Front Page Titles (by Subject) REMARKS UPON SOME OF Mr. Norris's BOOKS, - The Works of John Locke, vol. 9 (Letters and Misc. Works)
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REMARKS UPON SOME OF Mr. Norris’s BOOKS, - John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 9 (Letters and Misc. Works) 
The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, (London: Rivington, 1824 12th ed.). Vol. 9.
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REMARKS UPON SOME OF Mr. Norris’s BOOKS,
Wherein he asserts P. Malebranche’s Opinion of our seeing all Things in God.
There are some, who think they have given an account of the nature of ideas, by telling us, “we see them in Goda ,” as if we understood, what ideas in the understanding of God are, better than when they are in our own understandings; or their nature were better known, when it is said, that “the immediate object of our understandings are the divine ideas, the omniform essence of God, partially represented or exhibitedb .” So that this now has made the matter clear, there can be no difficulty left, when we are told that our ideas are the divine ideas; and the “divine ideas the omniform essence of God.” For what the divine ideas are, we know as plainly, as we know what 1, 2, and 3, is; and it is a satisfactory explication of what our ideas are to tell us, they are no other than the divine ideas; and the divine essence is more familiar, and level to our knowledge, than any thing we think of. Besides, there can be no difficulty in understanding how the “divine ideas are God’s essence.”
2. I am complained of for not having “given an account of, or defined the nature of our ideasa .” By “giving an account of the nature of ideas,” is not meant, that I should make known to men their ideas; for I think nobody can imagine that any articulate sounds of mine, or any body else, can make known to another what his ideas, that is, what his perceptions are, better than what he himself knows and perceives them to be; which is enough for affirmations, or negations about them. By the “nature of ideas,” therefore, is meant here their causes and manner of production in the mind, i. e. in what alteration of the mind this perception consists; and as to that, I answer, no man can tell; for which I not only appeal to experience, which were enough, but shall add this reason, viz. because no man can give any account of any alteration made in any simple substance whatsoever; all the alteration we can conceive, being only of the alteration of compounded substances; and that only by a transposition of parts. Our ideas, say these men, are the “divine ideas, or the omniform essence of God,” which the mind sometimes sees, and sometimes not. Now I ask these men, what alteration is made in the mind upon seeing? for there lies the difficulty, which occasions the inquiry.
For what difference a man finds in himself, when he sees a marygold, and sees not a marygold, has no difficulty, and needs not be inquired after: he has the idea now, which he had not before. The difficulty is, what alteration is made in his mind; what changes that has in itself, when it sees what it did not see before, either the divine idea in the understanding of God, or, as the ignorant think, the marygold in the garden. Either supposition, as to this matter, is all one; for they are both things extrinsical to the mind, till it has that perception; and when it has it, I desire them to explain to me, what the alteration in the mind is, besides saying, as we vulgar do, it is having a perception, which it had not the moment before; which is only the difference between perceiving and not perceiving; a difference in matter of fact agreed on all hands; which, wherein it consists, is, for aught I see, unknown to one side as well as the other; only the one have the ingenuity to confess their ignorance; and the other pretend to be knowing.
3. P. Malebranche says, “God does all things by the simplest and shortest ways,” i. e. as it is interpreted in Mr. Norris’s Reason and Religion, “God never does any thing in vaina .” This will easily be granted them; but how will they reconcile to this principle of theirs, on which their whole system is built, the curious structure of the eye and ear; not to mention the other parts of the body? For if the perception of colours and sounds depended on nothing but the presence of the object affording an occasional cause to God Almighty to exhibit to the mind the idea of figures, colours, and sounds; all that nice and curious structure of those organs is wholly in vain: since the sun by day, and the stars by night, and the visible objects that surround us, and the beating of a drum, the talk of people, and the change made in the air by thunder; are as much present to a blind and deaf man, as to those who have their eyes and ears in the greatest perfection. He that understands optics ever so little, must needs admire the wonderful make of the eye, not only for the variety and neatness of the parts; but as suited to the nature of refraction, so as to paint the image of the object in the retina; which these men must confess to be all lost labour, if it contributes nothing at all, in the ordinary way of causes and effects, to the producing that idea in the mind. But that only the presence of the object gave occasion to God to show to the mind that idea in himself, which certainly is as present to one that has a gutta serena, as to the quicksightedest man living. But we do not know how, by any natural operation, this can produce an idea in the mind; and therefore (a good conclusion!) God, the author of nature, cannot this way produce it. As if it were impossible for the Almighty to produce any thing, but by ways we must conceive, and are able to comprehend; when he that is best satisfied of his omniscient understanding, and knows so well how God perceives, and man thinks, cannot explain the cohesion of parts in the lowest degree of created beings, unorganised bodies.
