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29. ‘By this learned art’ (c. 1694-c. 1695)

Section 1 (of 1)

Normalized

By this learned art of abuseing words and shifting their significations the rules left us by the ancients for the conducting our thoughts in the search or at least the examination of truth have been defective. The Logick of the Schools conteins all the rules of reasoning that are generaly taught and they are beleived soe sufficient that it will probably be thought presumption in any to suppose there needs any other to be sought or looked after. I grant the method of Syllogisme is right as far as it reaches. its proper businesse is to shew the force and coherencie of any argumentation, And to that it would have servd very well and one might certainly have depended on the conclusion as necessarily following from the premisses in a rightly orderd Syllogisme if the applauded art of disputeing had not been taken for knowledg and the credit of victory in such contests introduced a fallacious use of words whereby even those formes of argueing have proved rather a snare than an help to the understanding and soe the end lost for which they were invinted. For the forme of the Syllogisme justifyeing the deduction the conclusion though never soe false stood good and was to be admitted for such. This set men who would make any figure in the schools to busy their thoughts not in a search into the nature of things but in studying of termes and varying their signification of words with all the nicety and as it was called the subtilty they could strain their thoughts to whereby they might entangle the respondent, who if he let slip the observation and deduction of the sophistry when ever any of the termes were used in various significations he was certainly without the help of a like sort of artifice and therefore on the other side was to be well furnished with good store of words to be used as distinctions. whether they signified any thing to the purpose or any thing at all it matterd not. they were to be thrown in the opponents way and he was to argue against them soe that whilst one could use his words aequivocaly which is noething but makeing the same sound to stand for differant Ideas and the other but use two sounds as determining the various significations of a third, whether in truth they had any the least relation to its signification or noe, there could be noe end of the dispute or decision of the question. Or if it happend that either of the disputants faileing in his proper artilary was brought to a nonplus this indeed placed the laurels on his adversarys head, victory was his and with it the name of learning, and renown of a | scholler, he has his reward and there is his end. But truth gets noething by it, every one says he is the better disputan t and caryed the day but noe body findes or judges of the truth by that; The question is a question still and after it has been the matter of many a combat and by being caried sometimes on one side and some times on the other has afforded a Triumph to many a Combatant is still as far from decision as ever. Truth and knowledg hath noe thing to doe in all this bustle, noe body thinks them concerned. Tis all for Victory and Triumph. Soe that this way of contesting for truth may and often is noe thing but the abuse of words for a triall of skill, without any appearance of a true consideration of the matter in question, or troubleing their heads to finde out where the truth lies. This is not the fault of Mode and figure the rules whereof are of great use in the regulateing of argumentation and trying the coherence and force of mens discourses. But the mischeif has been brought in by placeing to high a value and credit on the art of disputeing and giveing that the reputation and reward of learning and knowledg which is in truth one of the greatest hindrances of it.

Understanding

Diplomatic

117r

By this learned art the rules of Logic too of the Schooles h of abuseing words and shifting their significations the rules left us by the ancients for the conducting our thoughts and in the search or at least the examination of truth have been defecti dve. The Logick of the Schools conteins all the rules of reasoning that are generaly taught and they are beleived soe sufficient that it will probably be thought presumption in any to thinke suppose there needs any other to be sought or looked after. I grant the method of Syllogisme is right and might as far as it reaches. which is far its proper businesse is to shew the force and coherencie of any argumentation, And to that it would have servd very well and one might certainly have depended on the conclusion as gener<ally> necessarily following from the premisses in a rightly orderd Syllogisme if the applauded art of disputeing had not been taken for knowledg and the credit of victory in such contests introduced a fallacious use of words whereby even those rules formes of argueing have proved rather a snare than an help to the understanding and soe the end lost for which they were invinted. For the forme of the Syllogisme justifyeing the deduction the conclusion though never soe false stood good and was to be admitted for such. The. art then lay in manageing the premisses If the terms were the same mood<e> and figure made the Syllogisme right in forme. This set men who would make any figure in the schools to busy their thoughts not in a search into the nature of things but in studying the nicety of termes and varying their signification of words with all the nicety and as it was called the subtilty they could strain their thoughts to whereby they might entangle thei<r> the respondent, who if he let slip the observation of such a fallacious use of the words and deduction of the sophistry when ever the w. any of the termes were used in various significations he was certainly gen without the help of a like sort of artifice and therefore on the other side was to be well furnished with good store of dis<tinctions> words to be used as distinctions. whether they signified any thing to the purpose or any thing at all it matterd not. they were to be thrown in the opponents way and he was to

118r

argue against them soe that whilst one could use his words aequivocaly which is noething but useing makeing the same sound to stand for differant Ideas and the other invent new but use two sounds as determining the various significations of a third, whether in truth they had any the least relation to its signification or noe, there could be noe end of the dispute or decision of the question. Or if it happend that either of the disputants faileing in his proper his still of artilary was brought to an a nonplus this indeed placed the laurels on his adversarys head, victory was his and with it the name of learning and the renown of of learning, and renown of a schollar. Where as in this whole businesse there was often noething but an artificiall abuse of words for victory without any a | scholler, he has his reward and there is his end. But truth gets noething by it, every one says he is the better disputan d t and had caryed the day but noe body judges findes or judges of the truth by that; The question is a question still and after it has been the matter of many a combat and by being caried sometimes on one side and some times on the other has afforded a Triumph to many a Combatant is still as matter far from decision as ever. Truth and knowledg hath noe thing to doe in all this bustle, noe body thinks them concerned. Tis all for Victory and Triumph. Soe that this way of defending or contesting for truth may and often is managed with great noise and vehemency and appearance of skill only in noe thing but the abuse of words for victory a triall of skill, without any appearance of a true consideration of the matter in question, or troubleing their heads to finde out where the truth lies. This is not the fault of Mode and figure the rules whereof are of great use in the regulateing of argumentation but in placeing a value and credit upon disputeing and trying the conse<quences> and trying the coherence and consequences force of mens discourses. But the mischeif has been brought in by placeing to high a value and credit on the art of disputeing and giveing that the reputation and reward of learning and knowledg which is in truth one of the greatest hindrances of it.

118v

Understanding


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The draft was marked by Locke in MS Locke c.28 with ‘B. 3. c. 10 § 11 - Organs of Speech’ on fol. 117r, indicating the projected point of insertion in the Essay.
For Locke on logic see also the ‘Conduct’.
For Locke on distinctions see also the ‘Conduct’, par. 65.
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