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

Book III - Of words


Chapter i

‘Of words or language in general.’

philalethes. §1. ‘God having designed man for a sociable creature, made him not only with an inclination, and under a necessity to have fellowship with those of his own kind; but furnished him also with [the faculty of speaking], which was to be the great instrument, and common tie of society.’ This is the origin of words, which serve to represent and even to explicate ideas.

theophilus. I am happy to find you far removed from Mr *Hobbes's view. He did not agree that man was designed for society, and imagined that we have merely been forced into it by necessity and by the wickedness of the members of our species. But he did not take into account that the best of men, free from all wickedness, would join together the better to accomplish their goal, just as birds flock together the better to travel in company. Or as beavers congregate by the hundreds to construct great dams, which could not be achieved by a small number of them: they need these dams to create reservoirs or ponds, in which they build their lodges and catch the fish on which they feed. That is the foundation of society amongst social animals, and not fear of their kind, which hardly occurs among the beasts.

phil. Just so; and, the better to promote such society, man ‘ had by nature his organs so fashioned, as to be fit to frame articulate sounds, which we call words.’