy in practice, and 

An eminent Dutch physician, His work De Pesie appeared in 
who practised at Nimeguen during 1646. 
the great Plague there, in 1635-7. 


more sure in effect, than to cover the patient warm in bed, 
and to make him drink every hour one quart of warm 
tar-water, of such strength as his stomach is able to bear ; 
a thing not so impracticable as it may seem at first sight, 
since I have known much more drank in fevers, even 
by children, and that eagerly and by choice, the distemper 
calling for drink, and the ease it gave encouraging to go 
on. This for the cure ; but I conceive that one quart per 
diem may suffice for prevention ; especially if there be 
added an even temper of mind, and an exact regimen, 
which are both highly useful against the plague. For 
carbuncles and buboes I would recommend a liniment of 
the oil of tar, or a plaster of pitch mixed with water, which 
last was used by the vulgar in the Dutch plague described 
by Diemerbroeck. 

It has pleased divine Providence to visit us not long 
since, first with famine, then with the sword ; and if it 
should please the same good Providence yet farther to 
visit us for our sins, with the third and greatest of human 
woes, this, by God s blessing, is the course I mean to take 
for myself and family ; and if generally practised, it would, 
I doubt not (under God), save the lives of many thousands ; 
whereof being persuaded in my own mind, both from 
the many trials I have made of tar-water, and the best 
judgment and reasonings I could form thereupon, I think 
myself obliged to declare to the world what I am convinced 
of myself. 

And I am the rather moved to this by the great un 
certainty and disagreement among physicians, in their 
methods of treating the plague. Diemerbroeck, for 
instance, a physician of great experience in the Dutch 
plague that raged about eighty years ago, dissuades by all 
means from bleeding in that distemper. On the other 
hand, Sydenham recommends what the other disapproves. 
If we believe Dr. Sydenham, the free use of wine, as 
a preservative, hath thrown many into the plague who 
otherwise might have escaped. Dr. Willis, on the con 
trary, avers that he knew many who, being well fortified 
by wine, freely entered amongst the infected without 
catching the infection. 

Bleeding cools, but at the same time weakens nature. 
Wine gives spirits, but heats withal. They are both, 


therefore, to be suspected ; whereas tar-water cools with 
out weakening, and gives spirit without heating, a sure 
indication of its sovereign virtue in all inflammatory and 
malignant cases ; which is confirmed by such numbers 
of instances that matter of fact keeps pace (at least) with 
reason and argument in recommending this medicine. 

Plagues as well as fevers are observed to be of different 
kinds : and it is observed of fevers that, as they change 
their genius in different seasons, so they must be treated 
differently, that very method that succeeded in one season 
often proving hurtful in another. Now it is very remark 
able, that tar-water has been known to vary its working, 
and wonderfully adapt itself to the particular case of the 
patient, a thing I frequently have experienced. 

Last spring two children, a boy and a girl, the former 
ten years old, the latter eight years old, were seized with 
fevers ; the boy had an inflammation in his breast. In 
less than two hours they drank each above five quarts of 
warm tar-water, which wrought them very differently, the 
girl as an emetic, the boy as a gentle purge, but both alike 
immediately recovered, without the use of any other 
medicine : of this I was an eye-witness, and I have found 
by frequent experience that the best way is, to let this 
medicine take its own course, not hindered nor interrupted 
by any other medicines ; and, this being observed, I never 
knew it to fail so much as once, in above a hundred trials 
in all sorts of fevers. 

Nevertheless, there are not wanting those who would 
insinuate that tar-water made in the common way contains 
noxious oils or particles of tar, which render it dangerous 
to those who drink it, a thing contrary to all my experience. 
This was the old objection made by those who opposed it 
from the beginning. But I am convinced, by innumerable 
trials, that tar-water is so far from doing hurt by any 
caustic or fiery quality, that it is, on the contrary, a most 
potent medicine for the allaying of heat, and curing of all 
inflammatory distempers. The perpetually returning to 
the same objection makes it necessary to repeat the same 

And yet some who are not afraid to argue against 
experience would still persuade us that the common tar- 
water is a dangerous medicine, and that the acid freed 


from the volatile oil is much more safe and efficacious : 
but I am of opinion that, being robbed of its fine volatile 
oil (which neither sinks to the bottom, nor floats at the 
top, but is throughout and intimately united with it, and 
appears to the eye only in the colour of tar-water) ; being 
robbed, I say, of this oil, it is my opinion it can be no 
cordial ; which opinion (not to mention the reason of the 
thing) I ground on my own experience, having observed 
that the most acid water is the least cordial, so far am 
I from imputing the whole virtue to the acid, as some seem 
to think. 

It seems not very reasonable to suppose that the caustic 
quality of tar-water (if such there was) should be removed 
or lessened by distillation, or that a still should furnish 
a cooler and better medicine than that which is commonly 
prepared by the simple affusion and stirring of cold water. 
However the ends of chemists or distillers may be served 
thereby, yet it by no means seemeth calculated for the 
benefit of mankind in general to attempt to make people 
suspect, and frighten them from the use of a medicine, so 
easily and so readily made, and everywhere at hand, of 
such approved and known safety, and, at the same time, 
recommended by cures the most extraordinary, on persons 
of all sexes and ages, in such variety of distempers, and in 
so many distant parts of Christendom. 

By most men, I believe, it will be judged, at best, a 
needless undertaking, instead of an easy-tried medicine to 
introduce one more operose and expensive, unsupported 
by experiments, and recommended by wrong suppositions 
that all the virtue is in the acid ; and that the tar-water, 
being impregnated with volatile oil, is caustic, which are 
both notorious mistakes. 

Though it be the character of resin not to dissolve or 
mix with water as salts do, yet it attracts some fine 
particles of essential oil, which serves as a vehicle for such 
acid salts ; and the colour of the tar-water sheweth the fine 
oil, in which the vegetable salts are lodged, to be dissolved 

1 He probably refers to the re- Medical Virtues Jree from its hurtful 

commendation of the acid alone, Oils, by Andrew Reid (1747). 

contained in A Letter to the Rev. Reid proposes to administer the 

Dr. Hales, Concerning the Nature of acid entircl} 7 apart from the oil. 
Tar, and a method of obtaining its 


and mixed therein. The combination of two such different 
substances as oil and salt constitutes a very subtle and 
active medicine, fitted to mix with all humours, and resolve 
all obstructions, and which may properly be called an acid 

Tar-water operates more gently and safely, as the acid 
salts are sheathed in oil, and, thereby losing their acrimony, 
approach the nature of neutral salts, and so become more 
friendly to the animal system. By the help of a smooth 
insinuating oil, these acid salts are more easily and safely 
introduced into the fine capillaries. I may add, that the 
crasis of the blood is perfected by tar-water, being good 
against too great a solution and fluidity as a balsam, and 
against viscidity as a soap, all which entirely depends upon 
the mixture of oil with the acid, without which it could 
neither operate as a balsam nor a soap. Briefly, it was 
not mere acid or distilled water, or tincture of tar, but 
tar-water, as commonly made, by affusion and stirring of 
cold water upon tar, which hath wrought all those great 
cures and salutary effects, which have recommended it as 
a medicine to the general esteem of the world. 

The mixture of volatile oil, which is or contains the 
spirit, is so far from noxious that it is the very thing that 
makes tar-water a cordial ; this gives it a grateful warmth, 
and raiseth the spirits of the hysteric and hypochondriacal ; 
this also, rendering the blood balsamic, disposeth wounds 
of all sorts to an easy cure ; this also it is that fortifies the 
vitals, and invigorates nature, driving the gout to the 
extremities, and shortening the fits, till it entirely subdues 
that obstinate and cruel enemy, as it hath been often 
known to do ; but acid alone is so far from being able to 
do this, that, on the contrary, the free use of acids is 
reckoned amongst the causes of the gout. 

I never could find that the volatile oil drawn from tar 
by the affusion of cold water produced any inflammation, 
or was otherwise hurtful, not even though the water by 
longer stirring had imbibed far more of the oil than in the 
common manner, having been assured, that some of strong 
stomachs have drank it after twenty minutes stirring, 
without any the least harm, and with very great benefit. 

It hath been indeed insinuated that the oil was ordered 
to be skimmed off, because it is caustic and dangerous ; 


but this is a mistake. I myself, among many others, drank 
the tar-water for two years together, with its oil upon it ; 
which never proved hurtful, otherwise than, as being 
somewhat gross, and floating on the top, it rendered the 
water less palatable, for which reason alone it was ordered 
to be skimmed. 

It hath also been hinted that making tar- water the 
second time of the same tar was cautioned against, for that 
it was apprehended such water would prove too heating ; 
which is so far from being true that, when I could not get 
fresh tar, I used the second water without difficulty, by 
means whereof it pleased God to recover from the small 
pox two children in my own family, who drank it very 
copiously, a sufficient proof that it is not of that fiery 
caustic nature which some would persuade us. 

The truth is, my sole reason for advising the tar not 
to be used a second time was, because I did not think 
it would sufficiently impregnate the water, or render it 
strong enough, after so much of the fine volatile parts had 
been carried off by the former infusion. Truth obligeth 
me to affirm that there is no danger (for as much as I could 
ever observe) to be apprehended from tar-water, as com 
monly made ; the fine volatile oil, on which I take its 
cordial quality to depend, is, in its own nature, so soft and 
gentle, and so tempered by the acid, and both so blended 
and diluted with so great a quantity of water, as to make 
a compound, cherishing and cordial, producing a genial 
kindly warmth without any inflaming heat, a thing I have 
often said, and still find it necessary to inculcate. 

Some medicines indeed are so violent that the least 
excess is dangerous; these require an exactness in the 
dose, where a small error may produce a great mischief. 
But tar is, in truth, no such dangerous medicine, not even 
in substance ; as I have more than once known it taken 
innocently, mixed with honey, for a speedy cure of a cold. 

But, notwithstanding all that hath been said on that 
subject, it is still sometimes asked, What precise quantity 
or degree of strength is required ? To which I answer 
(agreeably to what hath been formerly and frequently 
observed), The palate, the stomach, the particular case 
and constitution of the patient, the very climate or season 
of the year, will dispose and require him to drink more or 


less in quantity, stronger or weaker in degree ; precisely 
to measure its strength, by a scrupulous exactness, is by 
no means necessary. Every one may settle that matter 
for himself, with the same safety that malt is proportioned 
to water in making beer, and by the same rule, to wit, the 

Only in general thus much may be said, that the pro 
portions I formerly recommended will be found agreeable 
to most stomachs, and withal of sufficient strength, as 
many thousands have found, and daily find, by experience. 
I take this opportunity to observe, that I use tar-water 
made in stone ware or earthen very well glazed, earthen 
vessels unglazed being apt to communicate a nauseous 
sweetness to the water. 

Tar-water is a diet-drink, in the making whereof there 
is great latitude, its perfection not consisting in a point, 
but varying with the constitution and palate of the patient, 
being, nevertheless, at times, taken by the same person, 
weaker or stronger, with much the same effect, provided it 
be proportionably in greater or lesser quantity. It may 
indeed be so very weak as to have little or no effect ; and, 
on the other hand, so very strong as to offend the stomach ; 
but its degree of strength is easily discerned by the colour, 
smell, and taste, which alone are the natural and proper 
guides whereby to judge thereof: which strength may be 
easily varied, in any proportion, by changing the quantity 
either of tar or water, or the time of stirring. As for 
setting tar-water to stand, this is not to make it stronger, 
but more clear and palatable. 

I found myself obliged to assert the innocence and 
safety, as well as usefulness, of the tar-water, as it is 
commonly made by the methods laid down in my former 
writings on this subject; and this not only in regard to 
truth, but much more in charity to a multitude, which may 
otherwise perhaps be influenced by the authority of some 
who endeavour to put them out of conceit with a medicine 
so cheap, so efficacious, and so universal, by suggesting 
and propagating scruples about a caustic quality arising 
from the volatile oily particles of tar, or resin imbibed 
together with the acid in making tar-water; an apprehension 
so vain that the reverse thereof is true, for which I appeal 
to the experience of many thousands, who can answer for 


the innocence and safety, as well as efficacy, of this 
medicine, of which there are such ample and numerous 
certificates published to the world. 

I shall finish my essay on the Plague and its Cure with 
observing that, in case God should withhold His hand for 
the present, yet these reflexions will not be altogether 
fruitless, if they dispose men to a proper temper of mind, 
and a cautious regimen, avoiding all extremes (which 
things are justly reckoned among the chief preservatives 
against infection) ; but especially if the apprehension of 
this destroyer shall beget serious thoughts on the frailty 
of human life, and, in consequence thereof, a reformation 
of manners ; advantages that would sufficiently repay the 
trouble of writing and reading this Letter, even though 
the trial of tar-water, as a remedy for the Plague, should 
be postponed (as God grant it may) to some future and 
distant opportunity. 






To one gallon of fresh tar, pour six gallons of cold 
water ; stir and work them strongly together, with a large 
flat stick, for the space of one full hour ; let the whole 
stand six or eight hours, that the tar may subside ; then 
scum it, and pour off the water, whereof three gallons 
warm are to be given the first day, two the second, and 
one the third day, at equal intervals, the dose not being 
less than a pint, nor more than a quart ; and the beast 
being all that time, and for two or three days after, kept 
warm and nourished, if it will not eat hay, with mash or 

1 This Letter was published in the quantity of Tar that is therein 

1747, at his Lordship s desire, (read before the Royal Society), 

on occasion of the present dis- which appeared early in 1745, fol- 

temper among the Cattle, and for lowed by a second edition in 1747. 

the general good of mankind." It With Boyle, Newton, and Halley, 

is omitted in all the editions of he was a frequent contributor to 

Berkeley s Works prior to 1871. the Philosophical Transactions. His 

A protracted epidemic of cattle- work on Vegetable Staticks (1727) 

distemper was raging in Ireland helped to lay the foundation of 

when it was written. Vegetable Physiology. He died 

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Hales at Teddington, in Middlesex, of 

(1677-1761) published An Account which parish he was rector. Cf. 

of some Experiments and Observa- Sin s, sect. 196. 
t ions on Tar-water: wherein is shown 


I believe this course will rarely fail of success, having 
often observed fevers in human kind to have been cured 
by a similar method. But, as in fevers it often throws out 
pustules or ulcers on the surface of the body, so in beasts 
it may be presumed to do the like ; which ulcers, being 
anointed with a little tar, will, I doubt not, in a short time, 
dry up and disappear. 

By this means the lives of infected cattle may be pre 
served at the expense of a gallon of tar for each. A thing 
which I repeat and inculcate, not only for the sake of the 
cattle and their owners, but also for the benefit of mankind 
in general, with regard to a fever ; which terrible subduer 
and destroyer of our species, I have constantly found to be 
itself easily subdued by tar-water. Nevertheless, though 
in most other cases I find that the use of this medicine 
hath generally obtained, yet in this most dangerous and 
frequent case, where its aid is most wanted, and at the 
same time most sure, I do not find that the use thereof has 
equally obtained abroad in the world. 

It grieves me to think that so many thousands of our 
species should daily perish, by a distemper which may be 
easily cured by a remedy so ready at hand, so easy to take, 
and so cheap to purchase, as Tar-water, which I never 
knew to fail when copiously drank in any sort of fever. 
All this I say after more than a hundred trials, in my own 
family and neighbourhood. 

But, whatever backwardness people may have to try 
experiments on themselves or their friends, yet it is hoped 
they may venture to try them on their Cattle, and that the 
success of such trials in fevers of brutes (for a fever it 
plainly is) may dispose them to probable hopes of the same 
success in their own species. 

Experiments, I grant, ought to be made with caution, 
and yet they may be made, and actually are made every 
day on probable reasons and analogy. Thus, for instance, 
because I knew that tar-water was cordial and diaphoretic, 
and yet no inflamer, I ventured to give it in every stage 
of the small-pox, though I had never heard of its being 
given otherwise than as a preservative against that dis 
temper ; and the success answered my expectation. 

If I can but introduce the general use of tar-water for 
this murrain, which is in truth a fever, I flatter myself 


this may pave the way for its general use in all fevers 

A murrain among cattle hath been sometimes observed 
to be the forerunner of the Plague among men. If that 
should prove the present case (which God forbid) I would 
earnestly recommend the copious drinking of warm tar- 
water, from the very first appearance of the symptoms of 
such plague. I do also recommend it to be tried in like 
manner against the bite of a mad dog, when other approved 
remedies are not at hand. 




First published in 1752 



As the many experiments that are daily made of the 
virtues of Tar-water furnish new discoveries and reflexions, 
some of these I have thrown together, and offer to the 
public in hopes they may prove useful. 

It is a frequent complaint that tar- water is made of bad 
tar, being of a reddish colour, sweetish, or disagreeably 
insipid. But, though the dregs of tar are often foul, and 
make foul tar-water, and though the tar already used is 
often made use of by unfair dealers a second, if not a 
third time, which produceth a vile potion, void of the 
genuine flavour and virtue of tar-water ; yet I apprehend 
these defects may sometimes be ascribed rather to the 
vessel wherein the tar-water is made than to the tar 

Tar-water being made in an earthen vessel unglazed, 
or that hath lost part of its glazing, may extract (as it is 
a strong menstruum) from the clay a fade sweetishness, 
offensive to the palate. It should seem, therefore, that 
the best way of making tar-water is in a stone jug, or 
earthen vessel, throughout well glazed ; and, as it will 
not fail to extract a tincture from any metallic vessel, it 
should be warmed in a well-glazed pipkin, rather than a 

By increasing the proportion of tar to the water, and by 

1 Berkeley s literary life closes sudden death at Oxford. It seems 

with this tract, which appeared in to have been written at Cloyne, and 

his Miscellany, in October, 1752, in the early part of that year, for 

about three months before his he removed to Oxford in Jul} . 


stirring it longer, tar-water may be made strong enough 
for a spoonful to impregnate a large glass, a thing very 
useful on a road. 

Those who in chronical disorders, or as a preservative, 
have for a long time drank tar-water, must in acute cases 
drink the more. 

Tar-water must be drank warm in agues, small-pox, 
measles, and fevers, in cholic, and disorders of the bowels, 
in gout also, and rheumatism ; in most other ailments cold 
or warm, at the choice of the patient. 

In fevers the patient cannot begin too soon, or drink 
too much. By undoubted experience it is found to cool 
the hot, and warm the cold, and to be a most successful 
medicine in fevers, notwithstanding its great virtue in 
palsies and dropsies. 

When not long since an inflammation attacked the throat, 
breast, and lungs of children, and became general in my 
neighbourhood, numbers were recovered by the use of tar- 
water ; nor did I hear that any miscarried who used it, 
though many perished who did not. 

Nor is it a medicine less proper and efficacious in old 
age. At the same time that this inflammatory distemper 
raged among the children, a woman in her sixty-eighth 
year, from violent cold, was seized at once with ague, colic, 
and jaundice, of all which maladies she was cured in a 
fortnight, by drinking three pints of warm tar-water every 
day. Numberless such instances daily occur, which shew 
it to be a safe and efficacious medicine for old and young. 

Evacuations by sweat, which usually render patients 
very weak and dispirited, have not the same bad effects 
when produced by tar-water, which I have frequently 
known to give high spirits in all the stages of a fever, 
and under the lowest regimen ; therefore old people and 
weak persons, who cannot well bear common evacuations, 
are best cured by tar-water, which in some sort seemeth 
to renew those who are worn out with age and infirmities. 

Tar-water is of singular use in strengthening the stomach 
and bowels, and agrees particularly well with infants, taken 
either by themselves or by the nurse, and best by both. 
Though, as it throws the ill humours out into the surface 
of the skin, it may render them for a time, perhaps, un 
seemly with eruptions, but withal healthy and lively. And 


I will venture to say that it lays in them the principles of 
good constitution for the rest of their lives. 

Nor is it only useful to the bodies of infants ; it hath 
also a good effect on their minds, as those who drink it 
are observed to be remarkably forward and sprightly. 
Even the most heavy, lumpish, and unpromising infants 
appear to be much improved by it. A child there is in my 
neighbourhood, of fine parts, who at first seemed stupid 
and an idiot, but, by constant use of tar-water, grew lively 
and observing, and is now noted for understanding beyond 
others of the same age. 

Infants are easily brought to take it by spoon, and even 
grow to a liking of it; and, as their disorders arise chiefly 
from indigestion, they receive the greatest benefit from 
a medicine so well calculated to strengthen the intestines, 
and preserve them from fits. In a word, if it were the 
common practice to accustom infants from the beginning 
to take tar-water, this would greatly conduce to the health 
both of their minds and bodies. There is, I am verily 
persuaded, no one thing in the power of art or nature that 
would so generally and effectually contribute to repair the 
constitutions of our gentry and nobility, by strengthening 
the children, and casting off in their infancy those impurities 
and taints which they often bring into the world. 

An infant may take one quarter of a pint in the day, 
warm, by spoonfuls ; less may do good, and there is no 
fear of excess. When I consider the private woe of 
families, as well as the public loss occasioned by the death 
of such an incredible number of infants under two years of 
age, I cannot but insist on recommending tar-water, both 
as a remedy and preservative in that tender age, which 
cannot bear the common treatment and methods of physic, 
or with safety take those drugs which are fitter for grown 

Another reason which recommends tar-water, particularly 
to infants and children, is the great security it brings 
against the small-pox to those that drink it, who are 
observed, either never to take that distemper, or to have 
it in the gentlest manner. 

There is no distemper more contagious and destructive 
than the small-pox, or more generally dreaded, attended 
with worse symptoms, or that leaves behind it worse 


effects. I observe, at the same time, that tar-water is in 
no other case a more safe and sure remedy than in this ; 
of which Captain Drape s certificate 1 , sworn to before the 
Mayor of Liverpool, in the presence of several principal 
persons of that town, is a most evident proof. 

That one hundred and seventy persons, seized at once 
with the small-pox, deprived of all conveniences, and in 
the worst circumstances in a narrow ship and hot climate, 
should all recover by the single medicine of tar-water, 
except one who would not drink it, is a matter of fact so 
plain and convincing, and so well attested, as to leave no 
doubt, in minds free from prepossession, about the useful 
ness and efficacy of tar-water in the small-pox, a point 
I had been before sufficiently convinced of, by many 
instances in my own neighbourhood. 

