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20. Ignorantia (1690)

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Ignorantia

It is usuall in things we doe not comprehend as a cover of our ignorance for the explaining what we doe not understand to substitute something as unintelligible and hard to be explaind with this pretence that without such a supposition it can not be explaind. whereby we are made much vainer in an opinion of our knowledg though not one jot the more knowing. It being altogeather as good and much more ingenuous to confesse our shortsightednesse at first, than endeavouring to avoid the imputation of ignorance in one instance cast about for an evasion in some new supposition which when it comes to be throughly examind will be found to be as certain and undeniable a proof of the weaknesse and insufficiency of our understanding. Thus because we cannot comprehend how a blinde jumble of Atoms can frame the curious bodys of animals, nor yet thinke it fit to engage the immediate hand of god in the production of every mite and insect an anima mundi without knowledg and consciousnesse is substituted as the conducter of physical generations and productions. But yet how this material unthinkeing soule, (for if it be immaterial it will be yet harder to be understood) should be a better guide and artificer than unthinkeing matter or how it differs from it will be always equally hard to be explained and soe in effect amounts to noe more but a new name of noething more intelligible than what we would explain by it. JL

Diplomatic

27v

Ignorantia

It is usuall in things we doe not comprehend as a cover of our ignorance for the explaining what we doe not understand to substitute something as unintelligible and hard to be explaind with this fair pretence that without such a supposition it can not be explaind. whereby we are made much vainer in an opinion of our knowledg though not one jot the more knowing. It being altogeather as good and much more ingenuous to confesse our shortsightednesse at first, than endeavouring to avoid the imputation of ignorance in one instance cast about for an evasion in some new supposition which when it comes to be throughly examind will be found to be as certain and undeniable a proof of the weaknesse and insufficiency of our understanding. Thus because we cannot comprehend how a blinde jumble of Atoms can frame the curious bodys of animals, nor yet thinke it fit to engage the immediate hand of god in the production of every mite and insect an anima mundi without knowledg and consciousnesse is substituted as the conducter of physical generations and productions. But yet how this material .. unthinkeing soule, (for if it be immaterial it will be yet harder to be understood) should be a better guide and artificer than unthinkeing matter or how it differs from it will be always equally hard to be explained and soe in effect amounts to noe thing more but a new name of noething more intelligible than what we would explain by it. JL


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Cf. the second motto of the Essay, ‘Quam bellum est velle confiteri potius nescire quod nescias, quam ista effutientem nauseare, atque ipsum sibi displicere’; see also the motto of the ‘Conduct’.
Cf. Locke, Second Reply, in Works iv, 363-364: ‘…there might be added other senses, wherein the word Φύσις may be found, made use of by the Greeks (...); as particular Aristotle, if I mistake not, uses it for a plastic power, or a kind of anima mundi, presiding over the material world, and producing the order and regularity of motions, formations, and generations in it.’
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