By John Locke
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Additional resources for An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Knowledge and Opinion
I point this out in order to show people that these maxims, praised as they are as great guardians of truth, won’t secure us from error in a careless loose use of our words. In all that I have said about Ÿhow little use maxims are for the improvement of knowledge, and Ÿhow dangerous they are when applied to undetermined ideas, I have been far from saying or meaning they should be laid aside - as some have accused me of saying ·in earlier editions of this work·. I shan’t make the futile attempt to cut them back in any area where they do have a ·legitimate· influence.
As to co-existence, or a necessary connection between two ideas such that a subject in which one of them exists must have the other also: the mind almost never immediately perceives any agreement or disagreement of this sort. So we have very little intuitive knowledge of this kind; nor are there many propositions of this kind that are self-evident. There are some, however: if our idea of body includes the idea of filling a place equal to the contents of its outer surface then I think it is a self-evident proposition that two bodies can’t be in the same place ·at the same time·.
For it is as inconsistent with the idea of senseless matter that it should put sense, perception, and knowledge into itself as it is inconsistent with the idea of a triangle that it should put into itself greater angles than two right ones. 6. Thus by thinking about ourselves and what we infallibly find in our own constitutions, our reason leads us to the knowledge of the certain and evident truth that there is an eternal, most powerful, and most knowing being; and it doesn’t matter whether we call it ‘God’.