It hath been surmised by some celebrated physicians 2 
that one day a specific may be discovered for the peculiar 
venom of the small-pox. There seems to be some reason 
for thinking that tar-water is such a specific. I say this 
on good grounds, having by many experiments observed 
its virtue in curing, as well as in preventing, that cruel 
distemper; during the whole course of which, it is to be 
drank warm ; a moderate glass (about half a pint) every 
hour, in common cases, may suffice ; in bad cases more 
may be given ; there is no fear of excess. 

Those who endeavour to discredit this cooling, cordial, 
and salutary medicine, as an inflamer of the blood, do very 
consistently decry its use in the small-pox ; but there can 
be nothing more clear, full, and satisfactory than Captain 
Drape s affidavit, to convince reasonable people of the 
great and surprising efficacy of tar-water in the cure of 
the small-pox ; and consequently of the groundlessness of 
that report which ascribes a heating or inflaming quality 
to it. And yet that groundless report hath hindered many 
from reaping the benefit they might otherwise have done 

1 Cf. Second Letter to Thomas Sins. sect. 83. Berkeley was writ- 
Prior, Esq., sect. 18. Berkeley ing nearly half a century before 
was blamed by his critics for over- the promulgation of Jenner s great 
looking negative instances, which discovery, which has conferred 
it was alleged might be found by benefits upon the human race only 
more rigid scrutiny. second to those which he prognosti- 

2 Boerhaavc, for instance. Cf. cated from tar- water. 


from the use of this water, which is of excellent virtue 
in all kinds of inflammatory disorders, fevers, quinsies, 
pleurisies, and suchlike, of the hot and inflamed kind, 
whereof the public as well as myself have known a 
multitude of examples. 

I ask whether the fact sworn before the magistrates of 
Liverpool be not a sufficient answer to all that is objected, 
from an inflaming quality, to tar-water? Can any instance 
be produced in the whole materia medica, or history of 
physic, of the virtue of a medicine tried on greater 
numbers, or under greater disadvantages, or with greater 
success, or more credibly attested ? I wish, for the 
common good of mankind, that the same experiment was 
tried in our hospitals. Probably the world would soon 
be relieved from that great and general terror of the 

When I hear of the devastations made by this distemper 
in great cities and populous towns, how many lives are 
lost, or as may be said thrown away, which might have 
been in all likelihood easily preserved, by the use of a 
medicine so cheap and obvious, and in every one s power, 
it seems matter of great concern and astonishment, and 
leaves one at a loss to guess at the motives that govern 
human actions in affairs of the greatest moment. The 
experiment maybe easily made if an equal number of poor 
patients in the small-pox were put into two hospitals at 
the same time of the year, and provided with the same 
necessaries of diet and lodging ; and, for farther care, let 
the one have a tub of tar-water and an old woman ; the 
other hospital, what attendance and drugs you please. 

In all obstinate sores and ulcers, I very much recom 
mend the drinking of tar-water ; and washing them with 
a strong lotion of it will hasten the cure. 

One of the most painful and dangerous cases is that 
of a woman s sore breast. How many poor creatures, 
after long languishing in misery, are obliged to suffer the 
most severe chirurgical operations, often the cutting off 
the entire breast? The use of tar-water in those cases 
hath been attended with such success that I do earnestly 
recommend the drinking thereof, both as a cure and pre 
servative, as a most effectual medicine to remove the 
shooting pains that precede a cancer, and also to cure 


the cancer itself, without amputation. Cancerous and 
sore breasts are such cruel cases, occasioned by so many 
internal causes, as well as outward accidents, that it is 
a necessary piece of humanity, to contribute all we can 
to the prevention and cure thereof. 

In the king s evil, leprosy, and foulest cases, tar-water 
cannot be too much recommended. The poor vagabonds 
of Ireland are many of them infected and eaten up with 
the foul disease, which with them passeth for a canker as 
they call it. Several instances of extraordinary cures 
have been performed on such persons, by drinking tar- 
water copiously, for some weeks or months together, 
without confinement or other restraint than that of a 
regular cool diet. It is indeed a specific both for this 
and all other taints and impurities of the blood. 

An extract of Sin s was made, and accounts of the effects 
of tar-water were reprinted in America l , in which conti 
nent, as well as in the islands, much use hath been made 
thereof, particularly by those who possess great numbers 
of slaves. Of this I have been informed by letters, and 
by word of mouth, from persons belonging to those parts, 
who have assured me of the extensive and successful use 
of this medicine in many cases, and more especially in 
the most inveterate kinds of the foul disease. 

I need not say how dearly they purchase health who 
obtain it by salivation, and yet, long and severe as that 
course is, it is often unsuccessful. There are instances 
of such as having passed through it with much misery and 
patience have been afterwards cured by the simple use 
of tar-water. 

The king s evil, so loathsome in its symptoms and 
effects, and withal so difficult if at all possible to cure 

1 In a letter to his American may be seen at large in Mr. 
friend, Dr. Samuel Johnson, dated Prior s Narrative of the Effects of 
Cloyne, August 23, 1749, Berke- Tar-wafer, printed three or four 
ley refers to a small pamphlet years ago, and which may be sup- 
relating to tar-water which John- posed to have reached America. 
son had sent to him. He adds, He again refers to this American 
I can only say, in behalf of those pamphlet, in a letter to Mr. Arch- 
points in which the ingenious dall, in November, 1751. See my 
author seems to differ from me, Life and Letters of Berkeley, pp. 
that I advance nothing which is 297-301, 320, 329. Prior died in 
not grounded on experience, as 1751. 


by any other method, is most surely and easily cured by 
the tar-water, even when the patient is far gone, even 
when he derives it from his ancestors. A quart per diem 
for a few months, I have known to cure the most deplorable 
and abandoned cases. 

How many wealthy families, otherwise at their ease, 
are corrupted with this taint in their blood ! How many 
want heirs and husbands through this odious malady ! 
A specific for this disease alone would be justly esteemed 
a most valuable secret, and the plenty and cheapness of 
the medicine ought not in reason to make it less esteemed. 

Salivating, bleeding, and purging are attended with 
great hardships and inconveniences even where the patient 
recovers, reducing the strength and spirits of those who 
use them, whereas tar-water greatly adds to both. 

In fractures and wounds, a quart or two drank daily 
while the patient is under cure doth very much assuage 
the pain and promote his recovery, both as by its balsamic 
nature it disposeth the parts to heal, and also as it lessens, 
if not totally prevents, the fever. 

A poor boy in Cloyne, having fallen from a tree, broke 
both arm and wrist. This accident was concealed or 
neglected for two or three weeks ; he was then put under 
the care of a skilful bone-setter, who, finding the bones 
knit and grown crooked, and that it would be necessary 
to break them again, in order to set them right, and withal 
considering the hot season of the year (in July), he ap 
prehended his patient s being thrown into a fever that 
might prove fatal. But the boy being made to drink copi 
ously of tar-water, this prevented or lessened the fever in 
such sort that the bones were broke and set again, and the 
cure proceeded as easily and speedily as could be wished. 

I have known several instances of bruises and wounds 
cured by tar-water. A person in my neighbourhood ran 
over by a horse was much bruised, and cured only by 
drinking tar-water. Another knocked down with a mallet, 
thereupon thrown into a violent fever and given for dead ; 
another wounded with an axe so that his life was thought 
in danger, were both recovered by the use of tar-water ; 
which, as it is sovereign against gangrenes and fevers, 
hath great success in all sorts of wounds, contusions, and 
fractures, being taken throughout the whole chirurgical 


process, along with whatsoever other methods or remedies 
are applied. 

Tar-water operates variously. In dropsies and bruises 
it hath been known to work by purging. The stronger 
kind being used as a wash is good against ulcerous 
eruptions. But, in all cases where the lotion is used, 
I believe the drinking of tar-water might alone suffice, 
albeit the sores may be longer withering and dying away. 

There is a certain age or time of life when the female 
sex runs no small risk from the ceasing of their natural 
evacuations. In this case tar-water is a good preservative, 
purifying the blood, and clearing it from that cancerous 
tendency, which it is sometimes subject to about that time. 
I take it to be a specific in all cancerous cases, even the 
bleeding cancer, esteemed incurable by physicians, hath 
been cured by tar-water. 

In diseases peculiar to women it is of no small use. 
Several who had suffered much by accidents in child- 
bearing have found themselves relieved by tar-water. In 
all sorts of tumours, wens, and preternatural excrescences, 
it hath been found an excellent remedy. 

Many dangerous symptoms, and even sudden death, are 
often owing to a polypus, in some or other of the vessels 
through which the blood circulates, than which it seems 
there is no inward cause of death or disease more to be 
dreaded and guarded against. How many drop down 
dead in our streets, or at table, or in the midst of business, 
or diversions ? How many are found dead in their beds ? 

Tremors, palpitations of the heart, irregular pulses, 
apoplexies, sudden deaths, often proceed from a slow, 
stagnating, interrupted motion, or stoppage of the blood 
in its circulation through the body ; and there seemeth to 
be no cause so certainly productive of obstructed circu 
lation as the polypus, a case, perhaps, much more frequent 
than is commonly imagined. Morgagni , the celebrated 
professor at Padua, and most eminent anatomist, who was 
supposed to have dissected more human bodies than any 
man living, assured me, above thirty years ago, that in the 

1 An Italian anatomist of repute, seems to have met him in the 

for many years Professor of Ana- course of his last visit to Italy, 

tomy at Padua, who died in 1771, more than thirty years before this 

in his ninetieth year. Berkeley tract was written. 


far greater part of such bodies, he found polypuses, if not 
in the ventricles of the heart or larger vessels, yet in some 
other vessel or cavity; to which he attributes many dis 
orders, and which he supposed to be formed by the 
obstructed motion of the blood. To prevent this, he dis 
suaded from all tight ligatures, especially in sleep, un 
buttoning the neck and wristbands of his shirt every night, 
a practice he had learned (as he said) from his master the 
famous Malpighi l . 

When the circulation is once quite stopped nothing can 
restore it, which would be the same thing as restoring 
a dead man to life ; and in proportion as the circulation 
of the blood is obstructed, the body is disordered. Total 
obstruction is death ; partial obstruction is disease. The 
polypus therefore is always hurtful, if not mortal. It is, 
indeed, matter of serious reflexion, that we may probably 
carry about with us a principle of death, always at work 
within, and of a nature so violent and sudden in its effects, 
so hard to come at, and so difficult to subdue. 

It may well be thought, at first view, a vain under 
taking, to attempt to dissolve a fleshy or membranous 
substance, so latent and inaccessible, by common means 
or medicines. But, as tar-water hath been undoubtedly 
known to dissolve and disperse wens, and other fleshy or 
membranous tumours, in the outward parts of the body -, 
having been drank and circulated with the blood, it should 
seem, by a parity of reason, that it may also dissolve and 
put an end to those concretions that are formed in the 
ventricles of the heart or blood vessels, and so remove 
one great cause of apoplexies and sudden death : and what 
cures may prevent. I have been the longer on this subject, 
for the sake of many who lead sickly lives, as well as 
several who are snatched away by untimely death. 

Universally, in all cases where other methods fail, 
I could wish this of tar-water was tried. It hath been 
sometimes known that the most inveterate head-aches, 
and other nervous disorders, that would yield to no other 

1 One of the most famous ana- Bologna. He died at Rome in 

tomists and botanists of the 1694. 

seventeenth century, Professor of * [See The Effects of Tar-ivatcr, 

Medicine successively in the uni- sect. 228, 229.] AUTHOR. Prior s 

versities of Pisa, Messina, and tract is here referred to. 


medicine, have been cured by a course of tar-water 
regularly and constantly pursued. 

Wheresoever pure blood or plenty of spirits are wanting, 
it may be concluded from manifold experience that tar- 
water is of singular benefit. Several persons have ac 
knowledged themselves to be much fitter to go through 
business or study from the use of it. 

Nor is it only medicinal to human kind : it is also of no 
small use in the curing of brute animals. It hath been 
tried on several kinds, particularly with great success in 
the late epidemical distemper of our horses. And I have 
been credibly informed that, being drank in plenty, it 
hath recovered even a glandered horse that was thought 

And, as it is of such extensive use both to man and 
beast, it should seem that a tub of tar-water constantly 
supplied in a market town, would serve, in some sort, for 
an hospital. Many other drugs are not easily got, this is 
everywhere plenty and cheap ; many are of a doubtful 
nature, this of known innocence; others soon perish, this 
lasts for years, and it is not the worse for keeping. This, 
in short, is a medicine for the common people, being a safe 
and cheap remedy for such as cannot afford to be long 
sick, or to make use of costly medicines. 

A patient who drinks tar-water must not be alarmed 
at pustules or eruptions in the skin ; these are good 
symptoms, and shew the impurities of the blood to be cast 
out. It is also not amiss to observe that, as tar- water, by 
its active qualities, doth stir the humours, entering the 
minutest capillaries, and dislodging obstructions, it may 
happen that this working shall sometimes be felt in the 
limbs, or discharge itself in a fit of the gout, which, how 
ever disagreeable, proves salutary. 

I am credibly informed of several strange conveyances, 
which tar-water hath found out, whereby to discharge im 
purities from the human constitution. A person who had 
been in a bad state of health above twenty years, upon 
a course of tar-water was thrown into a most extraordinary 
fit of an ague, and from that time recovered a good state 
of health. An old gentleman in the county of Cork, who, 
for a long time, had been a valetudinarian, afflicted with 
many infirmities, being advised to drink tar-water, found 


himself relieved ; but it produced and soon cured a 
pthiriasis or lousy distemper, in which the putrid humours 
having discharged themselves left him quite sound and 

In a course of tar-water, if any disorder happens from 
some other cause, as from cold, from the use of strong 
liquors, from a surfeit, or suchlike accident, it would not 
be fair to impute it to tar-water : and yet this hath been 
sometimes done. 

The effects of vomiting occasioned by tar-water are not 
to be apprehended. Some are discouraged from drinking 
because their stomachs cannot bear it. But, when it takes 
a turn towards working upwards, nature, by that very 
way, hath been often known to carry on the cure. A worthy 
gentleman, member of Parliament, came into my neigh 
bourhood in the autumn of the year 1750 : he was cachetic 
and extremely reduced, so that his friends thought him 
near his end. Upon his entering into a course of tar- 
water, it produced a prodigious vomiting, which weakened 
him much for the present ; but, persisting to continue the 
use thereof for about two months, he was restored to his 
health, strength, and spirits. 

Tar-water is very diuretic, thereby preventing stone and 
gravel, and carrying off by urine those salts that might 
otherwise occasion fevers, rheumatisms, dropsies, head 
aches, and many other disorders, if retained in the blood. 
Hence some have apprehended a diabetes, from the con 
tinued use thereof, but it is so far from causing a diabetes 
that it hath been known to cure that disorder. 

The constitution of a patient sometimes requireth, dur 
ing a course of tar-water, that he take water and honey, 
also roasted apples, stewed prunes, and other diet of an 
opening kind. A hint of this is sufficient. If the reader 
now and then meets with some remarks contained in my 
former writings on this subject, he may be pleased to 
consider I had rather repeat than forget what I think 
useful to be known. 

Some, endeavouring to discourage the use of tar-water 
in England, have given out that it may indeed be service 
able in Ireland, where people live on such low diet as 
sour milk and potatoes, but it cannot be of the same 
service in England, where men are accustomed to a more 


liberal and hearty food ; and indeed it must be owned 
that the peasants in this island live but poorly, but no 
people in Europe live better (in the sense of eating and 
drinking) than our gentry and citizens ; and from these 
the instances of cures by tar-water have been chiefly 
taken. Those who would confine its use to the moist 
air and poor diet of Ireland may be assured that all over 
Europe, in France, and Germany, Italy, Portugal, and 
Holland, tar-water works the same effects. In both North 
and South, in West and East Indies, it hath been used 
and continues to be used with great success. It hath 
reached all our Colonies both on the Continent and the 
Islands, and many barrels of tar-water have been sent 
from Amsterdam to Batavia ; of all which I have had 
authentic accounts. But its use is nowhere more con 
spicuous than at sea, in curing that plague of seafaring 
persons, the scurvy, as was found in the late attempt 
to discover a north-west passage ; and (as I doubt not) 
will be found as oft as it is tried. Every ship in his 
Majesty s navy should always have a vessel of tar-water 
upon deck, for the use of the sailors, both in the scurvy 
and other maladies. 

It is indeed a medicine equally calculated for all climates, 
for sea and land, for rich and poor, high and low livers ; 
being, as hath been elsewhere mentioned, a cordial which 
doth not heat ; a peculiar privilege this, and of excellent 
use. That it is a cordial is manifest from its cheering 
and enlivening quality ; and that it is not heating is 
as manifest, from its singular use in all cases where the 
blood is inflamed. As this medicine imparts a friendly 
genial warmth, suited to the human constitution, those 
who pass through a course of tar-water would do well 
not to increase such friendly warmth to an inflaming heat, 
by a wrong regimen of high-seasoned food and strong 
liquors, which are not wanted by the drinkers of tar-water. 
There is a certain degree of heat necessary to the well- 
being and life of man. More than this will be uneasy, 
and this uneasiness indicates a proper choice of diet. 

I have myself drank above a gallon of tar-water in 
a few hours, and been cooled and recovered from a fever 
by it. So many instances of the same nature I have 
known as would make it evident, to any unprejudiced 


person, that tar-water is a cooling medicine; of which 
truth I am as thoroughly convinced as it is possible to 
be of any theorem in physic or natural science. 

The unsuccessfulncss of other methods should rather 
be an encouragement than a bar to the trial of tar-water. 
A young lady, daughter to a worthy gentleman near Cork, 
had been long afflicted with a grievous pain in her side, 
and, having had the best advice that could be got, was 
not relieved until she drank tar-water, which quite re 
moved her pain. Some time after she was again seized 
with the same disorder, but, returning to the use of tar- 
water, she grew well, and still continues so. 

A woman turned out of the infirmary at Cork as incur 
able, because she would not submit to the cutting off her 
leg, came to Cloyne, where she continued half a year 
drinking tar-water, and living upon bread and milk, by 
which course she recovered and went to service. 

There is at present, while I am writing, a most remark 
able case here at Cloyne, of a poor soldier in a dropsy, 
whose belly was swollen to a most immoderate size. He 
said he had been five months in an hospital at Dublin, 
and, having tried other methods in vain, left it, to avoid 
being tapped. It is a fortnight since he came to Cloyne, 
during which time he hath drank two quarts of tar-water 
every day. His belly is now quite reduced : his appetite 
and sleep which were gone are restored : he gathers 
strength every moment : and he who was despaired of 
seems to be quite out of danger, both to himself, and to 
all who see him. It is remarkable that, upon drinking 
the tar-water, he voided several worms of a very extra 
ordinary size. This medicine, which is observed to make 
some persons costive, is to hydropic patients a strong 
purge. The present is but one of several instances 
wherein the dropsy hath been cured by tar-water ; which 
I never knew to fail in any species of that malady. 

I am very credibly informed that an aged clergyman 
of Maidstone in Kent, being reduced to the last extremity 
by the gout in his stomach, after having tried strong 
liquors and the methods usual in that case without success, 
betook himself to drink a vast quantity of warm tar-water, 
still replenishing and letting it take its course; by which 
it pleased God to deliver him from the jaws of death. 


A gentleman in the county of Clare, near Ennis, had 
a fever and pleurisy, and inflammation of the lungs ; being 
at the last extremity, and given over by two physicians, 
he was advised to drink tar-water, which he did, eight 
quarts. Next morning one of the doctors asking at what 
hour his patient died ? to his great surprise found he 
was recovered. This I had from a parliament man, his 

When the yellow fever (as it was called) raged in the 
West Indies, the negroes, with a tub of tar- water in their 
quarters, did well : but some of the better sort miscarried, 
among whom the physician himself lay at the point of 
death ; his brother recovered him by pouring down his 
throat in spoonfuls some of the same liquor that recovered 
the negroes. The fact was related to me by a gentleman 
who was then in the island of St. Christopher s, and 
knew it to be true. 

A physician himself not long since assured me he had 
cured an ulcer in the bladder, by ordering his patient 
to drink tar-water, when he had tried all other methods 
in vain, and thought the case incurable. 

But it would be endless to relate the effects of tar- 
water in desperate cases. The recovery of Mrs. Wilson, 
daughter of the late Bishop of London, from a lingering 
hopeless disorder, was a noted case, and attested to by his 
Lordship. I have even been informed, upon good authority, 
of two or three instances wherein persons have been 
recovered by tar-water after they had rattles in the 

In certain cases, a smaller quantity of tar-water hath 
proved ineffectual, when a larger hath perfected the cure. 
A woman of Cloyne got cold after child bearing, which 
occasioned a great pain in her thigh, swelling also and 
redness ; she continued in great torment above three 
weeks. She then began to drink tar-water, but not drink 
ing much she did not perceive much good ; and when 
there was not any hopes of her life, she was persuaded 
to try what a gallon a day might do ; upon this she grew 
better, the swelling broke and ran ; no dressing was used 
but tar, and no washing but tar-water, until she was quite 

In ailments of an odd and untried nature, it may be 


worth while to try tar-water. In proof of this many 
instances might be given. A gentleman with a withered 
arm had it restored by drinking tar-water. Another who, 
by running his head against a post, had a concussion 
of the brain attended with very bad symptoms, recovered 
by drinking tar-water after other medicines had failed. 
In my own neighbourhood, one had lost the use of his 
limbs by poison, another had been bitten by a mad ass ; 
these persons drank tar-water, and their cure was attri 
buted to it. 

When tar-water is copiously drank in fevers, the great 
danger to be guarded against is an excessive flow of 
spirits, which excites the patient to talk and divert him 
self with company, which may produce a relapse ; of this 
I have known fatal effects. 

If in a course of tar-water the patient should find 
himself heated, let him abstain from or lessen his dose 
of spirituous and fermented liquors ; for tar-water alone 
never heats. 

In chronical disorders it is not advisable to break off 
a course of tar-water at once, but rather to diminish the 
quantity by degrees. 

The acid alone hath not the medicinal virtues of tar- 
water. This is agreeable to reason and experience, as 
well as the opinion of the ablest judges. Doctor Linden 
justly observes, that when the empyreumatic oil is en 
tirely separated from the acid, it is not in any shape 
superior to any other distilled acids or vinegars whatso 
ever. (Treatise on Setter Water, p. 307.) 

