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ON THE CONDUOT OF
THE UNDERSTANDING. .
BY JOHN LOCKE, GENT.
CONDUCT OF THE UNDERSTANDING,
Quid tam temerarium tamque in lignum sipientis gravi. tate atque constantia, quam aut falsum sentire, aut quod non satis explorate perceptum sit et cognitum siue ulla dubitatione defendere ? Cic. de Natura Deorum, lib. I.
§ 1. Introduction. The last resort a man has recourse to in the conduct of himself, is his understanding : for though we distinguish the faculties of the mind, and give the supreme command to the will, as to an agent; yet the truth is, the man who is the agent determines himself to this or that voluntary action, upon some pre- . cedent knowledge, or appearance of knowledge in the understanding. No man ever sets himself about any thing but upon some view or other, which serves him for a reason for what he does ; and whatsoever faculties he employs, the understanding with such light as it has, well or ill informed, constantly leads ; and by that light, true or false, all his operative powers are directed. The will itself, how absolute and uncontrollable soever it may be thought, never fails in its obedience to the dictates of the understanding. Tem
ples have their sacred images, and we see what influence they have always had over a great part of mankind. But in truth, the ideas and images in men's minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them; and to these they all universally pay a ready submission. It is, therefore, of the highest concernment, that great care should be taken of the understanding, to conduct it right in the search of knowledge, and in the judgments it makes.
The logic now in use, has so long possessed the chair, as the only art taught in the schools for the direction of the mind in the study of the arts and sciences, that it would perhaps be thought an affectation of novelty to suspect, that rules, that have served the learned world these two or three thousand years, and which without any complaint of defects, the learned have rested in, are not sufficient to guide the understanding.--And I should not doubt but this attempt would be censured as vanity or presumption, did not the great lord Verulam's authority justify it: who, not servilely thinking learning could not be advanced beyond what it
was, because for many ages it had not been, did not rest in the lazy approbation and applause of what was, because it was ; but enlarged his mind to what it might be. In his preface to his Novum Organum concerning logic, he pronounces thus: Qui summas dialecticas