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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Book II - Of ideas


Chapter i

In which we discuss ‘ideas in general’, and incidentally consider whether the soul of man always thinks.

philalethes. §1. Having examined whether ideas are innate, let us consider what they are like and what varieties of them there are. Is it not true that an ‘idea is the object of thinking’?

theophilus. I agree about that, provided that you add that an idea is an immediate inner object, and that this object expresses the nature or qualities of things. If the idea were the form of the thought, it would come into and go out of existence with the actual thoughts which correspond to it, but since it is the object of thought it can exist before and after the thoughts. Sensible outer objects are only mediate, because they cannot act immediately on the soul. God is the only immediate outer object. One might say that the soul itself is its own immediate inner object; but that is only to the extent that it contains ideas, i.e. something corresponding to things. For the soul is a little world where distinct ideas represent God and confused ones represent the universe.

phil. §2. Our gentlemen who take the soul to be initially a blank page, ‘void of all characters, without any ideas; [ask] How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store …? To this [they] answer, in one word, from experience’.