That extraordinary virtues should be contained in tar- 
water will not seem strange, if we consider that pitch 
is nothing else but hardened tar, or tar drained of its 
moisture ; and that an extraordinary quantity of light 

1 Diederick Wessel Linden, the Appendix the author refers 
M.D., a German physician, settled with approbation to the medical 
in England, an authority in his use of tar-water, which he pro- 
day on mineral waters. The work poses to mix with Seller water in 
referred to, which appeared in certain cases ; and he objects to 
1752, is entitled A Treatise on the a suggestion that the acid should 
Origin, Nature, and Virtues of be separated from the oil. 
Chalybeat Waters and Natural Hot a Cf. Siris, sect. 152-162, on 
Baths. To which is added an light or fire, which operates 
Appendix on the Setter Water. In in everything. 




is retained in the substance of pitch, as appears from 
certain electrical experiments ; which, having been made 
since, seem not a little to confirm what had before been 
suggested in Sin s l . 

1 [Something of this nature hath 
been long expected and hoped 
for, if we may credit that learned 
chemist Doctor Linden. At last 
(saith he) the long delayed wishes 
of the most eminent men of the 
faculty are fulfilled in the Bishop 
of Cloyne s discovery. See Trea 
tise on Seller Water, p. 303. Again 
(.speaking of empyreumatic oils 
of plants) he hath these words 
There has always prevailed a 
notion among the chemists, and 
particularly with Paracelsus and 
his followers, that in those oils 
there lay a great secret undis 

covered. This notion was occa 
sioned by the strange effects which 
a small quantity thereof hath upon 
the human machine. Several have 
been very diligent to discover this 
secret, and to find out a method to 
administer these oils with safety. 
Yet nothing was performed salu 
tary on this inquiry, until the 
Bishop of Cloyne discovered to us 
the tar-water ; to him alone we 
are indebted for rendering the 
empyreumatic oils a safe medicine 
in every respect. Ibid. p. 302.] 


A a 2 



[I FOUND Berkeley s autograph of this rough draft of the 
Introduction to his book of Principles in the manuscript 
department of the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. It seems 
to have been written in November and December, 1708. As 
this Introduction forms Berkeley s vindication for making his 
starting-point within the concrete universe of reality, instead of 
among empty abstractions, it may be well to have so important 
a part of his teaching in the form which it assumed when it 
was first struggling into expression. In this early attack upon 
abstract ideas, his characteristic ardour seems to carry him 
to the extreme of rejecting universalising principles modified 
in his later life, as appears in Sin s. But he everywhere wants 
to lean on living and realising Mind, not on empty verbal 


Philosophy being nothing else but the study of wisdom and 
truth, it may seem strange that they who have spent much time 
and pains in it, do usually find themselves embarrass d with 
more doubts and difficulties than they were before they P came 
to that study. There is nothing these men can [ 2 touch] with 
their hands or behold with their eyes but has its inaccessible 
and dark sides. Something] they imagine to be in every drop 
of water, every grain of sand which can puzzle [ 3 and confound] 
the most clear and [ 4 elevated] understanding, and are often by 

1 On the opposite page of the and perplex d, there s nothing but 

MS., instead of what follows with- has its dark sides. Somewhat 
in brackets meddled with that " handle. 

study. To them the most common 3 Erased, 

and familiar things appear intricate 4 comprehensive. 


their principles led into a necessity of admitting the most 
irreconcilable opinions for true, or (which is worse) of sitting 
down in a forlorn scepticism. 

The cause of this is thought to be the obscurity of things, 
together with the natural weakness and imperfection of our 
understanding. It is said the senses we have are few, and these 
design d by nature only for the support of life, and not to 
penetrate into the constitution and inward essence of things. 
Besides, the mind of man being finite when it treats of things 
which partake of infinity, it is not to be wonder d at if it run 
into absurdities 1 and contradictions, out of which it is [ 2 abso 
lutely] impossible it should ever extricate itself, it being of 
the nature of Infinite not to be comprehended by that which 
is finite 3 . 

But I cannot think our faculties are so weak and inadequate 
in respect of things, as these men would make us believe. 
I cannot be brought to suppose that right deductions from true 
principles should ever end 4 in consequences which cannot be 
maintain d or made consistent. We should believe that God 
has dealt more bountifully with the sons of men than to give 
them a strong desire for that which he had placed quite out of 
their reach, and so made it impossible for them to obtain. 
Surely our wise and good Creatour would never have made us 
so eager in the search of truth meerly to baulk and perplex 
us, to make us blame our faculties, and bewail our inevitable 
ignorance. This were not agreeable to the wonted indulgent 
methods of Providence, which, whatever appetites it may have 
implanted in the creatures, doth usually furnish them with such 
means as, if rightly made use of, will not fail to satisfy them. 
Upon the whole my opinion is, that the far greatest part, if not 
all, of those difficultys which have hitherto amus d philosophers, 
and block d up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to 
themselves. That they have first rais d a dust, and then com 
plain they cannot see. 

My purpose therefore is, to [ 5 try if I can] discover [ 2 and 
point out] what those principles are which have introduc d all 
that doubtfulness and uncertainty, those absurditys and con 
tradictions into the several sects of philosophy, insomuch that 
the wisest men have thought our ignorance incurable, conceiving 
it to arise from the natural dulness and limitation of our faculties. 
And at the same time to establish such principles in their stead, 
as shall be free from the like consequences, and lead the mind 
into a clear view of truth. And surely it is a work well 
deserving of our pains, to try to extend the limits of our 

1 absurdities instead of incon- graph is written Nov. 15, 1708. 
sistencys erased. 4 end instead of terminate 

2 Erased. erased. 

3 on the margin of this para- * Instead of endeavour to. 


knowledge, and [ do right to] human understanding, by making 
it to appear that those lets and difficultys which stay and 
embarrass the mind in its enquirys [ 2 after truth ] do not spring 
from any darkness and intricacy in the objects, or [ natural] 
defect in the intellectual powers, so much as from false principles 
which have been insisted on, and might have been avoided. 

How difficult and discouraging soever this attempt may seem, 
when I consider what a number of men of very great and 
extraordinary abilitys have gone before me, [ 4 and miscarry d] 
in the like [designs, yet] I am not without some hopes, upon 
the consideration that the largest views are not always the 
clearest, and that he who is shortsighted will be apt to draw 
the object nearer, and by a close and narrow survey may 
perhaps discern that which had escaped far better eyes. 

[ 6 In my entrance upon this work] I think it necessary to 
take notice of [ 7 that w ch seems to have been the source of 
a great many errours, and to have made the way to knowledge 
very intricate and perplex d, that w ch seems to have had a chiefe 
part in rendering speculation intricate and perplex d, and to 
have been the source of innumerable errours and difficulties 
in almost all parts of knowledge] and that is the opinion that 
there are Abstract Ideas or General Conceptions of Things. 
He who is not a perfect stranger to the writings and [ s notions] 
of philosophers must needs acknowledge that [ no small] part 
of p them] are spent "about Abstract Ideas. These are, in 
a more special manner, thought to be the objects of those 
sciences that go by the name of logic and metaphysics, and of 
all that which passes under the notion of the most abstracted 
and sublime philosophy. In all which [ 4 speculative sciences] 
you shall scarce find any question handled [ 4 by the philo 
sophers] in such a manner as does not suppose their existence 
in the mind, and that it is very well acquainted with them ; 
Q 4 so that these parts of learning must of necessity be overrun 

1 Instead of beat down those me [one] very powerful and uni- 
mounds and barriers that have versal cause of error and confusion 
been put to. throughout the philosophy of all 

2 Within brackets in the MS. sects and ages and the opposite 

3 Instead of incurable erased. page, that which seems to me 

4 Erased. a wide-spread [in philosophical 
Instead of undertakings. enquirys] throughout the philo- 

. Instead of But here in the sophy of all sects and ages. 
entrance, before I proceed any 8 Brackets in the MS. 

further. On the blank page op- 9 Instead of very great. 

posite we have In my entrance 10 Instead of their disputes and 

upon this work [before I descend to contemplations [speculations]. 
more particular subjects] [and] " concerning instead of about 

[to more particular cnquirysj. erased. 
7 Instead of y l w h seem to 


with [very much] useles wrangling and jargon, [innumerable] 
absurdities and contradictions [opinions], if so be that Abstract 
General Ideas are perfectly inconceivable, as I am well assur d 
they [never were cannot be] conceived by me, f 1 nor do I think 
it possible they should be conceiv d by any one else].] 

By abstract idea, genera, species, universal notions, all which 
amount to the same thing, as I find these terms explain d by the 
best and clearest writers, we are to understand ideas which 
equally represent the particulars of any sort, and are made by 
the mind which, observing that the individuals of each kind 
agree in some things and differ in others, takes out and singles 
from the rest that which is common to all, making thereof one 
abstract general idea; which [ 2 general idea] contains all those 
ideas wherein the particulars of that kind agree [ 2 and partake], 
separated from and exclusive of all those other concomitant 
ideas whereby they [ 2 individuals] are distinguished [ 2 from 
each other] one from another. [ 2 To this abstract general idea 
thus framed the mind gives a general name, and lays it up and 
uses it as a standard whereby to judge what particulars are 
and what are not to be accounted of that sort, those onely which 
contain every part of the general idea having a right to be 
admitted into that sort and called by that name.] 

For example, the mind having observed that Peter, James, 
and John, &c. resemble each other in certain common agree 
ments of shape and other quality, leaves out of the complex 
idea it has of Peter, James, &c. that which is peculiar to each, 
retaining onely that which is common to all. And so it makes 
one [ s abstract] complex idea, wherein all the particulars par 
take, abstracting entirely from and cutting off all those cir 
cumstances and differences which might determine it to any 
particular existence : and after this manner you come by [ 4 the] 
precise abstract idea of [ 2 a] man. In which [ 2 idea] it is true 
there is included colour, because there is no man but hath some 
colour, but then it can be neither white [ 2 colour] nor black 
[ 2 colour] nor any particular colour, but colour in general, 
because there is no one particular colour wherein all men 
partake. In like manner you will tell me there is included 
stature, but it is neither tall stature nor low stature, nor yet 
middling stature, but stature in general. And so of the rest. 
Q 6 Suppose now I should ask whether you comprehended, in 
this your abstract idea of man, the ideas of eyes, or ears, or 

1 On opposite page and I very but erased, are the words an 
much question whether they ever odd and mutilated idea, that of 
were or can be by any one else. man without all these. And on 

2 Erased. the same page it must needs 

3 Instead of general. [make an odd and frightful figure 

4 Instead of a clear. the idea] of [a] man without all 

5 Erased. On opposite page, these, also erased. 


nose, or legs, or arms, [this might perhaps put you to a stand 
for an answer, for] you will own it to be an odd and mutilated 
idea of a man w h is without all these. Yet it must be so to 
make it consistent with the doctrine of abstract ideas, there 
being particular men that want, some arms, some legs, [some] 
noses, &.c.~] 

Q 1 But supposing the abstract idea of man to be very conceiv 
able, let us proceed to see [ 2 how] it comes to be enlarg d into 
the more general and comprehensive idea of animal.] There 
being a great variety of other creatures [*as birds] that partake 
in some parts, but not all, of the complex idea of man, the mind 
leaving out those parts which are peculiar to men, and retaining 
those onely which are common to all the living creatures, frames 
the idea of animal, [ which is more general than that of man, 
it comprehending not only all particular men, but also all birds, 
beasts, fishes, and insects.] The constituent parts whereof [ l of 
the complex idea of animal] are body, life, sense, and spon 
taneous motion. By body is meant body f 1 in general], without 
any particular shape or figure, there being no one shape or 
figure common to all animals, without covering either of hair, 
or feathers, or [ 3 scales], and yet it is not naked. Hair, feathers, 
[ 3 scales], and nakedness being peculiar distinguishing properties 
of pthe] particular animals, and for that reason left out of the 
[ 4 abstract] idea. Upon the same account, the spontaneous 
motion must be neither walking nor flying nor creeping, it is 
nevertheless a motion, but what that motion is it is not easy 
to say. 

In like manner a man [ J having seen several lines) by leaving 
out of his idea of a line [ 5 the particular colour and length), 
comes by the idea of a line, which is neither black, nor white, 
nor red, &c., nor long nor short, which he calls the abstract 
idea of a line, and which, for ought that I can see, is just 
nothing. Q 1 For I ask whether a line has any more than one 
particular colour and one particular length, which [when they 
are] being left out, I beseech any 6 one to consider what it is 
that remains.] 

Whether others have this [ 7 wonderful] faculty of abstracting 
their ideas, they can ["best] tell. For myself, I dare be con 
fident I have it not ; [ ; and I am apt to think that some of those 
who fancy themselves to enjoy that privilege, would, upon look 
ing narrowly into their own thoughts, find they wanted it as 
much as I. For there was a time when, being banter d and 
abus d by words, I did not in the least doubt my having it. But 

1 Erased. 5 Instead of all particular colour, 

2 Instead of by what steps and and all particular length. 
abstractions. * one instead of man." 

;; Instead of fins. T Instead of marvellous. 

4 Instead of general. " Instead of better. 


upon a strict survey of my abilitys, I not only discover my own 
deficiency in that point, but also cannot conceive it possible that 
such a person should be even in the most perfect and exalted 
understanding.] I find I have a faculty of imagining, conceiving, 
or representing to myself the ideas of those particular things 
I have perceiv d, and of variously compounding and dividing 
them. I can imagine a man with two heads, or the upper parts 
of a man joyn d to the body of a horse. I can consider the 
hand, the eye, the nose each by itself [ abstracted or] separated 
from the rest of the body. But then whatever eye or nose 
I imagine, they must have some particular shape and colour. 
The idea of man that I frame to myself must be either of 
a white, or a black, or a tawny, a straight or a crooked, a tall 
or a low or a middling sized man. I cannot by any effort of 
[ 2 thought] frame to myself an idea of man [ 3 prescinding from 
all particulars] that shall have nothing particular in it. [ 3 For 
my life I cannot comprehend abstract ideas 4 .] 

And there are grounds to think [ 5 most] men will acknowledge 
themselves to be in my case. The generality of men, which are 
simple and illiterate, never pretend to abstract notions. It is 
said they are difficult and not to be attained without much study 
and speculation, we may therefore reasonably conclude that, if 
such there be, they are altogether confin d to the learned. 

But it must be confess d, I do not see what great advantage 
they give them above the rest of mankind. He who considers 
that whatever has any existence in nature and can any wise 
affect or concern [ 3 is] him is particular, will not find great cause 
to be discontent with his facultys, if [ they] cannot reach a piece 
of knowledge as useless as it is refin d ; [ 3 and] which whether 
it be to be found even in those deep thinkers may well be made 
a question. 

For besides the [ 7 incomprehensibleness] of abstract ideas to 
my understanding (which may pass for an argument, since those 
gentlemen do not pretend to any new facultys distinct from 
those of ordinary men), there are not wanting other proofs 
against them. [ 8 It is, I think, a receiv d axiom that an impossi- 

1 Instead of singled out and. bility, and on opposite page, but 

2 Instead of imagination. erased incomprehensibleness... 

3 Erased. to my understanding by any 

4 On opposite page the words [intellect understanding] whatso- 
I can conceive well enough what ever. 

is meant by adequate and inade- 8 Erased. On opposite page 
quate, clear and obscure, distinct That a contradiction cannot be 
and confus d [ideas], but are conceiv d by any human under 
written and erased. standing whatsoever is, I think, 

5 Instead of the far greatest agreed on all hands. And to me it 
part of. is no less clear that the description 

6 Instead of he. of an abstract idea doth include a 

7 Instead of incomprehensi- contradiction in it. 


bility cannot be conceiv d. For what created intelligence will 
pretend to conceive that which God cannot cause to be ? Now 
it is on all hands agreed, that nothing abstract or general can 
be made really to exist ; whence it should seem to follow, that 
it cannot have so much as an ideal existence in the under 

[ I do not think it necessary to insist on any more proofs, 
against the doctrine of abstraction in this place, especially for 
that the absurditys, which in the progress of this work I shall 
observe to have sprung from that doctrine, will yield plenty of 
arguments a posteriori against it.] I proceed [ J therefore] to 
examine what can be alledged in defence [ 2 of the doctrine of 
abstraction], and try if I can discover what it is that [ 3 inclines] 
the men of speculation to embrace an opinion so pregnant of 
absurditys, and so remote from common sense as that seems 
to be. 

There has been a late excellent and deservedly esteem d 
philosopher, to whose judgment, so far as authority is of any 
weight with me, I would pay the utmost deference. This great 
man, no doubt, has very much countenanc d the doctrine of 
abstraction by seeming to think [ 4 it] is that which puts the 
widest difference in point of understanding betwixt man and 
beast. Thus speaks he : The having of general ideas is that 
which puts a perfect distinction betwixt man and brutes, and 
is an excellency which the facultys of brutes do by no means 
attain unto. For it is evident we observe no footsteps in them 
of making use of general signs for [ 5 making] universal ideas ; 
from which we have reason to imagine that they have not the 
faculty of abstracting, or making general ideas, since they have 
no use of words or any other general signs. And a little lower : 
Therefore I think we may suppose that tis in this that the 
species of brutes are discriminated from men, and tis that 
proper difference wherein they are wholly separated, and which 
at last widens to so wide a distance. For if they have any ideas 
at all and are not bare machines (as some would have them), 
we cannot deny them to have some reason. It seems as evident 
to me, that they do some of them in certain instances reason, 
as that they have sense, but it is only in particular ideas, just 
as they receiv d them from their senses. They are the best ot 
them tied up within those narrow bounds, and have not (as 
I think) the faculty to enlarge them by any kind of abstraction. 
(Essay on Human Understanding, Book 2. chap. n. s. 10, n.) 
I readily agree with this authour that the faculties of brutes can 
by no means attain to the making of abstract general ideas. 
But then if that inability to abstract be made the distinguishing 

1 Erased. * Instead of the having abstract 

2 Instead of thereof. ideas. 

3 Instead of has inclined. 5 Within brackets in the MS. 


property of that sort of animals, I fear a great many of those 
that now pass for men must be reckon d into their number. 

The reason which is here assign d why we have no grounds 
to think that brutes have general ideas, is that we observe in 
them no use of words or any other general signs which is built 
on this suppositionthat the making use of words implys the 
having of general ideas, and that [ l on the other hand] those 
who have general ideas fail not to make use of words, or other 
universal signs, [ 2 whereby] to express [ 2 and signify them]. 
[ 2 That this is the] From which it must follow, that men who 
use language are able to abstract and generalise their ideas, but 
brutes [ 3 that] use it not are destitute of that faculty. That this 
is the sense and arguing of the authour of the Essay,.\vil\ farther 
appear, by his answering the question he in another place puts. 
Since all things that exist are only particulars, how come we 
by general terms ? His answer is Words become general by 
being made the signs of general ideas. (Essay on Human 
Understanding, b. 3. c. 3. s. 6.) From which assertion I must 
crave leave to dissent, being of opinion that a word becomes 
general by being [ 4 the] made the sign, not of a general idea, 
but of many particular ideas. Sure j[ am, as to what concerns 
myself, when I say the word Socrates is a proper [ 2 or particular] 
name, and the word man an appellative or general name, I 
mean no more than this, viz. that the one is peculiar and 
appropriated to one particular person, the other common to 
a great many particular persons, each [" of which] has an equall 
right in propriety of language to be called by the name man. 
Q 2 This, 1 say, is the whole truth of the matter, and not that 
I make any incomprehensible abstract idea whereunto I annex 
the name man. That were to [make] my words stand for I 
know not what.] 

That great man seems to think the necessary ends of language 
could not be attain d [ 2 to] without the use of abstract ideas. 
B. 3. c. 6. s. 39 [ 2 he shews it] and elsewhere he shews it to be 
his opinion that they are made in order to naming. B. 3. c. i. s. 3 
he has these words : It is not enough for the perfection of 
language that sounds can be made signs of ideas, unless those 
signs can be so made use of as to comprehend several particular 
things : for the multiplication of words would have perplex d 
their use, had every particular thing need of a distinct name to 
be signified by. To remedy this inconvenience language had 
yet a farther improvement in the use of general terms whereby 
one word was made to mark a number of particular existences, 
which advantageous use of sounds was obtained only by the 
difference of the ideas they were made signs of. Those names 

1 Instead of reciprocally. * Within brackets in the MS. 

2 Erased. 5 Instead of whereof. 

3 Instead of who. 


becoming general which are made to stand for general ideas, 
and those remaining particular where the ideas they are used 
for are particular. Now I would fain know why a word may 
not be made to comprehend a great number of particular things 
in its signification, without the [ help] of a general idea? Is it 
not possible to give the name [ 2 colour to black, white, and red, 
c.] without having first made that strange and to me incompre 
hensible idea of [ colour in abstract]? Or must we imagine 
that a child upon sight of a particular body, and being told it is 
called an apple, must first frame to himself an abstract general 
idea [ 4 exclusive of] all particular colour, tast, and figure before 
he can attain to the use of the word apple, and apply it to all the 
particulars of that sort of fruit that come in his way? [ f This 
surely is a task too hard and metaphysical to be perforrn d by 
an infant just beginning to speak.] Nay, I appeal to the experi 
ence of any grown man, whether this be the course he takes in 
acquainting himself with the [ right] use and signification of 
any word ? Let any man take a fair and impartial view of his 
own thoughts, and then determine whether his general words 
do not become so only by being made to mark a number of 
particular existences, without any the least thought of abstrac 
tion. For what, I pray, are words but signs of our thoughts ? 
and how are signs of any sort rendered universal otherwise than 
by being made to signify, or represent indifferent^, a multitude 
of particular things? 

The ideas that are in every man s mind ly hid[ s den], and 
cannot of themselves be brought into the view of another. It 
was therefore necessary, for discourse and communication, that 
men should institute sounds to be signs of their ideas, which 
being ["excited] in the mind of the hearer ["might] bring 
along with them [ into his understanding] such ideas as in 
the propriety of any language were annex d to them. But 
because of the almost infinite number and variety of our [ ideas), 
it is impossible, and if it were possible would yet be a useless 
thing, to appropriate a particular [ 5 word to a) sign or name to 
every one of them. From which il must necessarily follow, 
that one word be made the sign of a great number of particular 
ideas, between which there is some likeness and which are 
said to be of the same sort. Q 10 But then these sorts are not 

1 Instead of interposition. 7 Instead of raised. 

8 Instead of man to Peter, a Instead of shall. 

James, and John. 9 Instead of thoughts. 