4. The perception of universals also proves that all beings are present to our minds; and that can only be by the presence of God, because all “created things are individualsa .” Are not all things that exist individuals? If so, then say not, all created, but all existing things are individuals; and if so, then the having any general idea proves not that we have all objects present to our minds. But this is for want of considering wherein universality consists; which is only in representation, abstracting from particulars. An idea of a circle, of an inch diameter, will represent, where, or whensoever existing, all the circles of an inch diameter; and that by abstracting from time and place. And it will also represent all circles of any bigness, by abstracting also from that particular bigness, and by retaining only the relation of equidistance of the circumference from the centre, in all the parts of it.
5. We have a “distinct idea of Godb ,” whereby we clearly enough distinguish him from the creatures; but I fear it would be presumption for us to say, we have a clear idea of him, as he is in himself.
6. The argument, that “we have the idea of infinite, before the idea of finite, because we conceive infinite being, barely by conceiving being, without considering, whether it be finite or infinitec ;” I shall leave to be considered, whether it is not a mistake, of priority of nature, for priority of conception.
7. “God made all things for himselfa ;” therefore, we “see all things in him.” This is called demonstration. As if all things were as well made for God, and mankind had not as much reason to magnify him, if their perception of things were any other way than such an one of seeing them in him; as shows not God more than the other, and wherein not one of a million takes more notice of him, than those who think they perceive things, where they are, by their senses.
8. If God should create a mind, and give it the sun, suppose, for its idea, “or immediate object of knowledge, God would then make that mind for the sun, and not for himselfb .” This supposes, that those that see things in God, see at the same time God also, and thereby show that their minds are made for God, having him for the “immediate object of their knowledge.” But for this I must appeal to common experience, whether every one, as often as he sees any thing else, sees and perceives God in the case; or whether it be not true of men, who see other things every moment, that God is not in all their thoughts? Yet, says he, “when the mind sees his works, it sees him in some mannerc .” This some manner, is no manner at all to the purpose of being made only for God, for his idea, or for his immediate object of knowledge. A man bred up in the obscurity of a dungeon, where, by a dim and almost no light, he perceives the objects about him; it is true, he owes this idea to the light of the sun; but having never heard, nor thought of the sun, can one say that the idea of the sun is “his immediate object of knowledge,” or that therefore “his mind was made for the sun?” This is the case of a great part of mankind; and how many can we imagine of those, who have got some notion of God, either from tradition or reason; have an idea of him present in their minds as often as they think of any thing else?
9. But if our being made for God necessarily demonstrates that we should “see all things in him;” this, at last, will demonstrate, that we are not half made for him, since it is confessed by our author, that we see no other ideas in God, but those of number, extension, and essences; which are not half the ideas that take up men’s minds.
10. “The simple essences of things are nothing else but the divine essence itself, considered with his connotation, as variously representative, or exhibitive of things, and as variously imitable or participable by thema ;” and this he tells us are ideasb . The meaning, I take it, of all this, put into plain intelligible words, is this; God has always a power to produce any thing that involves not a contradiction. He also knows what we can do. But what is all this to ideas in him, as real beings visible by us? God knew, from eternity, he could produce a pebble, a mushroom, and a man. Were these, which are distinct ideas, part of his simple essence? It seems then we know very well the essence of God, and use the word simple, which comprehends all sorts of variety, in a very proper way. But God knew he could produce such creatures; therefore, where shall we place those ideas he saw of them, but in his own essence? There these ideas existed “eminenter;” and so they are the essence of God. There are things themselves existed too “eminenter,” and therefore all the creatures, as they really exist, are the essence of God. For if finite real beings of one kind, as ideas are said to be, are the essence of the infinite God; other finite beings, as the creatures, may be also the essence of God. But after this rate we must talk, when we will allow ourselves to be ignorant of nothing; but will know even the knowledge of God, and the way of his understanding!
