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not to be grappled with, will be found to be of the ordinary and natural size and shape. Things, that in a remote and confused view seem very obscure, must be approached by gentle and regular steps; and what is most visible, easy, and obvious in them first considered. Reduce them into their distinct parts; and then in their due order bring all that should be known concerning every one of those parts into plain and simple questions; and then what was thought obscure, perplexed, and too hard for our weak parts, will lay itself open to the understanding in a fair view, and let the mind into that which before it was awed with, and kept at a distance from, as wholly mysterious. I appeal to my reader's experience, whether this has never happened to him, especially when, busy on one thing. he has occasionally reflected on another. I ask him whether he has never thus been scared with a sudden opinion of mighty difficulties, which yet have vanished, when he has seriously and methodically applied himself to the consideration of this seeming terrible subject; and there has been no other matter of astonishment left, but that he amused himself with so discouraging a prospect, of his own raising, about a matter which in the handling was found to have nothing in it more strange nor intricate than several other things which he had long since and with ease mastered? This
experience would teach us how to deal with such bugbears another time, which should rather serve to excite our vigour than enervate our industry. The surest way for a learner in this, as in all other cases, is not to advance by jumps and large strides ; let that which he sets himself to learn next be indeed the next; i. e. as nearly conjoined with what he knows already as is possible; let it be distinct but not remote from it let it be new, and what he did not know before, that the understanding may advance; but let it be as little at once as may be, that its advances may be clear and sure. All the ground that it gets this way it will hold. This distinct gradual growth in knowledge is firm and sure; it carries its own light with it in every step of its progression, in an easy and orderly train; than which there is nothing of more use to the understanding. And though this perhaps may seem a very slow and lingering way to knowledge, yet I dare confidently affirm, that whoever will try it in himself, or any one he will teach, shall find the advances greater in this method than they would in the same space of time have been in any other he could have taken. The greatest part of true knowledge lies in a distinct perception of things in themselves distinct. And some men give more clear light and knowledge by the bare distinct stating of a
question, than others by talking of it in gross whole hours together. In this, they who so state a question do no more but separate and disentangle the parts of it one from another, and lay them, when so disentangled, in their due order. This often, without any more ado, resolves the doubt, and shews the mind where the truth lies. The agreement or disagreement of the ideas in question, when they are once separated and distinctly considered, is, in many cases, presently perceived, and thereby clear and lasting knowledge gained; whereas things in gross taken up together, and so lying together in confusion, can produce in the mind but a confused, which in effect is no knowledge; or at least, when it comes to be examined and made use of, will prove little better than none. I therefore take the liberty to repeat here again what I have said elsewhere, that in learning any thing as little should be proposed to the mind at once as is possible; and, that being understood and fully mastered, to proceed to the next adjoining part yet unknown, simple, unperplexed proposition belonging to the matter in hand, and tending to the clearing what is principally designed.
$ 40. Analogy
ANALOGY is of great use to the mind m many cases, especially in natural philosophy; and
that part of it chiefly which consists in happy and successful experiments. But here must take care that we keep ourselves within that wherein the analogy consists. For example, the acid oil of vitriol is found to be good in such a case, therefore the spirit of nitre or vinegar may be used in the like case. If the good effect of it be owing wholly to the acidity of it, the trial may be justified; but if there be something else besides the acidity in the oil of vitriol which produces the good we desire in the case, we mistake that for analogy, which is not, and suffer our understanding to be misguided by a wrong supposition of analogy where there is none
$ 41. Association.
THOUGH I have, in the second book of my Essay concerning Human Understanding, treated of the association of ideas; yet having done it there historically, as giving a view of the understanding in this as well as its several other ways of operating, rather than designing there to inquire into the remedies that ought to be applied to it; it will under this latter consideration, afford other matter of thought to those who have a mind to instruct themselves thoroughly in the right way of conducting their understandings; and that the rather, because this, if I mistake not, is as
frequent a cause of mistake and error in us as perhaps any thing else that can be named, and is a disease of the mind as hard to be cured as any; it being a very hard thing to convince any one that things are not so, and naturally so, as they constantly appear to him.
By this one easy and unheeded miscarriage of the understanding, sandy and loose foundations become infallible principles, and will not suffer themselves to be touched or questioned: such unnatural connexions become by custom as natural to the mind as sun and light, fire and warmth go together, and so seem to carry with them as natural an evidence as self-evident truths themselves. And where then shall one with hopes of success begin the cure? Many men firmly embrace falsehood for truth, not only because they never thought otherwise, but also because, thus blinded as they have been from the beginning, they never could think otherwise, at least without a vigour of mind able to contest the empire of habit, and look into its own principles; a freedom which few men have the notion of in themselves, and fewer are allowed the practice of by others; it being the great art and business of the teachers and guides in most sects to suppress, as much as they can, this fundamental duty which every man owes himself, and is the first steady step towards right and truth in the whole train of his actions and opinions. This would give one