:i Instead of man which shall 10 Erased. On the opposite page 

have nothing particular in it. we have Everyone s experience 

* Instead of thereof, abstracting may convince him that this is all 

from. that s meant by general names, and 

5 Erased. that they do not stand either for 

6 Instead of proper. universal natures distinct from our 


determin d and set out by nature, as was thought by most 
philosophers. Nor yet are they limited by any precise abstract 
ideas settl d in the mind, with the general name annexed to 
them, as is the opinion of the authour of the Essay, nor do they 
in truth seem to me to have any precise bounds or limits at all. 
For if [there were] they had I do not see how there could be 
those doubts and scruples about the sorting of particular beings 
which [that authour insists on as a good proof] are observ d 
sometimes to have happen d. Neither do I think it necessary 
the kinds or species of things should be so very accurately 
bounded and marked out, language being made by and for the 
common use of men, who do not ordinarily take notice of 
the minuter and less considerable differences of things.] From 
[ J all] which to me it seems evident that the having of general 
names does not imply the having of general ideas, but barely 
the marking by them a number of particular ideas, and that all 
the ends of language may be and are attain d without the help 
of any such faculty as abstraction. 

Which will be made yet more manifest if we consider the 
different manners wherein words ^and ideas [are] do stand 
for and represent things] represent ideas, and ideas things. 
There is no similitude or resemblance betwixt words and the 
ideas that are marked by them. Any name may be used 
indifferently for the sign of any idea, or any number of ideas, 
it not being determin d by any likeness to represent one more 
than another. But it is not so with ideas in respect of things, 
of which they are suppos d to be the copies and images. They 
are not thought to represent them [ 1 any] otherwise than as 
they resemble them. Whence it follows that an idea is not 
capable of representing indifferently anything [ 2 whatsoever], 
it being limited by the likeness it beares to some particular 
[ 3 thing] to represent it rather than any other. The word man 
may equally be put to signify any particular man I can think of. 
But I cannot frame an idea of man which shall equally repre 
sent and correspond to each particular of that sort of creatures 
that may possibly exist. 

I shall [ l only] add one more passage out of the Essay on 
Human Understanding, which is as follows : Abstract ideas are 
not so obvious or easy to children or the yet unexercised mind 
as particular ones. If they seem so to grown men tis only 
because by constant and familiar use they are made so. For 
when we nicely reflect upon them we shall find that general 

conceptions as was held by the the Essay. 

Peripatetics and generality of the 1 Erased. 

Schoolmen, nor yet for universal * Instead of or number of 

notions or ideas as is the opinion things. 

of that sort of Schoolmen called a Instead of existence. 

Nominals and of the authour of 


ideas are fictions and contrivances of the mind that carry 
difficulty with them and do not so easily offer themselves as 
we are apt to imagine. For example, does it not require some 
pains and skill to form the general idea of a triangle (which is 
yet none of the most abstract, comprehensive and difficult), for 
it must be neither oblique nor rectangle, neither equilateral, 
cquicrural, nor scalenon, but all and none of these at once ? 
In effect, it is something imperfect, that cannot exist ; an idea 
wherein some parts of several different and inconsistent ideas 
are put together. Tis true the mind in this imperfect state has 
need of such ideas, and makes all the hast to them it can, for 
the conveniency of communication and enlargement of know 
ledge, to both which it is naturally very much enclin d ; but 
yet one has reason to suspect such ideas are marks of our 
imperfection. At least this is enough to shew that the most 
abstract and general ideas are not those that the mind is first 
and most easily acquainted with, nor such as its earlyest know 
ledge is conversant about. B. 4. c. 7. s. 9. If any man has the 
faculty of framing in his mind such an idea of a triangle as is 
here describ d, it is in vain to pretend to dispute him out of it, 
nor would I go about it. All I desire is that every one would 
fully and certainly inform himself whether he has such an idea 
or no. And this, methinks, can be no hard task for any one 
to perform. What more easy than for any one to look a little 
into his own understanding, and there try whether he has, or 
can attain to have, an idea that shall correspond with the de 
scription here given of the general idea of a triangle which 
is neither oblique nor rectangle, neither equilateral, equicrural, 
nor scalenon, but all and none of these at once? He that can 
conceive such manifest contradictions and inconsistencys, tis 
fit he enjoy his privilege. For my part [/ I am well assur d] 2 1 
have not the power of so doing, nor consequently of making to 
myself these general ideas ; neither do I find that I have any 
need of them either for the conveniency of communication or 
the enlargement of knowledge l ] for the conveniency of com 
munication and enlargement of knowledge. For which I am 
not sorry, because it is here said one has reason to suspect 
such ideas are marks of our imperfection. Tho , I must own, 
I do not see how this agrees with what has been above quoted 
[out of the same authour], viz. the having of general ideas is 
that which puts a perfect distinction betwixt man and brutes, 
and is an excellency which the faculties of brutes do by no means 
attain unto.] 

It is observable [ 3 what it is here said] of the difficulty that 

1 Erased. 3 Instead of that which is [here] 

2 On opposite page erased said by that authour on this occa* 
I must own I have so much of the sion. 

brute in my understanding, that. 


abstract ideas carry with them, and the pains and skill that is 
requisite to the forming ^of] them. To the same purpose 
Aristotle (who was certainly a great admirer and promoter of 
the doctrine of abstraction) has these words : a^Soi/ 8e KCU 

^aXfTrcorara yva>pieiv rols avdpatrrois ear! Ta ^iaXi(rrn Ka66\ov Troppco- 

Tarto yap TM al(rd^(Tta>v tcr-ri. There is scarce anything so incom 
prehensible to men as the most universal notions, because they 
are most remote from sense. Metaph. lib. i. cap. 2 2 . It is on 
all hands agreed, that there is need of great pains and toil and 
labour of the mind, to emancipate [ 3 our thoughts] from par 
ticular ideas such as are taken in by the senses, and raise 
[ 3 them] to those lofty speculations [ 4 which] are conversant 
about abstract and universal ones. 

From all which the natural consequence should seem to be, 
that so difficult a thing as the forming of abstract ideas is not 
necessary for communication, which is so easy and familiar to 
all sorts of men, even the most barbarous and unreflecting. 
But we are told, if they seem obvious and easy to grown men, 
tis only because by constant and familiar use they are made so. 
Now I would fain know at what time it is men are employ d in 
surmounting that difficulty, and furnishing themselves with 
those necessary [ 5 materials] of discourse. It cannot be when 
they are grown up, for then they are not conscious of any such 
pains-taking. It remains therefore to be the business of their 
childhood. And surely the great and multiply d labour of 
framing general notions will be found a hard task for that tender 
age. Is it not a hard thing to imagine that a couple of children 
cannot commune one with another of their sugar-plumbs and 
rattles, and the rest of their little trinkets, till they have first 
tack d together numberless inconsistencys, and so framed in 
their minds general abstract ideas, and annex d them to every 
common name they make use of? 

Nor do I think they are a whit more needful for enlargement 
of knowledge, than for communication. For tho it be a point 
much insisted on in the Schools that all knowledge is about 
universals, yet I [ 6 can by no means see the necessity of] this 
doctrine. It is acknowledg d that nothing has a fairer title 
to the name of knowledge or science than geometry. Now 
I appeal to any man s thoughts whether, upon the entrance 
into that study, the first thing to be done is to try to conceive 
a circle that is neither great nor small, nor of any determinate 
radius, or to make ideas of triangles and parallelograms that 

1 Erased. 3 Instead of it. 

2 Text as in Schwegler a^f^bv * Instead of that. 

5e KO.I \a\cirun-ara ravra yvapifciv 5 Instead of praeliminarys. 

rois dvdpwtrois, ra fna\iara aa06\ov 6 Instead of [could never] bring 

iroppuraToa yap rtav alaOrjatuiv tariv, myself to comprehend. 


are neither rectangular nor obliquangular, &c. ? It is [ l true] one 
thing for a proposition to be universally true, and another for 
it to be about universal natures or notions. [ 2 Because] that 
the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones is 
granted to be a proposition universally true, it will not therefore 
follow that we are to understand it of universal triangles, or uni 
versal angles. It will suffice that it be true of [ ] any particular 
tri| the particular angles of any particular triangle whatsoever. 

But here it will be demanded, how we can know any propo 
sition to be true of all particular triangles, except we have first 
seen it demonstrated of the general idea of a triangle, which 
equally agrees to and represents them all? For because a 
property may be demonstrated to belong to some one particular 
triangle, it will not thence follow that it equally belongs to 
[ l some] any other triangle which in all respects is not the same 
with the former. For instance, having demonstrated that the 
three angles of an isosceles, rectangular triangle are equal to 
two right ones, I cannot therefore conclude this affection agrees 
to all other triangles which have neither a right angle nor two 
equal sides. It seems therefore, that to be certain this propo 
sition is universally true, we must either make a particular 
demonstration for every particular triangle, which is impossible, 
or else we must, once for all, demonstrate it of the general idea 
of a triangle in which all the particulars do indifferently partake, 
and by which they are all equally represented. 

To which I answer, that notwithstanding the idea I have in 
my mind, whilst I make the demonstration, be that of some 
particular triangle, e. g. an isosceles, rectangular ones whose 
sides are of a determined length, I may nevertheless be certain 
that it extends to all other rectilinear triangles of what sort or 
bigness soever. And that because neither the right angle, nor 
the equality, nor determinate length of the legs are at all con- 
cern d in the demonstration. Tis true the diagram I have in 
my view does include these particulars, but then there is not 
the least mention made of them in the proof of the proposition. 
It is not said the three angles are equal to two right ones, 
because one of them is a right angle, or because the legs com 
prehending it are [ J equal] of the same length ; which sufficiently 
shews that the right angle might have been oblique and the 
sides unequal, and yet the demonstration have held good. And 
for this reason it is that I conclude that to be true of any obli 
quangular or scalenon which I had demonstrated of a particular 
right angled equicrural triangle ; and not because I demon 
strated the proposition of the general idea of a triangle which 
was all and none, it not being possible for me to conceive any 
triangle whereof I cannot delineate the like on paper. But 
I believe no man, whatever he may conceive, will pretend to 

1 Erased. 2 Instead of Thus [notwithstanding]. 



describe a general triangle with his pencill. This being rightly 
consider d, I believe we shall not be found to have any great 
[ l want] need of those eternal, immutable, universal ideas about 
which the philosophers keep such a stir, and without which 
they think there can be no silence at all. 

But what becomes of these general maxims, these first prin 
ciples of knowledge, [ 2 so frequently in the mouths] of [ ! the] 
metaphysicians, all w ch are suppos d to be about abstract and 
universal ideas ? To which all the answer I can make is, that 
whatsoever proposition is made up of terms standing for general 
notions or ideas, the same is to me, so far forth, [/absolutely] 
unintelligible : and whether it be that those speculative gentle 
men have by earnest and profound study attain d to an elevation 
of thought above the reach of ordinary capacities and endeavours, 
or whatever else be the cause, sure I am there are in their 
writings many things which I now find myself unable to under 
stand. Tho being accustom d to those forms of speech, I once 
thought there was no difficulty in them. But this one thing 
seems [ to me] pretty plain and certain. How high soever 
that goodly fabrick of metaphysics might have been rais d, and 
by what venerable names soever it may be supported, yet if 
[^withall] it be built on [ 3 no other] foundation [ 4 than] incon 
sistency and contradictions, it is after all but a castle in the air 8 . 

It were an endless as well as an useless thing to trace the 
Schoolmen, those great masters of abstraction, and all others 
whether ancient or modern logicians and metaphysicians, thro 
those numerous inextricable labyrinths of errour and dispute, 
which their doctrine of abstract natures and notions seems to 
have led them into. What bickerings and controversys, and 
what a learned dust has been rais d about those matters, and 
what [ great] mighty advantage has been from thence deriv d 
to mankind, are things at this day too clearly known to need to 
be insisted on by me. Nor has that doctrine been confined to 
those two sciences, that make the most avowed profession of it. 
The contagion thereof has spread throughout] all the parts 
of philosophy. It has invaded and overrun those usefull studys 
of physic and divinity, and even the mathematicians themselves 
have had their full share of it. 

When men consider the great pain, industry and parts that 
have [ in] for so many ages been lay d out on the cultivation 
and advancement of the sciences, and that [ 6 notwithstanding] 
all this, the far greatest part of them remain full of doubts and 
uncertainties, and disputes that are like never to have an end, 
and even those that are thought to be supported by the most 

1 Erased. * Instead of of. 

2 Instead of these curious specu- 5 On margin, Dec. i. 
lations. ; Instead of for. 

3 Instead of the sandy. 


clear and cogent demonstrations do contain in them paradoxes 
that are perfectly irreconcilable to the understandings of men, 
and that taking all together a very small portion of them does 
supply any real benefit to mankind, otherwise than by being 
an innocent diversion and amusement I say upon the con 
sideration of all this, men are wont to be cast into an amaze 
ment and despondency, and perfect contempt of all study. But 
that wonder and despair may perhaps cease upon a view of the 
false principles and wrong foundations of science [ which] that 
have been made use of. Amongst all which there is none, 
methinks, of a more wide and universal sway over the thoughts 
of studious men than that we have been endeavouring to detect 
and overthrow. [ To me certainly it does not seem strange 
that unprofitable debates and absurd and extravagant opinions 
should abound in the writings of those men who, disdaining 
the vulgar and obvious informations of sense, do in the depth 
of their understanding contemplate abstract ideas-.] 

I come now to consider the [ 3 source] of this prevailing 
[ 4 notion], and that seems to me most evidently to be language. 
And surely nothing of less extent than reason itself could have 
been the source of an opinion, as epidemical as it is absurd. 
That [ ] words are] the conceit of abstract idea ows its birth and 
origine to words, will appear, as from other reasons, so also 
from the plain confession of the ablest patrons of y* doctrine, 
who [ l do] acknowledge that they are made in order to naming ; 
from which it is a clear consequence that there had been no 
such thing as speech, or universal signs, there never had been 
[ abstract ideas] any thought of abstract ideas. I find it also 
declared in express terms that general truths can never be well 
made known, and are yery seldom apprehended but as con 
ceived and expressed in words ; all which doth plainly set 
forth the inseparable connexion and mutual dependence [ on 
each other] that is thought to be between words and abstract 
ideas. For whereas it is elsewhere said there could be no 
communication by general names [ without there being] also 
general ideas of which they were to be signs; we are here, on 
the other hand, told that] that general ideas [ G are] necessary 
for communication by general names ; here, on the other hand, 
we are told that names are needfull for the understanding of 
[ abstract notions] general truths. Now by the bye, I would 
tain know how it is possible for words to make a man apprehend 
that which he cannot apprehend without them. I do not deny 
they are necessary for communication, and so making me know 
the ideas that are in the mind of another. But when any truth, 

1 Erased. minds of men. 

* On margin Dec. 2. 5 Instead of except there were. 

3 Instead of cause. 8 Instead of were." 

4 Instead of imagination in the 

B b 2 


whether [* about general or part] about general or particular 
ideas, is once made known to me by words, [ l I cannot see any 
manner of] so that I rightly apprehend the ideas contained in 
it, I see no manner of reason why I may not omit the words, 
and yet retain as full and clear a conception of the ideas them 
selves, as I had [ of them] while they were cloathed with words. 
Words being, so far as I can see, of use only for recording and 
communicating, but not absolutely apprehending [ J of ] ideas. 
[ I know there be some things which pass for truths that will 
not bear this [stripping being stript] of the attire of words, 
but this I always took for a sure and certain sign that there 
were no clear and determinate ideas underneath.] I proceed 
to shew the manner wherein words have contributed to the 
growth and origine of that mistake. 

That which seems [ l to me principally] in a great measure 
to have drove men into the conceit of [ a abstract] ideas, is the 
opinion, that every name has, or ought to have, one only pre 
cise and settl d signification: which inclines ^men] them to 
think there are certain abstract, determinate, general ideas 
that make the true and only immediate signification of each 
general name, and that it is by the mediation of these abstract 
ideas that a general name comes to signify any particular thing. 
Whereas there is in truth [ s a] diversity of significations in 
every general name whatsoever [ l except only the proper 

to [*o: 
a plaii 

names]. Nor is there any such thing as one precise and 
definite signification annexed to each [ x appellative] name. All 
which does evidently follow from what has been already said, 
and will f 1 be] clearly appear to any one by a little reflexion. 

But P here] to this, I doubt not, it will be objected that every 
name that has a definition is thereby tied down and restrain d 
[one certain] signification, e.g. a triangle is defin d to be 

plain surface comprehended by three right lines, by which 
that name is limited to denote one certain idea, and no other. 
To which I answer, that in the definition it is not said, whether 
the surface be great or small, black or white or transparent, 
or whether the sides are long or short, equal or unequal, or 
with what angles they are inclin d to each other. In all which 
there may be great variety, and consequently there is no one 
settled idea which limits the signification of the word triangle. 
Tis one thing for to keep a word f 1 everywhere] constantly 
to the same definition, and another to make it stand every 
where for the same idea: [ 6 that] is necessary, but [ 6 this] is 
useless and impracticable. [ J Nor does it avail to say the 
abstract idea of a triangle, which bounds the signification of 
that name, is itself determin d, tho the angles, sides, &c. are 

1 Erased. 4 Instead of a particular. 

2 Instead of general. 5 Instead of the former. 

3 Instead of an homonomy or. 6 Instead of the latter. 



not. For besides the absurdity of such an idea, which has 
been already shewn, it is evident that if the simple ideas or 
parts, i.e. the lines, angles, and surface, are themselves various 
and undetermin d, the complex idea or whole triangle cannot 
be one settled determinate idea.] 

j[ But to give a farther account, how words came to introduce 
the doctrine of universal ideas, it will be necessary to observe 
there is a notion current among those that pass for the deepest 
thinkers, that every significant name stands for an idea. It is 
said by them that a proposition cannot otherwise be understood 
than by perceiving [ 2 the agreement or disagreement of] the 
ideas marked by the terms [ 3 thereof] of it. Whence it follows, 
that according to those men every proposition that is not jargon 
must consist of terms or names that carry along with them 
each a determinate idea. This being so, and it being [certain] 
withall certain that names which yet are not thought altogether 
insignificant do not always mark out particular ideas, it is 
straightway concluded that they stand for general ones. 

1 On the opposite page, we have, 
instead of this paragraph, the 
following: But to give a farther 
account how words came to intro 
duce the doctrine of general ideas, 
it [* must be observ d] that [} it is 
a receiv d opinion] that language 
hath no other end than the com 
municating our ideas, and that 
every significant name stands for 
an idea. This being so, and it 
being withall certain that names 
which yet are not thought alto 
gether insignificant, do not always 
mark out particular ideas, it is 
straightway concluded that they 
stand for general ones. 

1 That there are many names in 
use amongst speculative men, which 
do not always suggest to others 
determinate, particular ideas, or in 
truth anything at all, is what no 
body will deny. [J And that there 
are significant names denoting 
things, whereof it is a direct re 
pugnancy that any idea should be 
form d by any understanding what 
soever, I shall in its due place 
endeavour to demonstrate that it 

* Instead of is necessary to observe. 
philosophers is. J Erased. 

1 be the figure to make denote. 

is] not necessary (even in the 
strictest reasonings) that significant 
names which [J are marks of ideas] 
stand for ideas shou d every time 
they are used excite in the under 
standing the ideas they are made 
to [J signify] stand for. In reading 
and discoursing names are for the 
[J thinking on] most part us d as 
[+ figures in casting up a sum in 
which to compute exactly is not 
necessary] letters are in Algebra, in 
which, tho a particular quantity 
be mark d by each letter, yet to 
proceed right it is not requisite 
that in every step [Jyou have these 
particular quantitys in y r view. 
Tho you regard only the letters 
themselves without ever thinking 
on what was denoted by them, 
yet if you work according to rule, 
you will come to a true solution 
of the question] each letter suggest 
to your thoughts that particular 
quantity [which] it was appointed 
to [|| stand for]. 

2 Erased. 

3 This and some words that fol 
low are within brackets in the MS. 

t Instead of the common opinion of 
S Instead of whereof. II Instead of 


In answer to this I say, that names, significant names, do 
not always stand for ideas, but that they may be and are often 
used to good purpose [tho they are] without being suppos d 
to stand for or represent any idea at all. And as to what we 
are told of understanding propositions by [perceiving] the agree 
ment or disagreement of the ideas marked by their terms, this 
to me in many cases seems absolutely false. For the better clear 
ing and demonstrating of all which I shall make use of some 
particular instances. Suppose I have the idea of some one 
particular dog to which I give the name Melampus, and then 
frame this proposition Melampus is an animal. Where tis 
evident the name Melampus denotes one popular idea. And 
as for the other name or term of the proposition, there are 
a sort of philosophers will tell you thereby is meant not only 
a universal conception, but also [corresponding thereto] a uni 
versal nature or essence really existing without the mind, 
whereof Melampus doth partake, as tho it were possible that 
even things themselves could be universal. And [But] this 
with reason is exploded as nonsensical and absurd. But 
then those men who have so clearly and fully detected the 
emptyness and insignificancy of that wretched jargon [of 
S.G.W. (?)], are themselves to me equally unintelligible. For 
they will have it that if I understand what I say I must make 
the name animal stand for an abstract general idea which 
agrees to and corresponds with the particular idea marked 
by the name Melampus. But if a man may be allow d to know 
his own meaning, I do declare that in my thoughts the word 
animal is neither suppos d to stand for an universal nature, 
nor yet for an abstract idea, which to me is at least as absurd 
and incomprehensible as the other. Nor does it indeed in that 
proposition stand for any idea [at all] at all. All that I intend 
to signify thereby being only this that the particular [creature] 
thing I call Melampus has a right to be called by the name 
animal. And I do intreat any one to make this easy tryal. 
Let him but cast out of his [thoughts] the words of the pro 
position, and then see whether two clear and determinate 
ideas remain Pin his understanding] whereof he finds one 
to be conformable to the other. I perceive it evidently in my 
self that upon laying aside all thought of the words Melampus 
is an animal, I have remaining in my mind one only naked 
and bare idea, viz. that particular one to which I gave the 
name Melampus. Tho some there be that pretend they have 
also a general idea signified by the word animal, which they 
perceive to agree with the particular idea signified by the word 
Melampus, [which idea is made up of inconsistencys and con 
tradictions, as has been already shewn.] Whether this or that 



be the truth of the matter, I desire every particular person to 
consider and conclude for himself.] 