11. The “essences of things, or ideas existing in Godc .” There are many of them that exist in God; and so the simple essence of God has actually existing in it as great a variety of ideas as there are of creatures; all of them real beings, and distinct one from another. If it be said, this means, God can, and knows he can produce them; what doth this say more than every one says? If it doth say more, and shows us not this infinite number of real distinct beings in God, so as to be his very essence; what is this better than what those say, who make God to be nothing but the universe; though it be covered under unintelligible expressions of simplicity and variety, at the same time, in the essence of God? But those who would not be thought ignorant of any thing to attain it, make God like themselves; or else they could not talk as they do, of “the mind of God, and the ideas in the mind of God, exhibitive of all the whole possibility of beinga .”
12. It is “in the divine nature that these universal natures, which are the proper objects of science, are to be found. And consequently it is in God that we know all the truth which we knowb .” Doth any universal nature therefore exist? Or can any thing that exists any-where, or any-how, be any other than singular? I think it cannot be denied that God, having a power to produce ideas in us, can give that power to another: or, to express it otherwise, make any idea the effect of any operation on our bodies. This has no contradiction in it, and therefore is possible. But you will say, you conceive not the way how this is done. If you stand to that rule, that it cannot be done, because you conceive not the manner how it is brought to pass; you must deny that God can do this, because you cannot conceive the manner how he produces any idea in us. If visible objects are seen only by God’s exhibiting their ideas to our minds, on occasion of the presence of these objects, what hinders the Almighty from exhibiting their ideas to a blind man, to whom, being set before his face, and as near his eyes, and in as good a light as to one not blind, they are, according to this supposition, as much the occasional cause to one as the other? But yet under this equality of occasional causes, one has the idea, and the other not; and this constantly; which would give one reason to suspect something more than a presential occasional cause in the object.
13. Farther, if light striking upon the eyes be but the occasional cause of seeing; God, in making the eyes of so curious a structure, operates not by the simplest ways; for God could have produced visible ideas upon the occasion of light upon the eye-lids or fore-head.
14. Outward objects are not, when present, always occasional causes. He that has long continued in a room perfumed with sweet odours, ceases to smell, though the room be filled with those flowers; though, as often as after a little absence he returns again, he smells them afresh. He that comes out of bright sunshine into a room where the curtains are drawn, at first sees nothing in the room; though those who have been there some time, see him and every thing plainly. It is hard to account for either of these phenomena, by God’s producing these ideas upon the account of occasional causes. But by the production of ideas in the mind, by the operation of the object on the organs of sense, this difference is easy to be explained.
15. Whether the ideas of light and colours come in by the eyes, or no; it is all one as if they did; for those who have no eyes, never have them. And whether, or no, God has appointed that a certain modified motion of the fibres, or spirits in the optic nerve, should excite or produce, or cause them in us; call it what you please: it is all one as if it did; since where there is no such motion, there is no such perception or idea. For I hope they will not deny God the privilege to give such a power to motion, if he pleases. Yes, say they, they be the occasional, but not the efficient cause; for that they cannot be, because that is in effect to say, he has given this motion in the optic nerve a power to operate on himself, but cannot give it a power to operate on the mind of man; it may by this appointment operate on himself, the impassible infinite spirit, and put him in mind when he is to operate on the mind of man, and exhibit to it the idea which is in himself of any colour. The infinite eternal God is certainly the cause of all things, the fountain of all being and power. But, because all being was from him, can there be nothing but God himself? or, because all power was originally in him, can there be nothing of it communicated to his creatures? This is to set very narrow bounds to the power of God, and, by pretending to extend it, takes it away. For which (I beseech you, as we can comprehend) is the perfectest power; to make a machine, a watch, for example, that when the watchmaker has withdrawn his hands, shall go and strike by the fit contrivance of the parts; or else requires that whenever the hand by pointing to the hours, minds him of it, he should strike twelve upon the bell? No machine of God’s making can go of itself. Why? because the creatures have no power; can neither move themselves, nor any thing else. How then comes about all that we see? Do they do nothing? Yes, they are the occasional causes to God, why he should produce certain thoughts and motions in them. The creatures cannot produce any idea, any thought in man. How then comes he to perceive or think? God upon the occasion of some motion in the optic nerve, exhibits the colour of a marygold or a rose to his mind. How came that motion in his optic nerve? On occasion of the motion of some particles of light striking on the retina, God producing it, and so on. And so whatever a man thinks God produces the thought; let it be infidelity, murmuring, or blasphemy. The mind doth nothing; his mind is only the mirrour that receives the ideas that God exhibits to it, and just as God exhibits them; the man is altogether passive in the whole business of thinking.
