Sec 5, 6: Relations, Modes, Substances


  • The word ‘relation’ is commonly used in two different senses:
    1. For that quality which connects two ideas in the imagination.
      • The one naturally introduces the other.
      • This is the common meaning of ‘relation’.
    2. For the arbitrary union of two ideas in the fancy, which we compare those ideas with.
      • This is the philosophical meaning of ‘relation’.
      • We extend this to mean any subject of comparison, without a connecting principle.
  • Thus, philosophers will allow distance to be a true relation, because we acquire an idea of it by comparing objects.
    • But we commonly say that:
      • nothing can be more distant than such or such things from each other
      • nothing can have less relation, as if distance and relation were incompatible.
  • It is an endless task to enumerate all those qualities:
    • which make objects admit of comparison, and
    • which the ideas of philosophical relation are produced by.
  • But they may be comprised under seven general headings.
    • These are the sources of all philosophical relation.
  1. The first kind of relation is resemblance.
    • This is a common relation.
      • Without it, no philosophical relation can exist since only resembling objects will admit of comparison.
    • Resemblance is necessary for all philosophical relations.
      • But it does not follow that it always produces a connection of ideas.
    • When a quality becomes very general and common to many individuals, it does not lead the mind directly to any one of them.
      • By presenting at once too great a choice, the quality prevents the imagination from fixing on any single object.
  2. Identity is a second kind of relation.
    • This relation is applied to unchangeable objects, without examining the nature of personal identity.
      • Personal identity shall be examined afterwards.
    • The most universal relation is the relation of identity.
      • It is common to every being whose existence has any duration.
  3. After identity, the most universal and comprehensive relations are those of space and time.
    • These are the sources of an infinite number of comparisons, such as distant, contiguous, above, below, before, after, etc.
  4. All those objects which admit of quantity, or number, may be compared.
    • This is another very fertile source of relation.
  5. When any two objects have the same common quality, their degrees, form a fifth kind of relation.
    • One heavy object may be heavier or lighter than the other object.
    • Two colours of the same kind may be of different shades.
      • In that respect, it may admit of comparison.
  6. The relation of contrariety may initially be regarded as an exception to the rule, that no relation of any kind can subsist without some degree of resemblance.
    • Only the ideas of existence and non-existence are contrary in themselves.
    • These plainly resemble, as both imply an idea of the object.
      • Though non-existence excludes it from all times and places, in which it is supposed to not exist.
  7. All other objects, such as fire and water, heat and cold, are only found to be contrary from:
    • experience, and
    • the contrariety of their causes or effects
      • The relation of cause and effect is a seventh philosophical and natural relation.
      • The resemblance in this relation, shall be explained afterwards.
  • I might naturally be expected to join difference to the other relations.
    • But I consider it as a negation of relation, than as anything real or positive.
  • Difference is of two kinds as opposed to identity or resemblance.
    1. The first is called a difference of number.
    2. The second is a difference of kind.


  • Some philosophers:
    • founded so much of their reasonings on the distinction of substance and accident
    • imagined we have clear ideas of substance and accident.
  • Is the idea of substance derived from the impressions of sensation or of reflection?
    • If it is conveyed to us by our senses, which of them and how?
    • If it is perceived by:
      • the eyes, it must be a colour
      • the ears, a sound
      • the palate, a taste, and so of the other senses.
  • No one will assert that substance is a colour, sound, or a taste.
    • The idea of substance must therefore be derived from an impression of reflection, if it really exists.
    • But the impressions of reflection resolve themselves into our passions and emotions.
      • None of these can possibly represent a substance.
      • We therefore have no idea of substance, distinct from the idea of a collection of particular qualities.
      • We have no other meaning when we talk or reason concerning it.
  • The idea of a substance and mode is nothing but a collection of simple ideas that:
    • are united by the imagination
    • have a particular name assigned them for us to recall that collection.
  • The difference between substance and mode is that the particular qualities of a substance are commonly referred to an unknown something.
    • This something is supposed to:
      • exist essentially in that substance, or
      • at least be closely and inseparably connected by the relations of contiguity and causation.
  • The effect of this is that whatever new simple quality we discover connected with the rest, we immediately comprehend it among them.
    • Even though it did not enter into the first conception of the substance.
  • Thus, our idea of gold may at first be a yellow colour, weight, malleableness, fusibility.
    • But after discovering its dissolubility in hydrochloric acid, we:
      • join that to the other qualities
      • suppose it to belong to the substance as much as if its idea had made a part of the compound one, from the beginning.
  • The principal of union regarded as the chief part of the complex idea:
    • gives entrance to whatever quality afterwards occurs
    • is equally comprehended by it, as are the others which first presented themselves.
  • By considering their nature, it is obvious that this cannot take place in modes.
    • The simple ideas which form modes either represent:
      • qualities which are not united by contiguity and causation but are dispersed in different subjects, or
      • that the uniting principle is not regarded as the foundation of the complex idea, if they are united at all.
  • The idea of a dance is an instance of the first kind of modes.
    • The idea of beauty is an instance of the second.
  • It is obvious why such complex ideas cannot receive any new idea without changing the name which distinguishes the mode.

Words: 1033

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