And this methinks may pretty clearly inform us how men 
might first have come to think there was a general idea of 
animal. For in the proposition we have instanc d in, it is plain 
the word animal is not suppos d to stand for the idea of any 
one particular [animal] [creature] animal. For if it be made 
stand for another different from that is marked by the name 
Melampus,the proposition is false and includes a contradiction; 
and if it be made signify the very same individual that Melampus 
doth, it is a tautology. But it is presumed that every name 
stands for an idea. It remains therefore that the word animal 
stands for [the] general abstract idea [of animal]. In like 
manner we may be able with a little attention to discover how 
other general ideas [of all sorts] might at first have stolen into 
the thoughts of man. 

But farther to make it evident that words may be used to 
good purpose without bringing into the mind determinate ideas, 
I shall add this instance. We are told [that] the good things 
which God hath prepared for them that love Him are such as 
eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor hath it enter d into the 
heart of man to conceive. What man will pretend to say these 
words of the inspir d writer are empty and [ses (?)] insignifi 
cant ? And yet who is there that can say they bring into his mind 
[determi] clear and determinate ideas, or in truth any ideas 
at all [ideas] of the good things [pre] in store for them that 
love God ? It may perhaps be said that those words lay before 
us the clear and determinate abstract ideas of good in general 
and thing in general ; but I am afraid it will be found that 
those very abstract ideas are every whit as remote from the 
comprehension of men as the particular pleasures of the saints 
in heaven. But, say you, those words of the Apostle must have 
some import. They cannot be suppos d to have been utter d 
without all meaning and design whatsoever. I answer, the 
saying is very weighty, and carrys with it a great design, but 
it is not to raise in the minds of men the abstract ideas of thing 
or good, nor yet the particular ideas of the joys of the blessed. 
The design is to make them more chearfull and fervent in their 
duty ; and how this may be compass d without making the 
words good things [to be] stand for and mark out to our under 
standings any ideas either general or particular, I proceed to shew. 

Upon mention of a reward to a man for his pains and per 
severance in any occupation whatsoever, it seems to me that 
divers things do ordinarily ensue. For there may be excited 
in his understanding an idea of the particular good thing to 
him proposed for a reward. There may also ensue thereupon 
an alacrity and steddiness in fulfilling those conditions on 
which it is to be obtain d, together with a zealous desire of 


serving and pleasing the person in whose power it is to bestow 
that good thing. All these things, I say, may and often do 
follow upon the pronunciation of those words that declare 
the recompence. Now I do not see any reason why the latter 
may not happen without the former. What is it that hinders 
why a man may not be stirr d up to diligence and zeal in his 
duty, by being told he shall have a good thing for his reward, 
tho at the same time there be excited in his mind no other 
idea than barely those of sounds or characters? When he was 
a child he had frequently heard those words used to him to 
create in him an obedience to the commands of those that spoke 
them, and as he grew up he has found by experience that upon 
the mentioning of those words by an honest man it has been 
his interest to have doubled his zeal and activity for the service 
of that person. Thus there having grown up in his mind a 
customary connexion betwixt the hearing that proposition and 
being disposed to obey with cheerfulness the injunctions that 
accompany it, methinks it might be made use of, tho not to 
introduce into his mind any idea marked by the words good 
thing, yet to excite in him a willingness to perform that which 
is requir d of him. And this seems to me all that is design d 
by the speaker, except only when he intends those words 
shall [be the mark of] signifie the idea of some particular thing: 
e.g. in the case I mention d tis evident the Apostle never 
intended the words [good things] should [mark out to] our un 
derstandings the ideas of those particular things our faculties 
never attain d to. And yet I cannot think that he used them at 
random and without design ; on the contrary, it is my opinion 
that he used them to very good purpose, namely, to beget in 
us a cheerfulness and zeal and perseverance in well-doing, 
without any thought of introducing into our minds the abstract 
idea of a good thing. If any one will joyn ever so little reflexion 
of his own to what has been said, I doubt not it will evidently 
appear to him that general names are often used in the pro 
priety of language without the speaker s designing them for 
marks of ideas in his own which he would [them] have them 
raise in the understanding of the hearer. 

L 1 Even] proper names themselves are not always spoken 
with a design to bring into our view the ideas of those particular 
things that are suppos d to be annex d to them. For example, 
when a Schoolman tells you that Aristotle hath said it, think 
you that he intends [ 2 thereby] to [ra] excite in your imagina 
tion the idea of that particular man ? All he means by it is 
only to dispose you to receive his opinion with that deference 
and submission that custom has annex d to that name. When 
a man that has been accustom d to resign his judgment [of] to 
the authority of that philosopher [shall] [upon] in reading of 

1 Nor is it less certain that erased. - Erased. 


a book meet with the letters that compose his name, he forth 
with yields his assent to the doctrine it was brought to support, 
and that with such a quick and sudden [ glance of thought] as 
it is impossible any idea either of the person or writings of 
that man should go before so close and immediate a connexion 
has long custom establish d betwixt the very word Aristotle 
and the motions of assent and reverence in the minds of some 

I intreat the reader to reflect with himself, and see if it does 
not oft happen, either in hearing, or reading a discourse, that 
the passions of delight, love, hatred, admiration, disdain, c. 
[ 2 do not] arise immediately in his mind upon the perception 
of certain words without any ideas coming between. At first, 
indeed, the words might have occasion d ideas that may be apt 
to produce those emotions of mind. But if I mistake not, it 
will be found that when language is once grown familiar, 3 to 
a man the hearing of the sound or light of the characters is oft 
immediately attended with those passions which at first were 
wont to be produc d by the intervention of ideas that are now 
quite omitted. 

[ 4 Further], the communicating of ideas marked by words is 
not the chief and only end of language, as is commonly suppos d. 
There are other ends, as the raising of some passion, the 
exciting to or deterring from an action . To which the former 
is in many cases barely subservient, and sometimes 6 entirely 
omitted when these can be obtain d without it, as I think does 
not infrequently happen in the familiar use of language. 

I ask any man whether [ 7 every time] he tells another that 
such an action is honourable and vertuous, with an 8 intention 
to excite him to the performance of it, he has at that instant 
ideas of honour and virtue 9 in his [thoug] view, and whether 
in reality his intention be to raise [ I0 that] idea, together \yith 
their agreement to the [ 2 particular] idea of that particular action, 
in the understanding of him he speaks to [-or rather whether 
this be not his full purpose, namely, that those words should 
excite in the mind of the hearer an esteem of that particular 
action, and stir him up to the performance of it]. 

1 action of the mind on oppo- able dispositions, tho the words 
site page. good tilings do not bring into our 

2 Erased. minds particular ideas of the plea- 

3 to a man erased. sures of heaven, nor yet the ideas 

4 From which it follows, that of good in general or things in 
erased. general. 

5 On opposite page the putting * entirely erased, 
the mind in some particular dis- 7 when erased. 

position. Hence we may conceive 8 vertuous with an substituted 

how it is possible for the promise for vertuous. 1 

that is made us of the good things virtue substituted for vertue. 

of another life excite in us suit- 1U those abstract erased. 


f l Upon hearing the words lie [] rascal, indignation, revenge, 
and the suddain motions of anger do instantly [ensue] in the 
minds of some men, without our attending to the definition of 
those names or concerning the ideas they are suppos d to stand 
for all that passion and resentment having been by custom 
connected to those very sounds themselves and the manner of 
their utterance 2 .] 

It is plain therefore that a man may understand what is said 
to him without having a clear and determinate idea annexed to 
and marked by every particular [ 3 word] in the discourse he 
hears. Nay, he may perfectly understand it. For what is it, 
I pray, to understand perfectly, but only to understand all that 
is meant by the person that speaks ? which very oft is nothing 
more than barely to excite in [ 4 his mind] certain emotions with 
out any thought of those ideas so much talk d of and so little 
understood. For the truth whereof I appeal to every [man s] 
one s experience. 

I know not how this doctrine will go down with those [philo 
sophers] who may be apt to give the titles of gibberish and 
jargon to all discourse whatsoever so far forth as the words 
contained in it are not made the signs of clear and determinate 
ideas, who think it nonsense for a man to assent to any proposi 
tion each term whereof doth not bring into his mind a clear and 
distinct idea, and tell us [ l over and over] that every pertinent 
[ 5 word] [ 6 hath an idea annexed unto] which never fails to 
accompany it where tis rightly understood. Which opinion of 
theirs, how plausibly soever it might have been maintain d by 
some, seems to me to have introduced a great deal of difficulty 
and nonsense into the reasonings of men. Certainly nothing 
could be fitter to bring forth and cherish the doctrine of abstract 
ideas. For when men were indubitably conscious to themselves 
that many [ 7 words] they used did not denote any particular 
ideas, lest they should be thought altogether insignificant, they 
were of necessity driven into the opinion that they stood for 
[ 8 general ones]. 

But more effectually to shew the absurdity of an opinion that 
carrys with it so great an appearance of [clearness and strength 
of] reason, but is [ 9 in fact] most dangerous and destructive both 
to reason and religion, I shall, if I mistake not, in the progress 
of this work demonstrate there be names well known and 

1 Erased. 4 thehearer on opposite page. 

* On opposite page Innumer- 5 name on opposite page, 

able instances of this kind may be 6 is the mark of an idea" on 

given arise. But why should I opposite page, 
be tedious in enumerating these 7 names on opposite page, 

things, which every one s observa- R good sense and sound on 

tion will, I doubt not, plentifully opposite page, 
suggest unto him? J Instead of ; withall." 

3 name on opposite page. 


familiar to men, which tho they mark and [stand] and signify 
things, cannot be suppos d to signifie ideas of any sort, either 
general or particular, without the greatest nonsense and con 
tradiction ; it being absolutely impossible, and a direct repug 
nancy, that any intellect, how exalted and comprehensive soever, 
should frame ideas of these things. 

We have, I think, shewn the impossibility of abstract ideas. 
We have consider d what has been said in behalf of them by 
their ablest patrons, and endeavour d to demonstrate they are 
of no use for those ends to which they are thought necessary. 
And, lastly, we have traced them to the source from whence 
they flow, which appears evidently to be language. 

Since therefore words have been discover d to be so very apt 
to impose on the understandings of men, I am resolv d in my 
[- inquiries] to make as little use of them as possibly I can. 
Whatever ideas I consider, I shall endeavour to take them bare 
and naked into my view, keeping out of my thoughts, so far as 
I am able, those names which long and constant use hath so 
strictly united to them. 

Let us conceive a solitary man, one born and bred in such 
a place of the world, and in such circumstances, as he shall 
never have had occasion to make use of universal signs for 
his ideas. That man shall have a constant train of particular 
ideas passing in his mind. Whatever he sees, hears, imagines, 
or anywise conceives, is on all hands, even by the patrons of 
abstract ideas, granted to be particular. Let us withall suppose 
him under no necessity of labouring to secure himself from 
hunger and cold, but at full ease, naturally of good facultys, 
[ :! and] contemplative. Such a one I should take to be nearer 
the discovery of certain great and excellent truths yet unknown, 
than he that has had the education of schools, [*has been in 
structed in the ancient and modern philosophy], and by much 
reading and conversation has [furnish d his head] attain d to 
the knowledge of those arts and sciences that make so great 
a noise in the [ 4 learned] world. It is true, the knowledge of our 
solitary philosopher is not like to be so very wide and extended, 
it being confin d to those few particulars that come within his 
own observation. But then, if he is like to have less knowledge, 
he is withall like to have fewer mistakes than other men. 

It cannot be deny d that words are of excellent use, in that 
by their means all that stock of knowledge, which has been 
purchas d by the joynt labours of inquisitive men in all ages 
and nations, may be drawn into the view, and made the posses 
sion of one [ 4 particular] single person. But there [ s are some] 
parts of learning which contain the knowledge of things the 

1 are instead of were. 2 Instead of reasonings. 

3 but erased. Erased. 

4 Instead ol" is one. 


most noble and important of any within the reach of human 
reason, that have had the ill fate to be so signally perplex d and 
darken d by the abuse of words and general ways of speech 
wherein they are deliver d, that in the study f 1 of them] a man 
cannot be too much upon his guard, [ 2 whether] in his private 
meditations, or in reading the writings or hearing the discourses 
of other men, to prevent his being cheated [ 3 by the glibness 
and familiarity of speech] into a belief that those words stand 
for ideas which, in truth, stand for none at all : which grand 
mistake it is almost incredible what a mist and darkness it has 
cast over the understandings of men, otherwise the most rational 
and clear-sighted. 

I shall therefore endeavour, so far as I am able, [*to put 
myself in the posture of the solitary philosopher. I will confine 
my thoughts and enquiries to the naked scene of my own par 
ticular ideas,] from which I may expect to derive the following 

First. I shall be sure to get clear of all [ 3 verbal] controversies 
purely verbal. The [ 5 springing up of] which weeds in almost 
all the sciences has been [ 3 the] a most fatal obstruction to the 
growth of true and sound knowledge : and accordingly is at this 
day esteem d as such, and made the great and just complaint of 
the wisest men. 

Secondly. Tis reasonable to expect that [ 6 by this] the trouble 
of sounding, or examining, or comprehending any notion may 
be very much abridg d. For it oft happens that a notion, when 
it is cloathed with words, seems tedious and operose, and hard 
to be conceiv d, which yet being stript of that garniture, the 
ideas shrink into a narrow compass, and are view d almost by 
one glance of thought. 

Thirdly. I shall have fewer objects to consider than other men 
seem to have had. [ 7 Because] I find myself to want several 
of those supposed ideas, in contemplating of which the philo 
sophers do usually spend much pains and study. Q s nay, even 
of those (which without doubt will appear very surprising) that 
pass for simple, particular ideas. It [is inconceivable what] 
cannot be believ d what a wonderfull emptyness and scarcity 
of ideas that man shall descry who will lay aside all use of 
words in his meditations. 

Fourthly. Having remov d the veil of words, I may expect 
to have a clearer prospect of the ideas that remain in my under 
standing. To behold the deformity of errour we need only 
undress it.] 

Instead of thereof." and obtain a naked view of my own 

Instead of either. particular ideas. 

Erased. 5 Instead of insisting on. 

Erased. On the opposite page 6 Instead of hereby. 

to take off the mask of words. 7 Instead of For that. 


Fifthly. This seemeth to be a sure f 1 way] to extricate myself 
out of that fine and subtile net of abstract ideas ; which has so 
miserably perplex d and entangled the minds of men, and that 
with this peculiar circumstance, that by how much the finer 
and the more curious was the wit of any man, by so much the 
deeper was he like to be ensnar d and faster held therein. 

Sixthly. So long as I confine my [ 2 thoughts] to my own 
ideas divested of words, I do not see how I can easily be mis 
taken. The objects I consider I [ 3 clearly] and adequately know. 
I cannot be deceiv d in thinking I have an idea which I have 
not. Nor, on the other hand, can I be ignorant of any idea that 
I have. It is not possible for me to think any of my own ideas 
are alike or unlike which are not truly so. To discern the 
agreements and disagreements there are between my ideas, to 
see what simple ideas are included in any [ 4 compound] idea, 
and what not, [" there is nothing requisite but] an attentive per 
ception of what passes in my own understanding. 

But the attainment of all these advantages does presuppose 
an entire deliverance from the deception of words, which 1 dare 
scarce promise myself. So difficult a thing it is to dissolve a 
union so early begun, and confirm d by so long a habit, as that 
betwixt words and ideas. 

Which difficulty seems to have been very much encreas d 
by the [ 6 doctrine of abstraction]. For so long as men thought 
abstract ideas were annex d to their words, it does not seem 
strange they should use words for ideas. It being found an 
impracticable thing to lay aside the word and retain the abstract 
idea in the mind, which in itself was perfectly inconceivable. 
This made it necessary for them to reason and meditate about 
words, to which they suppos d abstract ideas were connected, 
and by means whereof they thought those ideas could be con- 
ceiv d, tho they could not without them. [ 7 But surely those 
ideas ought to be suspected that cannot endure the light without 
a covering.] 

Another thing which makes words and ideas thought much 
[ 8 harder to separate] than in truth they are, is the opinion 
that every name stands for an idea. [ For] it is no wonder 
that men should fatigue themselves in vain, and find it a very 
difficult undertaking, when they endeavour d to [ 10 obtain a clear 

Instead of means whereby. men or without having any great 

Instead of contemplations. parts of my own] . . . there is 

Instead of perfectly. nothing more requisite. 
Instead of complex. 6 Instead of opinion of abstract 

Erased here all this I can ideas. 
do without being taught by [an- 7 Erased. 

other], there being requisite thereto 8 Instead of more inseparable. 

nothing more than. Also [ the 9 Instead of Now. 

writings and discoveries of other I0 Instead of strip and take a. 


and naked] view of [ those] the ideas marked by those words, 
which in truth mark none at all ; Q 1 as I have already shewn 
many names often do not, even when they are not altogether 
[insignificant], and I shall more fully shew it hereafter]. 

[ 2 This] seems to me the principal cause why those men that 
have so emphatically recommended to others the laying aside 
the use of words in their meditations, and contemplating their 
bare ideas, have yet been so little able to perform it themselves. 
Of late many have been very sensible of the absurd opinions, 
and insignificant disputes, that grow out of the abuse of words. 
In order to redress these evils, they advise well that we attend 
to the ideas that are signified, and draw off our attention from 
the words that signify them. But how good soever this advice 
may be that they have given others 3 men, it is plain they little 
regarded it themselves, so long as they thought the only im 
mediate use of words was to signifie ideas, and that the 
immediate signification of every general name was a deter 
minate abstract idea. 

Which having been shewn to be mistakes, a man may now, 
with much greater ease, deliver himself from the imposture of 
words. He that knows he hath no other than particular ideas, 
will not puzzle himself in vain to find out and conceive the 
abstract idea annexed to any name. And he that knows names 
[ when made use of in the propriety of language] do not always 
stand for ideas, will spare himself the labour of looking for 
ideas where there are none to be had. Those obstacles being 
now remov d, I earnestly desire that every one would use his 
utmost endeavour to attain a clear and naked view of f* the] 
ideas he would consider [ 5 by separating] from them all that 
varnish and mist of words, which so fatally blinds the judgment 
and dissipates the attention of men. 

This is, I am confident, the shortest way to knowledge, and 
cannot cost too much pains in coming at. In vain do we extend 
our view into the heavens, and rake into the entrails of the 
earth. In vain do we consult the writings and discourses of 
learned men, and trace the dark footsteps of antiquity. We 
need only draw the curtain of words, to behold the fairest tree 
of knowledge, whose fruit is excellent and within the reach of 
[ c our hand]. 

Unless we take care to clear the first principles of knowledge 
from the [ 7 incumbrance and delusion] of words, [ J the conse 
quences we draw from them] we may make infinite reasonings 
upon them to no purpose. We may [ 8 deduce consequences 

1 Erased. 6 Instead of [any man] to pluck 

a Instead of These. it. 

3 men erased. 7 Instead of cheat. 

4 Instead of his own. 8 Instead of lose ourselves in. 

5 Instead of having separated. 


from] consequences, and be never the wiser. The farther we 
go. we shall only lose ourselves the more irrecoverably, and be 
the deeper entangled in difficulties and mistakes. 

I do therefore intreat whoever designs to read the following 
sheets, that he would make my words the occasion of his own 
thinking, and endeavour to attain the same train of thoughts in 
reading that I had in writing them. By this means it will be 
easy for him [ to discover the truth or falsity of what I say]. 
He will be out of all danger of being deceiv d by my words. 
And I do not see what inducement he can have to err in con 
sidering his own naked, undisguised ideas. 

That I may contribute, so far as in me lies, to expose my 
thoughts [ 2 to the] fairly to the understanding of the reader, 
I shall throughout endeavour to express myself in the clearest, 
plainest, and most familiar s manner, abstaining from [ all flour 
ish and pomp of words], all hard and unusual terms which are 
[ 2 commonly] pretended by those that use them to cover a sense 
[ 2 intricate and] abstracted and sublime. 

Q* I pretend not to treat of anything but what is obvious 
and [-accommodated to] the understanding of every reasonable 

1 Instead of l whatever mistakes I might have committed. 

2 Erased. 3 After manner I shall* erased. 



THE simultaneous publication, without mutual communication, 
of a conception of the nature of sensible reality so far accordant 
as that of Berkeley and Collier is a curious coincidence, and 
I am induced to reprint the Introduction to Collier s Clavis 
Universalis : or, a new Inquiry after Truth, being a Demonstration 
of the Non-existence, or Impossibility, of an External World^, 
which appeared in the spring of 1713. 

Arthur Collier was born in October, 1680 more than four 
years before Berkeley at the rectory of Langford Magna in 
Wiltshire. He entered Pembroke College, Oxford, in July 1697. 
He succeeded his father as rector of Langford Magna in 1704, 
and continued to hold that living till his death in 1732. One of 
his near neighbours, during the first years of his incumbency, 
was John Norris, the English Malebranche, rector of Bemerton, 
author of An Essay towards the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible 
World (1701-4), who died in 1711. 

By his own account, Collier adopted his thought regarding 
the material world about 1703, although he did not publish it 
until 1713. 

Five interesting letters of Collier, in exposition and defence 
of his notion of Matter, are given in his Memoirs by Benson. 
Two of them were written in 1714, and the others in 1715, 1720, 
and 1722. That written in 1715 is addressed to Dr. Samuel 
Clarke ; two are to Samuel Low, a grammarian ; another was 
sent to Dr. Waterland ; and the last is addressed to Mr. Shep 
herd, a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. 