16. A man cannot move his arm or his tongue; he has no power; only upon occasion, the man willing it, God moves it. The man wills, he doth something; or else God, upon the occasion of something, which he himself did before, produced this will, and this action in him. This is the hypothesis that clears doubts, and brings us at last to the religion of Hobbes and Spinosa by resolving all, even the thoughts and will of men, into an irresistible fatal necessity. For whether the original of it be from the continued motion of eternal all-doing matter, or from an omnipotent immaterial being which, having begun matter, and motion, continues it by the direction of occasions which he himself has also made; as to religion and morality, it is just the same thing. But we must know how every thing is brought to pass, and thus we have it resolved, without leaving any difficulty to perplex us. But perhaps it would better become us to acknowledge our ignorance, than to talk such things boldly of the Holy One of Israel, and condemn others for not daring to be as unmannerly as ourselves.
17. Ideas may be real beings, though not substances; as motion is a real being, though not a substance; and it seems probable that, in us, ideas depend on, and are some way or other the effect of motion: since they are so fleeting; it being, as I have elsewhere observed, so hard, and almost impossible, to keep in our minds the same unvaried idea, long together, unless when the object that produces it is present to the senses; from which the same motion that first produced it being continued, the idea itself may continue.
18. This therefore may be a sufficient excuse of the ignorance I have owned of what our ideas are, any farther than as they are perceptions we experiment in ourselves; and the dull unphilosophical way I have taken of examining their production, only so far as experience and observation lead me; wherein my dim sight went not beyond sensation and reflection.
19. Trutha lies only in propositions. The foundation of this truth is the relation that is between our ideas. The knowledge of truth is that perception of the relation between our ideas to be as it is expressed.
20. The immutability of essences lies in the same sounds, supposed to stand for the same ideas. These things consider, would have saved this learned discourse.
21. Whatever exists, whether in God, or out of God, is singulara .
22. If no proposition should be made, there would be no truth nor falsehood; though the same relations still subsisting between the same ideas, is a foundation of the immutability of truthb in the same propositions, whenever made.
23. What wonder is it that the same ideac should always be the same idea? For if the word triangle be supposed to have the same signification always, that is all this amounts to.
24. “I desire to knowd what things they are that God has prepared for them that love him.” Therefore I have some knowledge of them already, though they be such as “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man to conceive.”
25. If I “have all things actually present to my mind;” why do I not know all things distinctly?
26. He that considerse the force of such ways of speaking as these, “I desire it, pray give it me, she was afraid of the snake, and ran away trembling;” will easily conceive how the meaning of the words “desire” and “fear,” and so all those which stand for intellectual notions, may be taught by words of sensible significations.
27. This, however otherwise in experience, should be so on this hypothesis; v. g. the uniformity of the ideas, that different men have when they use such words as these, “glory, worship, religion,” are clear proofs that, “God exhibited to their minds that part of the ideal world, as is signified by that sign.”
28. Strange! that truth being, in any question, but one; the more we discover of it, the more uniform our judgment should be about itf .
