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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Book I - Of innate notions


Chapter i

Whether there are innate principles in the mind of man.

philalethes. When I re-crossed the Channel after finishing my business in England, my first thought was of visiting you, sir, to renew our old friendship and also to discuss some things which are important to us both and about which I think I have gained new insights during my stay in London. When we were neighbours in Amsterdam, we used to enjoy exploring first principles, and ways of searching into the interiors of things; and although we often differed in our views, this added to the pleasure of our discussions, because there was nothing unpleasant in our occasional conflicts. You sided with *Descartes, and with the opinions of the famous author of the Search after Truth [*Malebranche]; and I found the views of *Gassendi, as expounded by M. Bernier, more plausible and natural. I now feel that I am put in a much stronger position by the fine work which a distinguished Englishman whom I have the honour to know personally has since published – a book which has had several reprintings in England under the modest title Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Happily, it was recently published in Latin and in French, so that it can be even more widely useful. I have profited greatly from reading this book, and indeed from conversation with its author, with whom I talked often in London and sometimes at Oates, the home of Lady *Masham.