Collier is more disposed than Berkeley to employ abstract 
speculation in theology and otherwise. His theological specula 
tions occupied a considerable share of his life. They involve a 
subtle modification of Arianism according to which the sensible 
world exists in the minds of men ; the mind of man exists in 
Christ ; and Christ exists in God all exemplifying what he calls 

1 The motto of this work, taken cilem, est cerium argutnetitum falsi- 
from Malebranche, is Vulgi assensus tatis istius opinionis cui assentitur. 
et approbatio, circa materiam diffi- De Inquir. Verit. Lib. III. p. 194. 


inexistence, or dependent existence. This chain of inexistent 
being he deduces by reasoning, confirmed by Scripture. Collier 
was a friend and correspondent of Whiston. He was a Tory 
and High Churchman, and curiously, like Berkeley, he pub 
lished a sermon on the Christian obligation of passive submis 
sion to established government, founded on Romans xiii. i. 

It does not appear that Berkeley and Collier ever met, nor 
is he named by Berkeley in his works, although Berkeley is 
more than once named by him. But Berkeley, as we have seen, 
refers to the Clavis in one of his letters to Lord Percival. 


Wherein the Question in General is explained and stated, and the 
whole subject divided into two particular heads. 

THOUGH I am verily persuaded that, in the whole course of the 
following treatise, I shall or can have no other adversary but prejudice ; 
yet, having by me no mechanical engine proper to remove it; nor being 
able to invent any other method of attacking it, besides that of fair 
reason and argument ; rather than the world should finish its course 
without once offering to inquire in what manner it exists, (and for one 
reason more, which I need not name, unless the end desired were more 
hopeful) ; I am at last, after a ten years pause and deliberation, content 
to put myself upon the trial of the common reader, without pretending 
to any better art of gaining him on my side, than that of dry reason and 
metaphysical demonstration. 

The Question I am concerned about is in general this Whether there 
be any such thing as an External World. And my title will suffice to 
inform my reader, that the negative of this question is the point I am 
to demonstrate. 

In order to which, let us first explain the terms. 

Accordingly, by World, I mean whatsoever is usually understood by 
the terms body, extension, space, matter, quantity, &c., if there be any 
other word in our English tongue which is synonymous with all or any 
of these terms. 

And now nothing remains but the explication of the word External. 

By this, in general, I understand the same as is usually understood by 
the words, absolute, self-existent, independent, &c. ; and this is what 
I deny of all matter, body, extension, &c. 

If this, you will say, be all that I mean by the word external, I am 
like to meet with no adversary at all, for who has ever affirmed, that 
matter is self-existent, absolute, or independent? 

To this I answer, What others hold, or have held in times past, I shall 
not here inquire. On the contrary, I should be glad to find by the 
event, that all mankind were agreed in that which I contend for as 
the truth, viz. that matter is not, cannot be, independent, absolute, or 



self-existent. In the mean time, whether they are so or no, will be tried 
by this. 

Secondly, and more particularly, That by not independent, not 
absolutely existent, not external, I mean and contend for nothing less 
than that all matter, body, extension, &c., exists in, or in dependence on, 
mind, thought, or perception ; and that is not capable of an existence, 
which is not thus dependent. 

This perhaps may awaken another to demand of me, How? to which 
I as readily answer just how my reader pleases, provided it be some 
how. As for instance, we usually say, An accident exists in, or in 
dependence on, its proper subject ; and that its very essence, or reality 
of its existence, is so to exist. Will this pass for an explication of my 
assertion ? If so, I am content to stand by it, in this sense of the words. 
Again, we usually say (and fancy too we know what we mean in 
saying"), that a body exists in, and also in dependence on, its proper 
place, so as to exist necessarily in some place or other. Will this 
description of dependence please my inquisitive reader? If so, I am 
content to join issue with him, and contend that all matter exists in, or 
as much dependently on, mind, thought, or perception, to the full, as 
anybody exists in place. Nay, I hold the description to be so just and 
apposite as if a man should say, A thing is like itself: for, I suppose 
I need not tell my reader that when I affirm that all matter exists in 
mind, after the same manner as body exists in place, I mean the very 
same as if I had said, that mind itself is the place of body, and so its 
place, as that it is not capable of existing in any other place, or in place 
after any other manner. Again, lastly, it is a common saying, that an 
object of perception exists in, or in dependence on, its respective facility. 
And of these objects there are many who will reckon with me, light, 
sounds, colours, and even some material things, such as trees, houses, 
&c., which are seen, as we say, in a looking-glass, but which are, or 
ought to be, owned to have no existence but in, or respectively on, the 
minds or faculties of those who perceive them. But, to please all 
parties at once, I affirm that I know of no manner in which an object of 
perception exists in, or on, its respective faculty, which I will not admit 
in this place to be a just description of that manner of in-existence after 
which all matter that exists is affirmed by me to exist in mind. Never 
theless, were I to speak my mind freely I should choose to compare it 
to the inexistence of some, rather than some other objects of perception 
particularly such as are objects of the sense of vision ; and of these, 
those more especially which are allowed by others to exist wholly in 
the mind or visive faculty ; such as objects seen in a looking-glass, by 
men distempered, light-headed, ecstatic, &c., where not only colours, 
but entire bodies, are perceived or seen. For these cases are exactly 
parallel with that existence which I affirm of all matter, body, or 
extension whatsoever. 

Having endeavoured, in as distinct terms as I can, to give my reader 
notice of what I mean by the proposition I have undertaken the defence 
of, it will be requisite, in the next place, to declare in as plain terms, 
what I do not mean by it. 

Accordingly, I declare in theirs/ place, That in affirming that there 
is no external world, I make no doubt or question of the existence of 


bodies, or whether the bodies which are seen exist or not. It is with 
me a first principle, that tvhatsoever is seen, is. To deny or doubt of 
this is errant scepticism, and at once unqualifies a man for any part 
or office of a disputant, or philosopher ; so that it will be remembered 
from this time, that my inquiry is not concerning the existence, but 
altogether concerning the <-.v/ra-existence of certain things or objects ; 
or, in other words, what I affirm and contend for, is not that bodies do 
not exist, or that the external world does not exist, but that such and 
such bodies, which are supposed to exist, do not exist externally ; or in 
universal terms, that there is no such thing as an external world. 

Secondly, I profess and declare that, notwithstanding this my assertion, 
I am persuaded that I see all bodies just as other folks do ; that is, the 
visible world is seen by me, or, which is the same, seems to me, to be 
as much external or independent, as to its existence, on my mind, self, 
or visive faculty, as any visible object does, or can be pretended to do 
or be, to any other person. I have neither, as I know of, another 
nature, nor another knack of seeing objects, different from other 
persons, suitable to the hypothesis of their existence which I here 
contend for. So far from this, that I believe, and am very sure, that 
this seeming, or (as I shall desire leave to call it) quasi externeity of 
visible objects, is not only the effect of the Will of God. (as it is His 
Will that light and colours should seem to be without the soul, that heat 
should seem to be in the fire, pain in the hand, &c." but also that it 
is a natural and necessary condition of their visibility : I would say that 
though God should be supposed to make a world, or any one visible 
object, which is granted to be not external, yet, by the condition of its 
being seen, it would, and must be, quasi external to the perceptive 
faculty ; as much so to the full, as is any material object usually seen 
in this visible world. 

Moreover, thirdly. When I affirm that all matter exists dependently 
on mind, I am sure my reader will allow me to say, I do not mean 
by this that matter or bodies exist in bodies. As for instance, when 
I affirm or say, that the world, which I see, exists in my mind. I cannot 
be supposed to mean that one body exists in another, or that all the 
bodies which I see exist in that which common use has taught me to call my 
body. I must needs desire to have this remembered, because experience 
has taught me how apt persons are, or will be, to mistake me in this 

Fourthly, When I affirm that this or that visible object exists in, or 
dependently on, my mind, or perceptive faculty, I must desire to be 
understood to mean no more than I say, by the words mind and percep 
tive faculty. In like manner I would be understood, when I affirm 
in general, that all matter or body exists in, or dependently on, mind. 
I say this to acquit myself from the imputation of holding that the mind 
causes its own ideas, or objects of perception ; or, lest any one by 
a mistake should fancy that I affirm- that matter depends for its existence 
on the will of man, or any creature whatsoever. But now, if any such 
mistake should arise in another s mind, he has wherewith to rectify it ; 
inasmuch as I assure him, that by mind, I mean that part, or act, or 
faculty of the soul which is distinguished by the name intellective or 
perceptive; as in exclusion ol that other part which is distinguished by 
the term will. 

C C 2 


Fifthly, When I affirm that all matter exists in mind, or that no matter 
is external, I do not mean that the world, or any visible object of it, 
which I (for instance) see, is dependent on the mind of any other 
person besides myself; or that the world, or matter, which any other 
person sees, is dependent on mine, or any other person s mind, or 
faculty of perception. On the contrary, I contend as well as grant, 
that the world which John sees is external to Peter, and the world which 
Peter sees is external to John. That is, I hold the thing to be the 
same in this as in any other case of sensation ; for instance, that of sound. 
Here two or more persons, who are present at a concert of music, 
may indeed in some sense be said to hear the same notes or melody ; 
but yet the truth is, that the sound which one hears, is not the very same 
with the sound which another hears because the souls or persons are 
supposed to be different ; and therefore, the sound which Peter hears 
is external to, or independent on, the soul of John, and that which John 
hears is external to the soul or person of Peter. 

Lastly, When I affirm that no matter is altogether external, but 
necessarily exists in some mind or other, exemplified and distinguished 
by the proper names of John, Peter, &c., I have no design to affirm that 
every part or particle of matter, which does or can exist, must needs 
exist in some created mind or other. On the contrary, I believe that 
infinite worlds might exist, though not one single created, (or rather 
merely created,) mind were ever in being. And, as in fact there are 
thousands and ten thousands, I believe, and I even contend, that there 
is an Universe, or Material World in being, which is, at least, numerically 
different from every material world perceived by mere creatures. By 
this, I mean the great Mundane Idea of created (or rather twice created) 
matter, by which all things are produced ; or rather, (as my present 
subject leads me to speak,) by which the great God gives sensations to 
all his thinking creatures, and by which things that are not are preserved 
and ordered in the same manner as if they were. 

And now I presume and hope, that my meaning is sufficiently under 
stood, when I affirm, that all matter which exists, exists in, or depend- 
ently on, mind ; or, that there is no such thing as an External World. 

Nevertheless, after all the simplicity to which this question seems 
already to be reduced, I find myself necessitated to divide it into two. 
For, in order to prove that there is no External World, it must needs 
be one article to shew that the visible world is not external ; and when 
this is done, though in this all be indeed done which relates to any 
opinion yet entertained by men, yet something still is wanting towards 
a full demonstration of the point at large, and to come up to the universal 
terms in which the question is expressed. 

1 Accordingly, I shall proceed in this order. First, to shew that the 
visible world is not external. Secondly, to demonstrate more at large, 
or simply, that an external world is a being utterly impossible. Which 
two shall be the subjects of two distinct Parts or Books. 

Collier in the end resolves the difference between sense- 
perception and imagination into a difference in degree merely. 
To imagine an object is to perceive it less vividly than we 
perceive it in the senses. I can no more, he says, understand 


how we can create the objects we imagine than the objects 
we are said to] sec. What is imagined exists as much, to all 
appearance, without, or external to theTmind which perceives 
it, as any of those objects usually called visible but not so vividly; 
and this is that whereby I distinguish the act which we call 
imagination from the act which we call vision. But why is this, 
but because the common cause of both, viz. God, does not, in 
the former act, impress or act so strongly upon my mind as 
in the latter ? If He did, both acts would become one, or require 
the same name : and there would be no difference between 
seeing and imagining 1 . So Hume afterwards. Berkeley s 
position in relation to the difference between actual perception 
and mere imagination I have elsewhere noted. 

The difference is surely more than one of degree. There 
is a difference in kind between real existence in place, and 
subjective imagination, peculiar to an individual mind. Yet is 
not this difference consistent with the real things present in 
sense, and also the real place in which they exist, being alike 
dependent for their actual existence on living Mind- in short, 
with their being grounded on Knowing, and not on an abstract 
Unknown? May not space be the uncreated or necessary 
condition of the possibility of all sense-experience like ours, 
yet dependent for its actual existence upon living percipience? 

1 See Benson s Memoirs of Collier, pp. 26, 27. 


JOHNSON and Edwards are the two pioneers of philosophy 
in America. After his premisses have been granted, Edwards 
is perhaps the most acutely argumentative of modern thinkers. 
Johnson was an acknowledged disciple of Berkeley. Both 
Johnson and Edwards held a conception of the material world 
akin to his ; but Johnson, along with Berkeley, adopted a con 
ception of active Causality in the universe that is different from 
that of Edwards. 


was born in Connecticut in 1696, graduated at Yale College 
in 1714, and was tutor in Yale from 1716 till 1719. He was 
for a short time pastor in the Congregational Church at White- 
haven, but, induced by study of Anglican divinity, he faced the 
opposition of his family and social surroundings, and joined the 
Church of England. Accordingly, in 1722 he crossed the Atlan 
tic to receive ordination in London, and returned in the following 
year, as Anglican missionary at Stratford in Connecticut, where 
he served for more than thirty years. He may have heard of 
Berkeley when he was in England, and he seems in the interval 
to have read some of his works with sympathetic intelligence ; 
confirmed afterwards by personal intercourse and correspond 
ence when Berkeley lived in Rhode Island, and by corre 
spondence to the end of Berkeley s life. His mind had been 
early opened to modern thought ; for he tells that at college a 
new world was disclosed to him by Bacon s Instauratio Magna, 
after which he found himself like one emerging from the glamour 
and confusion of twilight into the full light of day. In his letters 
to Berkeley he proposed difficulties which seemed to be involved 
in the new conception of the dependent reality of the world 
that is presented in sense. Satisfied with the offered explana 
tions, he reproduced the new thought in language less para 
doxical than Berkeley s ; and perhaps his difficulties were not 
without effect in modifying its manner of expression in Alciphron 
and Siris. In 1754 Johnson was made President of the newly 


founded College in New York, which was organized under his 
administration in the nine years during which he held office. 
After his retirement he returned to Stratford, where he died in 

Johnson s philosophy is unfolded in text-books and in corre 
spondence with Berkeley ; also afterwards with Cadwallader 
Golden, Lieutenant-Governor of New York. As early as 1723 he 
published an elementary Introduction to the Study of Philosophy. 
His most important work, Elementa Philosophica, appeared in 
1752 at Philadelphia (printed by Benjamin Franklin) and in 
a second edition at London, in 1754. The little book consists 
of two parts Noe/ica, or things relating to the understanding, 
and Ef/iica, or things relating to moral behaviour. It is dedicated 
to Berkeley, who did not live to see it. I am indebted to 
Mr. Sibley, librarian at Harvard, for the use of this rare volume. 
The following extracts illustrate the drift of its philosophy: 

These ideas, or objects of sense, are commonly supposed to be 
pictures or representations of things without us, and indeed external to 
any mind, even that of the Deity Himself; and the truth or reality 
of them is conceived to consist in their being exact pictures of things 
or objects without us, which are supposed to be the real things. But, as 
it is impossible for us to conceive what is without our minds, and con 
sequently what those supposed originals are, and whether these ideas of 
ours are just resemblances of them or not, I am afraid this notion of them 
will lead us into an inextricable scepticism. I am therefore apt to think 
that these ideas, or immediate objects of sense, are the real things, at 
least, all that we are concerned with I mean of the sensible kind ; and 
that the reality of them consists in their stability or consistence, and their 
being, in a stable manner, exhibited to our minds, or produced in them 
in a steady connexion with each other, conformable to certain fixed laws 
of nature, which the great Father of Spirits hath established to Himself, 
according to which He constantly affects our minds, and from which He 
will not vary ; unless upon extraordinary occasions, as in the case of 
miracles. Thus, for instance, there is a fixed, stable connexion between 
things tangible and things visible, or the immediate objects of touch and 
sight, depending, as I conceive, immediately upon the permanent, most 
wise and almighty Will of the great Creator and Preserver of the world. 
By this, however, it is not meant that visible objects are pictures of 
tangible objects, for they are entirely different and distinct things ; 
as different as the sound triangle, and the figures signified by it. All 
that can be meant by it therefore is, that, as tangible things are the things 
immediately capable of producing v or rather being attended with; sensible 
pleasure and pain in us, according to the present laws of our nature, on 
account of which they are conceived as being properly the real things ; 
so, the immediate objects of sight are always, by the same stable law of 
our nature, connected with them, as signs of them, and ever correspon 
dent and proportioned to them. . . . Not that it is to be doubted that 
there arc Archetypes of these sensible ideas, existing external to our 
minds ; but then they must exist in some other mind, and be ideas also as 
well as ours; because an idea can resemble nothing but an idea, and an 


idea ever implies, in the very nature of it, relation to a mind perceiving 
it, or in which it exists. But then, those Archetypes or Originals, and 
the manner of their existence in that Eternal Mind, must be entirely 
different from that of their existence in our minds ; as different as the 
manner of His existence is from ours. In Him, they must exist as in 
Original Intellect ; in us, only by way of Sense and Imagination ; in Him 
as Originals, in us only as faint copies; such as He thinks fit to com 
municate to us, according to such laws and limitations as He hath 
established, and such as are sufficient to all the purposes of our well- 
being, in which only we are concerned. Our ideas, therefore, can no 
otherwise be said to be images or copies of their Archetypes in the 
Eternal Mind, than as our souls are said to be images of Him, or as we 
are said to be made after His image. (Noetica, chap. i. 8-10.) 

The faith that living mind is the only active Cause in existence, 
vindicated by Berkeley on the ground of his new conception of 
the material world, is in like manner vindicated by Johnson, by 
whom, also, the sensible world is conceived as a system of 
constant sequences, or interpretable signs. Causation is thus 
explained in the Noetica : 

By the word cause we mean a being by whose design and activity 
another being exists ; that being which exists by the design or exertion 
of another is called an effect. An effect without a cause is a contradiction 
in terms. There are things that occur to the senses that appear at first 
sight to be agents or causes, which, strictly speaking, are not so. So we 
say the sun ripens the fruits ; whereas we find, upon a more strict 
inquiry, that it is by no means the adequate cause. The sun and other 
(what we call) natural causes are in themselves passive inert beings, 
connected with one another according to the established laws of nature : 
they should therefore be called only signs ; and we must look for some 
other being in whom resides that adequate power by which the effect is 
truely produced, and which, therefore, is the true and real cause ; as the 
others can only be called apparent causes, having in them no real 
efficiency or activity/ (ch. ii. 4-7). 

This position is further defended in an.answer to Cadwallader 
Golden, who desired to be informed as to why consciousness 
and intelligence are essential to all agents that act from a power 
within themselves : 

As it is not the part of a philosopher to multiply beings and causes 
without necessity, it seems plain, Johnson replies, that we ought not 
to imagine any other principle of action than the principle of Intelligence, 
which we know from our own soul has in fact a power of self-exertion. 
. . . When we speak of the action of matter, we use that word for want 
of a better, in a sense rather figurative than literal, and understand it in 
a vulgar sense rather than in a strictly philosophical, as we understand 
the rising and setting of the sun. So we may call writing the action of 
the pen, when it is really merely acted; and consequently, by the action 
of matter you do not mean any exertion of its own, much less a designed, 
conscious self-exertion. 


Blind or impercipient sequence is, in short, not real Power, 
for this leaves the conception of active causation empty. 

There are passages in the Noetica like the following, regard 
ing an intellectual light native to the mind, which harmonize 
with Sin s, and also with the Cambridge Platonists, more than 
with Berkeley s book of Principles and early Dialogues : 

No sooner does any object strike the senses, or is received in our 
imagination, or apprehended by our understanding, but we are immedi 
ately conscious of a kind of intellectual light within us, whereby we not 
only know that we perceive the object, but as it stands related to all 
other things ; and we find that we are enabled, by this intellectual light, 
to perceive objects and their relations in like manner as by sensible light 
we are enabled to perceive the objects of sense and their situations ; and 
our minds can no more withstand the evidence of this than they can with 
stand the evidence of sense. Thus I am under the same necessity to 
assent to this that I am or have a being, and that I perceive, and that 
I exert myself, as I am of assenting to this that I see colours or hear 
sounds. . . . This light is also common to all intelligent beings. By it all 
at once see things to be true and right, in all places at the same time, 
and alike invariable at all times. If it be asked, whence does this light 
derive, whereby all created minds do at once perceive, as by a common 
standard, the same thing to be true and right, I answer, I have no other 
way to conceive how I came to be affected with this intuitive, intellectual 
light than by deriving it from the universal presence and action of Deity. 
For I know I am not the author of it myself, being passive and not active 
with regard to it ; though I am active in consequence of it. 

The theistic or objective Idealism of Berkeley is the ground 
work of the Noetica of Johnson. 


That Edwards reached a conception of the material world 
and its reality similar to Berkeley s, I ventured to assert, thirty 
years ago, in the Life and Letters of Berkeley. The statement has 
since been discussed in various aspects by eminent American 
thinkers. But I did not mean to assert dogmatically that 
Edwards got his conception of matter from Berkeley ; for there 
was and is no positive proof of this ; and I am now less disposed 
to that conjecture than I was then. The coincidence is interesting, 
but the explanation of the coincidence is obscure. 

Edwards was born in 1703, at Windsor in Connecticut. He 
entered Yale College in 1716, and graduated four years later. 
In his fifteenth year he was attracted to philosophy by Locke s 
Essay. He gave early expression to his own thought in Notes, 
in which we find the germs of his philosophical system 1 . In 
1724 he was tutor in Yale College ; in 1726 became pastor of 
the Congregational Church in Northampton ; from which he 
removed, in 1751, to Stockbridge, in Massachusetts, as missionary 

1 Published partly in the Appendix to Dwight s Memoir of Edwards. 


to the Indians. Six years later he was appointed President of 
Princeton College in New Jersey, an office from which death 
removed this great religious thinker in the following year. The 
juvenile Notes on Mind, and on Natural Science, with his Inquiry 
into the Freedom of the Will, published in 1754, represent his meta 
physical and ethical thought ; supplemented by an essay on God s 
End in the Creation of tlie World, and a Treatise on the Nature 
of True Virtue, both of later date than the book on Free-will. 