29. This argues that the ground of it is the always immutable relations of the same ideas. Several ideas that we have once got acquainted with, we can revive; and so they are present to us when we please. But the knowledge of their relations, so as to know what we may affirm or deny of them, is not always present to our minds; but we often miss truth, even after study. But in many, and possibly not the fewest, we have neither the ideas, nor the truth, constantly, or so much as at all, present to our minds.
And I think I may without any disparagement to the author, doubt whether he ever had, or, with all his application, ever would have, the ideas of truth present to the mind, that Mr. Newton had in writing his book.
30. This sectiong supposes we are better acquainted with God’s understanding than our own. But this pretty argument would perhaps look as smilingly thus: We are like God in our understandings: he sees what he sees, by ideas in his own mind; therefore we see what we see, by ideas that are in our own minds.
31. These textsh do not prove that we shall “hereafter see all things in God.” There will be objects in a future state, and we shall have bodies and senses.
32. Is he, whilst we see through the veil of our mortal flesh here, intimately present to our minds?
33. To think of any thingi is to contemplate that precise idea. The idea of Being, in general, is the idea of Being abstracted from whatever may limit or determine it to any inferior species; so that he that thinks always of being in general, thinks never of any particular species of being; unless he can think of it with and without precision at the same time. But if he means, that he thinks of being in general, whenever he thinks of this or that particular being, or sort of being; then it is certain he may always think of being in general, till he can find out a way of thinking on nothing.
34. Being in general, is beingk abstracted from wisdom, goodness, power, and any particular sort of duration; and I have as true an idea of being, when these are excluded out of it, as when extension, place, solidity, and mobility, are excluded out of my idea. And therefore, if being in general, and God, be the same, I have a true idea of God, when I exclude out of it power, goodness, wisdom, and eternity.
35. As if there was no differencel between “man’s being his own light,” and “not seeing things in God.” Man may be enlightened by God, though it be not by “seeing all things in God.”
The finishing of these hasty thoughts must be deferred to another season.
[a ]See Cursory Reflections upon a book called, “An Essay concerning Human Understanding.” Written by John Norris, M. A. rector of Newton St. Loe, in Somersetshire, and late fellow of All Souls college: in a letter to a friend; printed at the end of his “Christian Blessedness, or Discourses upon the Beatitudes of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;” pag. 30. Lond. 1690. in 8vo.
[b ]Ibid. pag. 31.
[a ]Cursory Reflections, &c. pag. 3.
[a ]“Reason and Religion; or, the Grounds and Measures of Devotion, considered from the nature of God, and the nature of man. In several contemplations. With exercises of devotion applied to every contemplation.” By John Norris, M. A. and fellow of All-souls college in Oxford, Part II. Contemplation II. § 17. p. 195. Lond. 1689, in 8vo.
[a ]Reason and Religion, &c. Part II. Contemp. II. § 19. p. 197.
[b ]Ibid. § 20. p. 198.
[c ]Ibid. § 21. p. 198.
[a ]Reason and Religion, Part II. Contemp. II. § 22. p. 199.
[b ]Ibid. § 22. p. 199.
[c ]Ibid. § 23. p. 200.
[a ]Reason and Religion, Part I. Contempl. V. § 19. p. 82.
[b ]Ibid. § 20.
[c ]Ibid. § 21. p. 83.
[a ]Reason and Religion, Part I. Contempl. V. § 30. p. 92, 93.
[b ]Ibid. Part II. Contempl. II. § 30. p. 206.
[a ]See Reason and Religion, &c. Part II. Contempl. II. § 29. p. 204.
[a ]See Reason and Religion, Part II. Contempl. II. § 30. p. 206.
[b ]Ibid. § 32. p. 207.
[c ]Ibid. § 33. p. 208, 209.
[d ]Ibid. § 34. p. 210.
[e ]Ibid. § 35. p. 211, 212, 213.
[f ]Ibid. § 36. p. 214.
[g ]See Reason and Religion, Part II. Contempl. II. § 37. p. 215.
[h ]Ibid. § 38. p. 216, 217.
[i ]Ibid. § 39. p. 217, 218.
[k ]Reason and Religion, Part II. Contempl. II. § 40. p. 219.
[l ]Ibid. § 43. p. 223.