In the Heat of the Night (1967).

§ 4. This difference of intention, and remission of the mind in thinking, with a great variety of degrees between earnest study, and very near minding nothing at all, every one, I think, has experimented in himself. Trace it a little farther, and you find the mind in sleep retired as it were from the senses, and out of the reach of those motions made on the organs of sense, which at other times produce very vivid and sensible ideas. I need not for this, instance in those who sleep out whole stormy nights, without hearing the thunder, or seeing the lightning, or feeling the shaking of the house, which are sensible enough to those who are waking; but in this retirement of the mind from the senses, it often retains a yet more loose and incoherent manner of thinking, which we call dreaming: and, last of all, sound sleep closes the scene quite, and puts an end to all appearances. This, I think, almost every one has experience of in himself, and his own observation without difficulty leads him thus far. That which I would farther conclude from hence, is, that since the mind can sensibly put on, at several times, several degrees of thinking, and be sometimes even in a waking man so remiss, as to have thoughts dim and obscure to that degree, that they are very little removed from none at all; and at last, in the dark retirements of sound sleep, loses the sight perfectly of all ideas whatsoever: since, I say, this is evidently so in matter of fact, and constant experience, I ask whether it be not probable that thinking is the action, and not the essence of the soul? since the operations of agents will easily admit of intention and remission, but the essences of things are not conceived capable of any such variation. But this by the by.

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§ 13. Hence likewise we may learn, why the complex ideas of mixed modes are commonly more compounded and decompounded, than those of natural substances. Because they being the workmanship of the understanding, pursuing only its own ends, and the conveniency of expressing in short those ideas it would make known to another, it does with great liberty unite often into one abstract idea things that in their nature have no coherence; and so, under one term, bundle together a great variety of compounded and decompounded ideas. Thus the name of procession, what a great mixture of independent ideas of persons, habits, tapers, orders, motions, sounds, does it contain in that complex one, which the mind of man has arbitrarily put together, to express by that one name? Whereas the complex ideas of the sorts of substances are usually made up of only a small number of simple ones; and in the species of animals, these two, viz. shape and voice, commonly make the whole nominal essence.

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§ 7. But though these complex ideas, or essences of mixed modes, depend on the mind, and are made by it with great liberty; yet they are not made at random, and jumbled together without any reason at all. Though these complex ideas be not always copied from nature, yet they are always suited to the end for which abstract ideas are made: and though they be combinations made of ideas that are loose enough, and have as little union in themselves, as several other to which the mind never gives a connexion that combines them into one idea; yet they are always made for the convenience of communication, which is the chief end of language. The use of language is by short sounds to signify with ease and dispatch general conceptions: wherein not only abundance of particulars may be contained, but also a great variety of independent ideas collected into one complex one. In the making therefore of the species of mixed modes, men have had regard only to such combinations as they had occasion to mention one to another. Those they have combined into distinct complex ideas, and given names to; whilst others, that in nature have as near an union, are left loose and unregarded. For to go no farther than human actions themselves, if they would make distinct abstract ideas of all the varieties might be observed in them, the number must be infinite, and the memory confounded with the plenty, as well as overcharged to little purpose. It suffices that men make and name so many complex ideas of these mixed modes, as they find they have occasion to have names for, in the ordinary occurrence of their affairs. If they join to the idea of killing the idea of father, or mother, and so make a distinct species from killing a man’s son or neighbour, it is because of the different heinousness of the crime, and the distinct punishment is due to the murdering a man’s father and mother, different from what ought to be inflicted on the murder of a son or neighbour; and therefore they find it necessary to mention it by a distinct name, which is the end of making that distinct combination. But though the ideas of mother and daughter are so differently treated, in reference to the idea of killing, that the one is joined with it, to make a distinct abstract idea with a name, and so a distinct species, and the other not; yet in respect of carnal knowledge, they are both taken in under incest: and that still for the same convenience of expressing under one name, and reckoning of one species, such unclean mixtures as have a peculiar turpitude beyond others; and this to avoid circumlocutions and tedious descriptions.

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§ 52. This is the hinge on which turns the liberty of intellectual beings, in their constant endeavours after and a steady prosecution of true felicity, that they can suspend this prosecution in particular cases, till they have looked before them, and informed themselves whether that particular thing, which is then proposed or desired, lie in the way to their main end, and make a real part of that which is their greatest good: for the inclination and tendency of their nature to happiness is an obligation and motive to them, to take care not to mistake or miss it; and so necessarily puts them upon caution, deliberation, and wariness, in the direction of their particular actions, which are the means to obtain it. Whatever necessity determines to the pursuit of real bliss, the same necessity with the same force establishes suspense, deliberation, and scrutiny of each successive desire, whether the satisfaction of it does not interfere with our true happiness, and mislead us from it. This, as seems to me, is the great privilege of finite intellectual beings; and I desire it may be well considered, whether the great inlet and exercise of all the liberty men have, are capable of, or can be useful to them, and that whereon depends the turn of their actions, does not lie in this, that they can suspend their desires, and stop them from determining their wills to any action, till they have duly and fairly examined the good and evil of it, as far forth as the weight of the thing requires. This we are able to do, and when we have done it, we have done our duty, and all that is in our power, and indeed all that needs. For since the will supposes knowledge to guide its choice, and all that we can do is to hold our wills undetermined, till we have examined the good and evil of what we desire. What follows after that, follows in a chain of consequences linked one to another, all depending on the last determination of the judgment; which, whether it shall be upon a hasty and precipitate view, or upon a due and mature examination, is in our power; experience showing us, that in most cases we are able to suspend the present satisfaction of any desire.

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§ 2. The other way of retention, is the power to revive again in our minds those ideas, which after imprinting have disappeared, or have been as it were laid aside out of sight; and thus we do, when we conceive heat or light, yellow or sweet, the object being removed. This is memory, which is as it were the store-house of our ideas. For the narrow mind of man not being capable of having many ideas under view and consideration at once, it was necessary to have a repository to lay up those ideas, which at another time it might have use of. But our ideas being nothing but actual perceptions in the mind, which cease to be any thing, when there is no perception of them, this laying up of our ideas in the repository of the memory, signifies no more but this, that the mind has a power in many cases to revive perceptions, which it has once had, with this additional perception annexed to them, that it has had them before. And in this sense it is, that our ideas are said to be in our memories, when indeed they are actually no-where, but only there is an ability in the mind when it will to revive them again, and as it were paint them a-new on itself, though some with more, some with less difficulty; some more lively, and others more obscurely. And thus it is by the assistance of this faculty, that we are to have all those ideas in our understandings, which though we do not actually contemplate, yet we can bring in sight, and make appear again, and be the objects of our thoughts, without the help of those sensible qualities which first imprinted them there.

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But for the clearing of both, give me leave to say, my lord, that whatsoever is not necessary, does not thereby become inconsistent. It is not necessary to the same person, that his body should always consist of the same numerical particles; this is demonstration, because the particles of the bodies of the same persons in this life change every moment, and your lordship cannot deny it: and yet this makes it not inconsistent with God’s preserving, if he thinks fit, to the same persons, bodies consisting of the same numerical particles always from the resurrection to eternity. And so likewise though I say any thing that supposes it not necessary, that the same numerical particles, which were vitally united to the soul in this life, should be reunited to it at the resurrection, and constitute the body it shall then have; yet it is not inconsistent with this, that God may, if he pleases, give to every one a body consisting only of such particles as were before vitally united to his soul. And thus, I think, I have cleared my book from all that inconsistency which your lordship charges on it, and would persuade the world it has with the article of the resurrection of the dead.