Take the following extracts from the Commonplace Book of 
Notes, in illustration of his ultimate conception of the material 
world : 

< When we say that the world, i. e. the material universe, exists 
nowhere but in the mind, we have got to such a degree of strictness and 
abstraction that we must be exceedingly careful that we do not confound 
and lose ourselves by misapprehension. It is impossible that it should 
be meant that all the world is contained in the narrow compass of a few 
inches of space, in little ideas in the place of the brain ; for that would 
be a contradiction : for we are to remember that the human body, and 
the brain itself, exist only mentally, in the same sense that other things 
do ; and so that which we call place is an idea too. Therefore things 
are truly in those places ; for what we mean, when we say so, is only, 
that this mode of our idea of place appertains to such an idea. We 
would not therefore be understood to deny that things are where they 
seem to be. Nor will it be found that the principles we lay down shall 
make void natural philosophy ; for to find out the reasons of things 
in natural philosophy is only to find out the proportion of God s acting. 
And the case is the same as to such acting whether we suppose the 

world only mental in our sense or no Place itself is only 

mental ; within and zvitfiout are mental conceptions. When I say, the 
Material Universe exists only in the mind, I mean, that it is absolutely 
dependent on the conceptions of mind for its existence ; and does 
not exist as Spirits do, whose existence does not consist in, nor in 
dependence on, the conceptions of other minds. Here we must be ex 
ceedingly careful lest we confound ourselves by mere imagination. It is 
from hence I expect the greatest opposition. It will appear a ridicu 
lous thing, I suppose, that the material world exists nowhere but in the 
soul of man, confined within his skull ; but we must again remember 
what sort of existence the head and brain have. The soul, in a sense, 
has its seat in the brain ; and so, in a sense, the visible world is existent 
out of the mind ; for it certainly, in the proper sense, exists out of the 

brain Space is a necessary being, if it may be called a being ; and 

yet we have also shewn, that all existence is mental, that the existence 
of all exterior things is ideal. 

Take the following argument in support of the necessary 
dependence of the material world for its reality on percipient 
mind : 

4 How doth it grate upon the mind to think that Something should be 
from all eternity, and yet nothing all the while be conscious of it. To 
illustrate this, let us suppose the world had a being from all eternity. 


and had many great changes and wonderful revolutions, and all the 
while there was no knowledge in the universe of any such thing. How 
is it possible to bring the mind to imagine this ? Yea, it is really 
impossible that it should be that anything should exist and nothing know 
it. ... Let us suppose this impossibility that all spirits in the universe were 
for a time deprived of their consciousness, and that God s consciousness 
was at the same time to be intermitted. I say the universe for that time 
would cease to be ; and this not merely because the Almighty could not 
attend to uphold it, but because God could know nothing of it. ... It 
follows from hence that beings which have knowledge and consciousness 
are the only proper and real and substantial beings ; inasmuch as the 
being of other beings is only by these. From hence we may see the gross 
mistakes of those who think material things the most substantial things, 
and spirits more like a shadow ; whereas spirits only are properly sub 
stance. . . . Hence it is manifest that there can be nothing like those 
things we call by the name of bodies out of the mind ; unless it be in 
some other mind or minds. . . . That which truly is the substance of all 
bodies is, the infinitely exact and precise and perfectly stable Idea in 
God s mind ; together with His stable Will, that the same shall gradually 
be communicated to us and to other minds, according to certain established 
methods and laws. 

He concludes, accordingly, that the material world has no 
independent external reality, being realised ultimately only 
in the mind and by the will of God. 

Since all material existence is only idea, this question may be asked 
In what sense may those things be said to exist, which are supposed, 
and yet are in no actual idea of any created minds? I answer, they 
existed only in Uncreated Idea. But how do they exist otherwise than 
they did from all eternity ; for they always were in Uncreated Idea and 
Divine appointment? I answer, They did exist from all eternity in 
Uncreated Idea, as did everything else, and as they do at present ; but 
not in created idea. But it may be asked, How do those things exist, 
which have an actual existence, but of which no created mind is con 
scious? For instance, the furniture of this room, when we are absent, 
and the room is shut up, and no created mind perceives it ; how do 
these things exist? I answer, there has been in times past such a course 
and succession of existences, that these things must be supposed, to make 
the series complete, according to Divine appointment of the order of 
things. And there will be innumerable things consequential, which will 
be out of joint, out of their constituted series, without the supposition of 
these. For, upon the supposition of these things, are infinite numbers of 
things otherwise than they would be, if these were not by God thus sup 
posed. Yea, the whole Universe would be otherwise ; such an influence 
have these things, by their attraction and otherwise. Yea, there must be 
a universal attraction, in the whole system of things, from the beginning 
of the world to the end and, to speak more strictly and metaphysically 
we must say, in the whole system and series of ideas in all created 
minds ; so that these things must necessarily be put in, to make complete 
the system of the ideal world. That is, they must be supposed, if the 
train of ideas be in the order and course settled by the Supreme Mind. 
So that we may answer in short, that the existence of these things is in 


God s supposing of them, in order to the rendering complete the series 
of things ; (to speak more strictly, the series of ideas) according to His own 
settled order, and that harmony of things, which He has appointed. 
The supposition of God which we speak of is nothing else but God s 
acting, in the course and series of His exciting ideas, as if they (the things 
supposed) were in actual idea. 

Causation or Power is the supreme and ultimate conception 
alike with Berkeley and Edwards, but differently conceived by 
each. The Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will is a fasciculus 
of conclusions, articulately unfolded, all deduced from the fun 
damental presupposition, that every effect must be caused. 
Now this, strictly speaking, is only a verbal truth, inasmuch 
as the term effect involves causation in its connotation. But 
it does not follow that every change must have a caused cause, 
external to itself; so that volitions, for which the willing agent 
is morally responsible, must, like the agent himself, be 
referred to a cause that is antecedent to themselves, and 
external to the voluntary agent. It must not even be pre 
sumed that a so-called cause, thus dependent upon an ante 
cedent external cause, is properly called a cause at all ; for mere 
sequence, however constant and continuous, is not the active 
causation which originates, or is the creator of, the effect for 
which the agent is responsible. Mind is accordingly the one 
universal moving cause ; matter is wholly passive or powerless ; 
only moral agents originate change. Finite persons originate 
the volitions which they are responsible for. God originates 
and sustains wholly passive external nature in an unbeginning 
and unending evolution. 

On the contrary, that persons as well as things are, even 
in their voluntary acts, only the passive subjects of a power 
that is not their own, so that God is the only real agent 
in existence, is the implied philosophy of Edwards ; unless 
indeed we are to interpret it as a resolution of all supposed 
responsible agency, Divine as well as finite,into natural sequence, 
in an indefinite, if not infinite, succession, as with Hobbes, or 
Collins, or Hume, in which so-called divine as well as finite 
acts are equally subject to their antecedents, so that virtually 
nothing is Divine. At any rate, in this philosophy, Goodness 
in God seems to be superseded by Omnipotence, and moral 
indifference, instead of virtue or vice, is logically the character 
istic of action in men and devils. Arbitrary sovereignty is 
then attributed to God, who may abandon the wicked to their 
wickedness, instead of being obliged, by the perfection of His 
goodness, to convert the wicked from their wickedness ; not for 
their own merits, but because their personal goodness is an end 
in itself, which forbids this arbitrariness, as inconsistent with the 
moral perfection, and therefore with the existence of God. 
Yet Edwards appears to contemplate unappalled an arbitrary 


sovereignty which decrees endless and ever-increasing wicked 
ness in a universe that reveals the character of the Universal 
Mind, whose Goodness as well as Omnipotence is man s only 
final guarantee for trustworthy intercourse with his surround 
ings, for faith alike in natural order and in miracles, as well 
as for the common hopes or expectations of human life. If 
the Universal Mind contradicts moral reason, the Universal 
Mind is not divine but diabolic ; and even physical science, 
as well as supernatural religion, dissolves in nescience and 
despair of a universe that is radically untrustworthy, which, 
because it is undivine, is incapable of being reasoned about 
or lived in 1 . 

The contradiction appears in the endless existence of wicked 
agents in a divinely constituted universe, and in the endless 
ness of suffering if wicked agency is to have no end ; and in 
this endlessness of an ever-multiplying succession of agents in 
creasingly evil under the arbitrary will of Omnipotent Power. 
The agnostic pessimism that is latent in this final conception 
does not arrest Edwards, who was dominated throughout by 
the Spinozistic conception of God as the only Being, and 
therefore (so Edwards concludes) the only Power. 

With a view to reconcile goodness or badness in the voluntary 
acts of persons with causal dependence of their volitions upon 
external nature, Edwards argues that goodness and badness 
are qualities inherent in volitions after they have been effected, so 
that they do not depend upon the cause in which they originate ; 
that / am not the creator of my volitions does not accordingly 
make me the less accountable for them : I am still accountable 
for them, although / could not help willing them, because, after 
they have been willed in me, they are found to be of bad 
quality ; while I am not the cause in which they originate, but 
only the passive subject in which they appear, in sequence to 
their antecedent natural cause. The essence of virtue and virtuous 
volitions is in short inherent, not in their producing cause, but 
in their nature, after they have been caused. A reason for this 
is proposed. If the wickedness of a volition lies in its originating 
cause, and not absolutely in its physical nature, then the wicked 
ness of this its cause must in like manner be, not in itself, but in 
its cause, and so on in infimtum ; which is offered as a redttctio ad 
absurdum. In all which reasoning the conception of an active 
and morally responsible agent, absolutely and finally originative 
from within, is contradicted. While even Berkeley s account 
of morally responsible causation is imperfectly developed, the 
only causes recognised by Edwards are Berkeley s established 
natural signs, forming the divine language of which the physical 

1 This thought is expanded throughout my Philosophy of Theism, 
especially Part III. 


world is the expression ; emptied as merely material nature is, 
according to him, of all true causation, and reduced to passive 
sequence, determined by God. But Edwards reduces men and 
all persons in the universe to this category, along with material 

On the minor question of the indebtedness of Edwards to 
Berkeley for his conception of bodies as mind-dependent things, 
while their coincidence in thought and language is remarkable, 
I find no positive proof that Berkeley was known to Edwards 
when his Notes were written; and although they were not 
far distant from one another when Berkeley was in Rhode 
Island, and Edwards at Northampton, we may conclude that 
they never met. 

Among other works in which this subject is referred to 
may be mentioned, Allen s Life and Writings of Jonathan 
Edwards (1889); Fisher s Discussions in History and Theology, 
The Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards (New York, 1880); 
Jonathan Edwards Idealism ; and Some Early writings of Jonathan 
Edwards, A.D. 1714-24, by Egbert C. Smith (Worcester, Mass., 
1896); also an article on The Early Idealism of Jonathan 
Edwards, by Professor H. N. Gardiner, in The American Philo 
sophical Review (November, 1900). 

Let us hope that some one, competent philosophically, yet 
not out of sympathy with the profound religion of Edwards, may 
present the world with an edition of his published and un 
published writings, worthy of this great religious and philo 
sophical genius, whose subtle arguments and uncriticised 
premisses leave ample room for editorial interpretation and 
criticism. It may be said of him as of Jacobi, that, like Hecla 
burning in Iceland, his devotional fervour resists the freezing 
power of the abstract argumentation in which he was so 
signally a master. 



THE first critical reference to Berkeley, probably on hearsay, 
by an eminent philosopher, is by Leibniz, in a letter to Des 
Bosses, dated Hanover, March 15, 1715, in which he remarks 

Qui in Hybernia corporum realitatem impugnat, videtur nee rationes 
affaire idoneas nee mentem suam satis explicare. Suspicor esse ex eo 
hominum genere, qui per Paradoxa cognosci volunt. 

He accuses Berkeley of attacking the reality of bodies, but 
he complains that he does not sufficiently unfold his meaning. 
Yet Leibniz himself uses language akin to Berkeley, although 
without the express qualification involved in Berkeley s theistic 
or objective idealism, as when, for instance, he remarks 

Itaque nulloargumento absolute demonstrari potest, dari corpora ; nee 
quicquam prohibet sotnnia qiiadatn bene ordinata menti nostrae objecta 
esse, quae a nobis vana iudicantur, et ob consensum intro se quoad 
usum veris equivalent. (De Modo distingnendi Phenomena Realia ab 
Imaginariis. N 

Berkeley himself hardly refers to Leibniz once in the Com 
monplace Book, and again in the De Motu ; more too in relation 
to mathematics and physics than to metaphysics or theology. 

Samuel Clarke, the metaphysical contemporary and corre 
spondent of Leibniz, declined, as already mentioned, to engage 
in controversy, or to correspond with Berkeley, on the pub 
lication of the Principles ; although some years later he refers 
to him in his Remarks on Human Liberty, suggesting an analogy 
between the proof that man is morally free, and the proof that 
the material world exists. (See Editor s Preface to the Dialogites 
between Hylas and Pliilonous.) 

The earliest elaborate criticism of Berkeley is Andrew 
Baxter s, in 1733, in his Inquiry, in which he assumes that 
Berkeley is seriously persuaded that he has neither country 
nor parents, nor any material body, nor eats nor drinks, nor 
lies in a house; but that all these things are mere illusions, 
and have no existence but in the fancy. He nevertheless 


anticipates Reid and later critics, by presenting, as the great 
reason by which Berkeley pretends to demonstrate the im 
possibility of bodies, the hypothesis that we are percipient of 
nothing but our own perceptions and ideas ; which argument, 
he maintains, will equally shew spiritual substance to be a 
contradiction as well as matter. Nor can one who accepts it 

Ever propose, consistently with his own belief, to dispute with men ; 
for all those ideas that are excited in him, as of beings maintaining the 
contrary of what he maintains, may be only ideas raised in him by 
some Spirit that hath a design to make a fool of and impose upon him. 
We only collect concerning the souls of sober men from the spontaneous 
motions and actions of their bodies ; these, according to him, belong 
to nothing. He hath nothing but dreams when he publishes books. 
How doth he pretend that these dreams of his should be communicated 
to other beings, granting that they existed ? In short, his whole enter 
prise proceeds upon the supposition of the reality of what he is going to 
confute. And thus he puts it in his adversary s power to prove from the 
very nature of his attempt, that he doth not believe it himself, and so to 
confute him without any other argument. This is the fate of the 
generality of Sceptics ; their very design opposes and defeats itself. 
Thus Pyrrho pretended to give a demonstration to prove that no demon 
stration could be given (vol. II. pp. 270-72). 

Bishop Warburton compares Berkeley and Baxter in terms 
which history thus far has failed to justify : 

Dr. Berkeley, he says, was, I believe, a good man, a good Christian, 
a good citizen, and all in an eminent degree. He was besides very 
learned, and of a fine and lively imagination ; which he unhappily 
abused by advancing, and as far as I can learn throughout his whole life 
persisting in, the most outrageous whimsery that ever entered into the 
head of any ancient or modern madman ; namely, the impossibility of 
the real or actual existence of matter ; which he supported on principles 
that take away the boundaries of truth and falsehood ; expose reason to 
all the outrage of unbounded scepticism ; and even, in his own opinion, 
make mathematical demonstration doubtful. To this man may be eminently 
applied that oracle of the Stagyrite which says, " To follow Reason against 
the Senses is a sure sign of a bad understanding." But if (.though at the 
expense of his moral character) we should suppose that all this was only 
a wanton exercise of wit, how his metaphysics came to get him the 
character of a great genius, unless from the daring nature of his attempt, 
I am at a loss to conceive. His pretended demonstration on this capital 
question is the poorest, lowest, and most miserable of all sophisms : that is 
a sophism that begs the question. As the late Mr. Baxter has clearly 
shewn ; a few pages of whose reasoning have not only more sense and 
substance than all the elegant discourses of Dr. Berkeley, but infinitely 
better entitle him to the character of a great genius. He was truly 
such ; and time will come, if learning ever revive among us, when the 
present inattention to his admirable Metaphysics, established on the 
Physics of Newton, will be deemed as great a dishonour to the wisdom 
of this age, as the neglect of Milton s poetry was to the wit of the past. 1 


Hume s eloge on Berkeley in 1739 was followed in 1748 by 
references in his Inquiry, to one of which he adds the following 
note in the Appendix : 

This argument is drawn from Dr. Berkeley; and indeed most of the 
writings of that very ingenious author form the best lessons of scepticism 
which are to be found either among the ancient or modern philosophers, 
Bayle not excepted. He professes, however, in his title-page (and un 
doubtedly with great truth) to have composed his book against the 
sceptics, as well as against the atheists and free-thinkers. But that all 
his arguments, though otherwise intended, are in reality merely sceptical, 
appears from this, that they admit of no answer, and produce no conviction. 
Their only effect is to cause that momentary amazement and irresolution 
and confusion, which is the result of scepticism. 

On the faith of this one-sided sceptical interpretation, Berkeley 
has been regarded as the intellectual father of the Scottish 
speculative sceptic. 

Accordingly, in 1764 Reid writes thus in his Inquiry: 

What if these profound disquisitions into the first principles of human 
nature do naturally and necessarily plunge a man into this abyss of 
scepticism ? May we not reasonably judge so from what hath happened ? 
Descartes no sooner began to dig in this mine than scepticism was 
ready to break in upon him. He did what he could to shut it out. 
Malebranche and Locke, who dug deeper, found the difficulty of keeping 
out this enemy still to increase ; but they laboured honestly in the design. 
Then Berkeley, who carried on the work, despairing of securing all, 
bethought himself of an expedient. By giving up the material world, 
which he thought might be spared without loss and even with advantage, 
he hoped, by an impregnable partition, to secure the world of spirits. 
But alas ! the Treatise of Human Nature wantonly sapped the foundation 
of this partition, and drowned all in one universal deluge. (Introduction, 
sect. VII.) 

Yet Reid himself, according to his own account, in early life 
accepted all Berkeley s philosophy (as he interpreted it), and 
at the end of his life argued for the powerlessness of mere 
matter and the exclusive active causality of Mind ; but without 
resting this on that view of the material world which alone 
had opened the way for Berkeley to his conception of All, 
as finally grounded in living Reason and Will. His philo 
sophy, increasingly in the De Motu, Alciphron, and Sin s, is a 
reasoned recognition of Spiritual Power universally at work ; 
negation of the absolute independence of Matter leading the 
way to this. Reid fails, I think, to see the drift of the New 
Question with which Berkeley is inspired in his Commonplace 
Book and throughout his life. 

Take the following caricature of Berkeley by Beattie as 
another example of the early critics: 

A great philosopher has actually demonstrated we are told that 



Matter does not exist. Truly this is a piece of strange information. At 
this rate any falsehood may be proved to be true, and any truth to be 
false. For it is impossible that any truth should be more evident to me 

than this that Matter does exist Till the frame of my nature 

be unhinged, and a new set of faculties given to me, I cannot believe 
this strange doctrine, because it is perfectly incredible. But if 1 were 
permitted to propose one clownish question, I would fain ask Where is 
the harm of my continuing in my old opinion, and believing, with the 
rest of the world, that I am not the only created being in the universe, 
but that there are many others, whose existence is as independent on me 
as mine is on them? Where is the harm of my believing that if I were 
to fall down yonder precipice and break my neck, I should be no more 
a man of this world ? My neck, sir, may be an idea to you, but to me 
it is a reality, and an important one too. Where is the harm of my 
believing that if, in this severe weather, I were to neglect to throw 
(what you call) the idea of a coat over the ideas of my shoulders, the idea 
of cold would produce the idea of such pain and disorder as might possibly 
terminate in real death? What great offence shall I commit against God 
or man, church or state, philosophy or common sense, if I continue to 
believe that material food will nourish me, though the idea of it will not ; 
that the real sun will warm and enlighten me, though the liveliest idea of 
him will do neither ; and that if I would obtain true peace of mind and 
self-approbation, I must form not only ideas of compassion, justice, and 
generosity, but also really exert these virtues in external performance ? 
What harm is there in all this ? . . . I never heard of any doctrine more 
scandalously absurd than this of the non-existence of Matter. There is 
not a fiction in the Persian Tales that I would not as easily believe ; the 
silliest conceit of the most contemptible superstition that ever disgraced 
human nature is not more shocking to common sense. ... If a man 
professing this doctrine act like other men in the common affairs of life, 
I will not believe his profession to be sincere. 

But if a man be convinced that Matter has no existence, and believe 
this strange tenet as steadily as I believe the contrary, he will have, I am 
afraid, but little reason to applaud himself in this new acquisition in 
science. If he fall down a precipice, or be trampled under foot by 
horses, it will avail him little that he once had the honour to be a disciple 
of Berkeley, and to believe that those dangerous objects are nothing but 
ideas in his mind. . . . What if all men were in one instant deprived of 
their understanding by Almighty Power, and made to believe that 
Matter has no existence but as an idea in the mind ? Doubtless this 
catastrophe would, according to our metaphysicians, throw a wonderful 
light on all the parts of knowledge. But of this I am certain, that in less 
than a month after there could not, without another miracle, be one 
human creature alive on the face of the earth. . . . This candle it seems 
hath not one of those qualities it appears to have : it is not white, nor 
luminous, nor round, nor divisible, nor extended ; for to an idea of the 
mind not one of these qualities can possibly belong. How then shall 
I know what it really is ? From what it seems to be, I can conclude 
nothing ; no more than a blind man, by handling a bit of black wax, can 
judge of the colour of snow, or the visible appearance of the starry 
heavens. The candle may be an Egyptian pyramid, or the king of 
Prussia, a mad dog. or nothing at all, for anything I know, or can ever 


know to the contrary ; except you allow me to judge of its nature from 
its appearance ; which, however, I cannot reasonably do, if its appear 
ance and nature are in every respect so different and unlike as not to 
have one single quality in common. I must therefore believe it to be, 
what it appears to be, a real corporeal, external object and so reject 
Berkeley s system. . . . This system leads to Atheism and universal 

scepticism Suppose it universally and seriously adopted ; suppose 

all men divested of all belief, and consequently of all principle : would 
not the dissolution of society, and the destruction of mankind, ensue? 

It is a doctrine according to which a man could not act nor 

reason in the common affairs of life without incurring the charge of 
insanity and folly, and involving himself in distress and perdition. . . . 
From beginning to end it is all a mystery of falsehood, arising from the 
use of ambiguous words, and from the gratuitous admission of principles 
which could never have been admitted, if they had been thoroughly 
understood. (Essay on Truth, vol. I. pp. 242-60.) 

When our English Samuel Johnson wanted to refute Berkeley, 
his refutation was to strike his foot against a stone. According 
to Voltaire, ten thousand cannon balls and ten thousand men 
were only ten thousand ideas for Berkeley. There is as much 
humour in the Irish myth of Berkeley s visit to Swift on a rainy 
day. By the Dean s order, he was left to stand before the un 
opened door, because, on his principles, it was assumed that he 
could as easily enter the house with the door shut as with the 
door open. 

It is hardly necessary to illustrate the critical treatment of 
Berkeley by Stewart and Brown in Scotland, or by other 
philosophers in the end of the eighteenth and in the early part 
of the nineteenth century ; in all which he appears as the sceptic, 
in a scepticism that is attributed to his supposed acceptance 
of the prevailing assumption of philosophers that the real 
external world is imperceptible ; that reality makes no appear 
ance ; so that each person is self-contained, imprisoned within 
the universe of his own subjective, transitory fancies, which 
per se offer no ground for faith in any outstanding realities 
behind. With which negations English empiricism under 
Hartley and Mill was sympathetic, but it went to form the 
bete noire of those Scottish philosophers of Common Sense who 
struggled against what they called the ideal theory. 

Reid and (more articulately) Hamilton repel the hypothesis of 
a self-contained intelligence, to which other reality is impercep 
tible, in favour of the common-sense conviction that the real 
world is consciously presented to us in sense, without this sup 
posed inevitable intermedium of ideas, interpreted as mere 
fancies. But they do not criticise Berkeley on his own terms, 
which make his world of sense-ideas very different from the 
arbitrary subjective fancies attributed to him. For his is a 
world presented to us in and according to the constant providen 
tial activity of perfect Reason in God a world of objects that 

D d 2 


are not mere fancies -yet called ideas, because argued to be 
inevitably dependent on realising mind for their actual con 
crete reality ; not separated from our percipient consciousness 
by any medium, but immediately presented in this reality ; 
though not so as to embrace exhaustively the infinite universe 
of relations and related things that is perfectly comprehensible 
only in Omniscience. 

Reid and Hamilton, in short, are at one with Berkeley in 
acknowledging that matter is immediately present in sense, in 
its concrete reality : they differ from him in the account they 
give of what this concrete reality is. According to Berkeley it 
is mind-dependent reality, which needs living mind to make it 
real : according to the Scottish metaphysicians its reality is 
assumed to be independent of all minds in existence ; not my 
mind only, to which, according to Berkeley, it is practically ex 
ternal and independent. Berkeley recognises that we are face 
to face with material reality in sense, by treating as empty 
abstraction or negation a supposed real material world behind 
the world to which we are face to face in sense ; and by vin 
dicating the application of the terms reality, real thing, and 
matter to the presented appearance. The Scottish meta 
physicians, with a like motive, adopt the other alternative. 
Instead of surrendering a reality behind appearances, and 
accepting what appears in dependence on living mind as the 
reality, they regard the appearances as unreliable ideas, and 
sturdily affirm that in sense we are percipient of an object 
that is independent of living mind. If external things are per 
ceived immediately, we have, according to Reid and Hamilton, 
the same reason to believe in their existence that those who 
assume that we can only perceive ideas have for the exist 
ence of their ideas. But the supposed ideas are themselves the 
real things significant ideas, under Berkeley s conception 
undergoing realisation in and through the agency of percipient 
mind on which they thus depend ; and no other real material 
world is conceivable, or could be of any practical importance 
to us . 

Although French versions of the Dialogues, Alciphron, and 
Siris had appeared before the middle of the eighteenth cen 
tury, and Berkeley s account of vision was favourably received 
among the French encyclopaedists, only the medicinal portion 
of Siris was translated into German. The first German trans 
lation of the Principles was by Ueberweg, in 1869, but the first 
German version of the Dialogues appeared in 1756. It seems 
that till within the latter part of the nineteenth century Berkeley 
has not received serious treatment in Germany, being summarily 

1 Hamilton s consciousness of ploratio Philosophica. Part I, a work 
matter is discussed in Grote s Ex- charged with profound thought. 


dismissed as an incoherent and unfruitful subjective idealist, 
charged with philosophical scepticism. 

Kant seems to have interpreted Berkeley in this fashion, 
treating his last word as if it were negation of the surrounding 
world, instead of affirmation of the reality of the sensible 
universe as a continuous evolution of significant signs, ex 
pressive of Divine Thought and Will. Accordingly, to avoid 
the charge of subjective idealism, in which things are only 
modifications of my individual mind, leaving the percipient alone 
in existence, he changed his point of view, in the second edition 
of the Kritik d. r. Vermmft, by an explicit assumption of the 
independent existence of things per se, as the real cause of those 
affections in us out of which we construct our perceptions and 
physical science ; things themselves being unperceived,; and 
only their effects in us composing experience. 

But Berkeley s ideas of sense are not mere modifications of 
percipient mind. Even so early as the publication of the 
Principles Berkeley protests against real ideas being taken 
for modifications of individual mind. Thus (sect. 2) he declares 
that the perceiving active being called mind, spirit, soul, or 
myself does not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing 
entirely distinct from them, wherein they exist, or, which is 
the same thing, whereby they are perceived ; for the existence 
of a thing consists [not in perceiving, but] in being perceived. 
Again, in reply to the objection, that if extension and figure 
[extended and figured things] exist only in the mind [i. e. depend 
for their reality upon a realising mind], it must follow that 
the mind is extended and figured ; since extension is a mode or 
attribute, which is predicated of the subject in which it exists. 
To which Berkeley replies thus 1 : Those qualities are in the 
mind, not by way of mode or attribute, but only by way of idea a : 
and it no more follows that the soul or mind is extended, because 
extension exists [i. e. is real] in it alone, than it does that it is 
red or blue, because those colours are on all hands acknowledged 
to exist in it [i. e. to be dependent on it]. In short, Berkeley s 
sense-ideas and sensible world are not modifications of the 
percipient self, but are appearances presented to the percipient 
self, realised thus for the percipient self, but finally referable to, 
and dependent on, God, or Divine Active Thought, in which the 
universe consists. I have no objection, he says, in one of his 
letters to Johnson, against calling the Ideas in the mind of God 
archetypes of ours. But I object against those archetypes by 
philosophers supposed to be real things, and to have an 
absolute rational existence distinct from being perceived [realised 
or made real] by any mind whatsoever. In Divine Omniscience, 

1 Principles, sect. 49. he intends by existence in mind, 

* Note this explanation of what a unique conception altogether. 


one might add, finite mind only participates ; and this ultimately 
in and through Faith, or incompleted knowledge. 

Kant tried to go deeper than Hume, in order to restore know 
ledge and belief, on the basis, not of transient impressions, but 
of thought in its necessary universality. Sensations and their 
supposed customs, followed by a useful habit of expectation 
expectation, blind in the end, but as reasonable as man is fit 
for this, I think, is, on the whole, Hume s account of knowledge 
and existence. But this does not recognise, in Kant s insight, 
the necessary implicates of the experience which it pretends 
to give the last account of. There is an element of genuine 
necessity and universality wrapped up within experience. In 
this omitted element Kant finds the explanation of externality 
and science. Without this omitted universality and necessity 
he can see no possible outness : science dissolves into isolated 
sensations : it becomes shifting feeling. Objectivity requires 
purely intellectual relations, even in our very sense-experience ; 
and this Hume had overlooked. Accordingly, the work of Kant s 
life was to explain the coherence of the universe, and yet to retain 
room for man s moral freedom from natural necessity. A 
scholastically elaborated substitution of intellectual instead ot 
customary coherence is Kant s contribution in the reactionary 
succession to Hume. Kant s experience, like Hume s and 
Berkeley s, takes sensuous phenomena for its matter; yet its 
form or coherence is derived not from mere Custom which 
is another name for the darkness of ignorance but from uni- 
yersalising Thought. Experience is thus professedly analysed 
into meaning, instead of being thrown back upon the unintelligible. 
It is shewn to be intellectually impossible for any experience to 
arise in which there are no universalising principles of connexion 
latent. We find proof that this is so when we try to dispense 
with them. We find, for instance, that changing sensations 
cannot conceivably become experience, unless they are referred 
to a principle of permanence called Substance ; and we also find 
that changes of any sort cannot become part of experience, 
except as they are conceived to be dependent on preceding 
conditions, which conditions we call their Cause. This sort of 
substantiality and causality, too abstract for Berkeley, is thus 
argued to be involved in experience, which is therefore not 
blindly or accidentally formed, by the custom of each man s 
particular experience, in a finally inexplicable mortal life. 

Later German philosophy goes on to articulate these (and other) 
intellectual conditions as pervading all possible experience, in 
every department of human life ; forming the Absolute Essence 
of the universe, in which, as intellectual, we participate. With 
Plato, too, in a long past age, the Universal was the only reality, 
and the particular phenomenon was real only by participation 
in the Universal by unity in Intelligence. Berkeley came very 


much to this in Stris; but, in his early philosophy, war against 
abstract ideas sometimes seems to make the empirical data of 
sense the only reality ; and his tendency to test everything by 
concrete matter of fact, keeps in the background those Notions 
of the Mind, that 

immutably survive, 

For our support, the measures and the forms 
Which an abstract intelligence supplies ; 
Whose kingdom is, where time and space are not. 

It was the dependence of external reality upon Sense, rather 
than the dependence of all reality upon Universalising Thought, 
that he at first insisted on. 

It is more difficult to compare the concrete spiritual philosophy 
of Berkeley with the very different point of view which later 
German philosophy occupies. German speculation, in Kant 
and in Hegel, in articulating what Berkeley left vague, professes 
to advance beyond his matter of fact and human philosophy. 
Grant that it has substituted an intellectually coherent universe 
for Hume s habit of expectation blindly generated by custom. 
In doing so, it has given the Reason to which all actual 
experience (if there happens to be any) must conform, and 
under which it must all be concatenated. But why does the 
concrete world, which is rationally coherent, start into con 
crete existence at all ; why do we begin to exist as persons 
percipient of it ? What set the movement going, which must 
be constituted under those uncreated necessary relations ; and 
what keeps it going ? 

The Hegelian might perhaps answer, This is asking what 
set God going, and what keeps God in active thought. The 
intellectual necessities of Being constitute the Divine essence, 
shared in by Nature and finite persons. But it may still be 
asked, What of the contingencies in existence? Why are 
sensible things composed of five kinds of sensation rather than 
of five hundred ; and why am I myself, and not some other 
person, or not absorbed in the Supreme Unity ? The philosophy 
which critically unfolds the web of necessary thought, even 
if it successfully unravels that web, and enables us to see the 
universe necessarily coherent in its coherency, although by its 
implication Omniscient, still leaves unsettled chief questions 
which the universe presses upon us, when the universe is looked 
at from the human and ethical point of view especially the 
moral character of God, and the final destiny of men. Kant s 
criticism of pure understanding, thrown in among the impres 
sions of Hume, gives only abstract intellectual coherence. 

Berkeley s philosophy is more human than this, while less 
intellectually thorough. Presumption of moral, and therefore 
free, agency is obscurely involved in his philosophy of nature 
from the first : without it his world would dissolve in subjective 


sensation. As he leads, I am aware even in sense that the 
data of sense are not ultimately subject to me, and that I am 
not wholly subject to them. The phenomena which we per 
ceive are discerned to be ours, so far as they need sense- 
percipiency ; yet not ours, for we are not responsible for their 
appearance, as we are for our own volitions. Things of sense 
are ultimately outside our personal responsibility. The anti 
thesis of sensibility and moral agency, which we find in Kant 
at last, runs, in an indistinct and fluctuating way, through 
Berkeley from the beginning. He in his own way combines 
the sensibility and the free-will of Kant the matter given to 
pure reason, and the moral presupposition of practical reason. 
Sensuous perception in Berkeley uncritically envelops Sensi 
bility, and Moral Reason. Kant s categories of understanding 
and regulative ideas of reason are latent in Berkeley s early 
theistic sensationalism ; more explicitly in his contrast, in Siris, 
between mere Sense and Reason. But in Berkeley there is no 
critically justified necessity for causal connectedness, or for 
substantial permanence ; no attempt to elaborate the con 
stitution of our experience and of existence in its universality 
n Thought. 


AFTER this edition of Berkeley s Works was printed, and 
when it was about to issue from the press, there appeared in 
Hermathena, No. XXVI (1900), a hitherto unpublished Essay 
Of Infinites, in Berkeley s handwriting, discovered by Professor 
S. P. Johnston 1 in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, which 
had escaped me when I was collecting materials there for my 
Life and Letters of Berkeley in 1870. By the kind permission 
of the editor of Hermathena, I am enabled to include it in this 
edition of Berkeley s Works. 

According to Professor Johnston, it is one of two Essays by 
Berkeley, contained in a miscellaneous collection of manuscripts 
known as the Molyneux Papers, of various dates from the 
middle of the seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth 
century, which are preserved in the Library of Trinity College. 
Among them are contributions to the proceedings of the Dublin 

1 Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Dublin. 


Philosophical Society, which was founded in 1683 by William 
Molyneux, the friend of Locke, who was its first secretary ; 
an office in which he was succeeded by his son Samuel (the 
pupil and friend of Berkeley) in 1707, when the Society was 
revived, after an interval of suspended animation which followed 
the death of his father in 1698. 

The other of the two Essays is a Description of the Cave of 
Dumnore. near Kilkenny, which is virtually identical with that 
appended to the Commonplace Book, as given in the fourth volume 
of this edition of the Works. The version found by Professor 
Johnston among the Molyneux Papers is dated January 10, 
1705-6. Now in the Life and Letters of Berkeley (p. 23) I have 
mentioned that in 1705-6 he was engaged with some of his 
college friends in forming a Society for promoting research in 
the spirit, and according to the experimental methods, of the 
New Philosophy of Boyle, Newton, and Locke. The first 
meeting seems to have been held on January 10, 1706, the date 
of the paper on the Dunmore Cave. Accordingly, this paper 
may have been a contribution by Berkeley at the inaugural 
meeting of this Society, which was probably the precursor of 
the revived Dublin Society of 1707. 

The tractate Of Infinites is undated, but internal and external 
evidence would refer it to this same period in Berkeley s life, 
i.e. 1705 or 1706, when we have other proof that he was 
much occupied in mathematical studies, including the meta 
physics of quantitative infinity in space and time, and infinite 
divisibility. The interest of the Essay is chiefly biographical. 
It has much in common with the Analyst, published nearly 
thirty years later, and it may be compared with the Principles, 
sees. 123-34, a l so tne Introduction, sec. 2. But the analogy 
between mysteries at the root of mathematical analysis, and 
mysteries as involved in the religious conception of the uni 
verse, the leading thought in the Analyst, makes no appear 
ance in this slight juvenile fragment, which is interesting as 
the earliest extant expression of Berkeley in metaphysics, 
except perhaps portions of his Commonplace Book. And of 
course there is no recognition of the ulterior principle (un 
recognised by Berkeley to the end) that Omnipotent Goodness 
in the Universal Mind is (consciously or unconsciously) neces 
sarily presupposed in our reliance on experience and natural 
order, in a non-omniscient knowledge like the human, which 
inevitably merges in mysterious incompleteness at last. 


Tho some mathematicians of this last age have made pro 
digious advances, and open d divers admirable methods of 
investigation unknown to the ancients, yet something there is 


in their principles which occasionsmuch controversy and dispute, 
to the great scandal of the so much celebrated evidence of 
Geometry. These disputes and scruples, arising from the use 
that is made of quantitys infinitely small in the above mentioned 
methods, I am bold to think might easily be brought to an end 
by the sole consideration of one passage in the incomparable 
Mr. Locke s Treatise of Humane Understanding, b. 2. ch. 17, 
sec. 7, where that authour, handling the subject of infinity with 
that judgment and clearness which is so peculiar to him, has 
these remarkable words : 

I guess we cause great confusion in our thoughts when we joyn 
infinity to any suppos d idea of quantity the mind can be thought to have, 
and so discourse or reason about an infinite quantity, viz., an infinite 
space or an infinite duration. For our idea of infinity being, as I think, 
an endless growing idea, but the idea of any quantity the mind has being 
at that time terminated in that idea, to join infinity to it is to adjust 
a standing measure to a growing bulk ; and, therefore, I think tis not an 
insignificant subtilty if I say we are carefully to distinguish between the 
idea of infinity of space and the idea of space infinite. 

Now if what Mr. Locke says were, mutatis mutandis, apply d 
to quantity infinitely small, it would, I doubt not, deliver us 
from that obscurity and confusion which perplexes otherwise 
very great improvements of the Modern Analysis. For he that, 
with Mr. Locke, shall duly weigh the distinction there is betwixt 
the infinity of space and space infinitely great or small, and 
consider that we have an idea of the former, but none at all of 
the latter, will hardly go beyond his notions to talk of parts 
infinitely small, or partes infmitesimae of finite quantitys, and 
much less of infmitesimae infinitesimarnni, and so on. This, 
nevertheless, is very common with writers of fluxions or the 
differential calculus, &c. They represent, upon paper, infini 
tesimals of several orders ; as if they had ideas in their minds 
corresponding to those words or signs, or as if it did not include 
a contradiction that there should be a line infinitely small, and 
yet another infinitely less than it. Tis plain to me we ought 
to use no sign without an idea answering it : and tis as plain 
that we have no idea of a line infinitely small, nay, tis evidently 
impossible there should be any such thing ; for every line, 
how minute soever, is still divisible into parts less than itself; 
therefore there can be no such thing as a line quavis data minor 
or infinitely small. 

Further it plainly follows that an infinitesimal even of the first 
degree is merely nothing, from what Dr. Wallis, an approv d 
mathematician, writes at the 95th proposition of his Arith 
metic of Infinites, where he makes the asymptotic space included 
between the two asymptotes and the curve of an hyperbola to 
be in his stile a series reciproca primanorum, so that the first term 
of the series, viz., the asymptote, arises from the division of 
i by o. Since, therefore, unity, i. c. any finite line divided by o. 


gives the asymptote of an hyperbola, i. e. a line infinitely long, 
it necessarily follows that a finite line divided by an infinite 
gives o in the quotient, i. e. that the pars infinitesima of a finite 
fine is just nothing. For by the nature of division the dividend 
divided by the quotient gives the divisor. Now a man speaking 
of lines infinitely small will hardly be suppos d to mean nothing 
by them, and if he understands real finite quantitys he runs 
into inextricable difificultys. 

Let us look a little into the controversy between Mr. Nieuentiit 
and Mr. Leibnitz. Mr. Nieuentiit allows infinitesimals of the 
first order to be real quantitys ; but the differentiae differentiarum 
or infinitesimals of the following orders he takes away, making 
them just so many noughts. This is the same thing "as to say 
the square, cube, or other power of a real positive quantity is 
equal to nothing ; which is manifestly absurd. 

Again Mr. Nieuentiit lays down this as a self evident axiom, 
viz., that betwixt two equal quantitys there can be no difference 
at all, or, which is the same thing, that their difference is equal 
to nothing. This truth, how plain soever, Mr. Leibnitz sticks 
not to deny, asserting that not onely those quantitys are equal 
which have no difference at all, but also those whose difference 
is incomparably small. Quemadmodiim (says he) silineae punctum 
alterius lineae addas qiiantitatem non aitges. But if lines arc 
infinitely divisible, I ask how there can be any such thing as 
a point ? Or granting there are points, how can it be thought 
the same thing to add an indivisible point as to add, for instance, 
the differentia of an ordinate in a parabola ; which is so far from 
being a point that it is itself divisible into an infinite number of 
real quantitys, whereof each can be subdivided in infinitum, and 
so on, according to Mr. Leibnitz. These are difficultys those 
great men have run into, by applying the idea of infinity to par 
ticles of extension exceeding small, but real and still divisible. 

More of this dispute may be seen in the Ada Ernditonun for 
the month of July, A. D. 1695, where, if we may believe the 
French author of Analyse des infininient pe/ifs, Mr. Leibnitz has 
sufficiently established and vindicated his principles. Tho 
tis plain he cares not for having em call d in question, and 
seems afraid that nimia scrupulositate arti invcniendi obex ponatur, 
as if a man could be too scrupulous in Mathematics, or as if the 
principles of Geometry ought not to be as incontestable as the 
consequences drawn from them. 

There is an argument of Dr. Cheyne s, in the 4th chapter of 
his Philosophical Principles of Natural Religion which seems to 
make for quantitys infinitely small -. His words are as follows : 

The whole abstract geometry depends upon the possibility of infinitely 

1 Bernard Nieuwentyt. Sec Commonplace Book. The Philo- 
Siris, sec. 190, note. sophical Principles of Natural Re- 

- Cheyne is mentioned in the ligioii appeared in 1705. 


great and small quantitys, and the truths discover d by methods which 
depend upon these suppositions are confirm d by other methods which 
have other foundations. 

To which I answer that the supposition of quantitys infinitely 
small is not essential to the great improvements of the Modern 
Analysis. For Mr. Leibnitz acknowledges his Calculus differenti- 
alis might be demonstrated reductione ad absurdum after the 
manner of the ancients ; and Sir Isaac Newton, in a late treatise, 
informs us his method of Fluxions can be made out a priori, 
without the supposition of quantitys infinitely small. 

I can t but take notice of a passage in Mr. Raphson s treatise 
De Spatio Reali sen Ente Infinite, chap. 3, p. 50, where he 
will have a particle infinitely small to be quasi exfensa } . But 
what Mr. Raphson would be thought to mean by pars continni 
quasi extensa I cannot comprehend. 1 must also crave leave to 
observe that some modern writers of note make no scruple 
to talk of a sphere of an infinite radius, or an equilateral triangle 
of an infinite side, which notions if thoroughly examin d may 
perhaps be found not altogether free from inconsistencys. 

Now I am of opinion that all disputes about infinites would 
cease, and the consideration of quantitys infinitely small no 
longer perplex Mathematicians, would they but joyn Metaphysics 
to their Mathematics, and condescend to learn from Mr. Locke 
what distinction there is betwixt infinity and infinite*. 

1 Berkeley refers to Raphson in 2 See the annotations in myedition 

the Commonplace Book, and also of Locke s Essay, Bk. II, ch. 17 

in one of his letters to Samuel (Oxford, 1894^.