An essay concerning humane understanding microform
Locke, John, 1632-1704.

CHAP. XXV. Of Relation.

§. 1. BEsides the Ideas, whether simple or complex, that the Mind has of Things, as they are in themselves, there are others it gets from their comparison one with another. The Understanding, in the consideration of any thing, is not confined to that precise Object: It can carry any Ideas, as it were, beyond it self, or, at least, look be∣yond it, to see how it stands in conformity to any other. When the Mind so considers one thing, that it does, as it were, bring it to, and set it by another, and carry its view from one to t'other: This is, as the Words import, Relation and Rspect; and the Denominations given to positive Things, ntimating that Respect, and serving as Marks to lead the Thoughts beyond the Subject it self denominated, to something di∣stinct from it, are what we call Relatives; and the Things so brought together, Related Thus when the Mind considers Cajus, as such a po∣sitive Being, it takes nothing into that Idea, but what really exists in Cajus; v. g. when I consider him, as a Man, I have nothing in my Mind, but the complex Idea of the Species, Man: So likewise, when I sayCajus is a white Man, I have nothing but the bare consideration of Man, who hath that white colour. But when I give Cajus the name Husband, I in∣timate some other person; and when I give him the name Whiter, I in∣timate some other thing in both cases: my Thought is led to something beyond Cajus, and there are two things brought into consideration. And since any Idea, whether simple, or complex, may be the occasion, why the Mind thus brings two things together, and, as it were, takes a view of them at once, though still considered as distinct: therefore any of our Ideas, may be the foundation of Relation, as in the above-mentioned in∣stance, the Contract, and Ceremony of Marriage with Sempronia, is the occasion of the Denomination, or Relation of Husband; and the colour White, the occasion why he is said whiter than Free-stone.

§. 2. These, and the like Relations, expressed by relative terms, that have others answering them, with a reciprocal intimation, as Father, and Son Bigger, and Less; Cause, and Effect, are very obvious to every one, and every Body at first sight perceives the Relation. For Father, and Son Husband, and Wife, and such other correlative terms, seem so near∣ly to belong one to another, and, through Custom, do so readily chime, and answer one another in Peoples Memories, that upon the naming of either of them, the Thoughts are presently carried beyond the Thing so Page  151 named; and no body over-looks, or doubts of a Relation, where it is so plainly intimated. But where Languages have failed to give correlative Names, there the Relation is not always so easily taken notice of. Con∣cubine is, no doubt, a relative Name, as well as Wife; but in Languages where this, and the like Words, have not a correlative term, there People are not so apt to take them to be so, as wanting that evident Mark of Relation, which is between Correlatives, which seem to explain one ano∣ther, and not to be able to exist but together. Hence it is, that many of those Names, which duly considered, do include evident Relations, have been called External Denominations: But all Names, that are more than empty sounds, must signifie some Idea, which is either in the thing to which the name is applied; and then it is positive, and is looked on as united to, and existing in the Thing to which the Denomination is given or else it arises from the respect the Mind finds in it, to something di∣stinct from it, with which it considers it; and then it includes a Re∣lation.

§. 3. Another sort of relative terms there is, which are not looked on to be either relative, or so much as external Denominations; which yet, under the form and appearance of signifying something absolute in the Subject, do conceal a tacit, though less observable, Relation; such are the seemingly positive terms of Old, Great, Imperfect, &c. whereof I shall have occasion to speak more at large in the following Chapters.

§. 4. This farther may be observed, That the Ideas of Relation, may be the same in Men, who have far different Ideas of the Things that are related, or that are thus compared; v. g. those who have far different Ideas of a Man, may yet agree in the notion of a Father; which is a notion superinduced to the Substance, or Man, and refers only to an act of that thing called Man; whereby it contributed to the Generation of one of his own kind, let Man be what it will.

§. 5. The nature therefore of Relation, consists in the referring, or com∣paring two things, one to another; from which comparison, one or both comes to be denominated: And if either of those things be removed, or cease to be, the Relation ceases, and the Denomination consequent to it, though the other receive in it self no alteration at all; v. g. Cajus, whom I consider to day as a Father, ceases to be so to morrow, only by the death of his Son, without any alteration made in himself; nay, barely by the Mind's changing the Object, to which it compares any thing, the same thing is capable of having contrary Denominations at the same time; v. g. Cajus, compared to several Persons, may truly be said to be Older, and Younger; Stronger, and Weaker, &c.

§. 6. Whatsoever doth, or can exist, or be considered as one thing, is positive; and so not only simple Ideas and Substances, but Modes also are positive Beings; though the parts, of which they consist, are very often relative one to another: but the whole together considered as one thing, and producing in us the complex Idea of one thing; which Idea is in our Minds, as one Picture, though an aggregate of divers parts; and un∣der one name, it is a positive or absolute Thing, or Idea. Thus a Triangle, though the parts thereof, compared one to another, be relative, yet the Idea of the whole, is a positive absolute Idea. The same may be said of a Family, a Tune, &c. for there can be no Relation, but betwixt two Things, considered as two Things. There must always be in relation two Ideas, or Things, either in themselves really separate, or considered as distinct, and then ground or occasion for their comparison.

Page  152§. 7. Concerning Relation in general, these things may be consi∣dered:

First, That there is no one thing, whether simple Idea, Substance, Mode, or Relation, or Name of either of them, which is not capable of almost an infinite number of Considerations, in reference to other things; and there∣fore this makes no small part of Mens Thoughts and Words; v. g. one single Man may at once be concerned in, and sustain all these following Relations, and many more, viz. Father, Brother, Son, Grandfather, Grandson, Father-in-Law, Son-in-Law, Husband, Friend, Enemy, Sub∣ject, General, Judge, Patron, Client, Professor, European, English-man, Islanders, Servant, Master, Possessor, Captain, Superiour, Inferiour, Bigger, Less, Older, Younger, Contemporary, Like, Unlike, &c. to an almost in∣finite number, he being capable of as many Relations, as there can be oc∣casions of comparing him to other things, with which he may agree, or disagree, or have any respect: For, as I said, Relation is a way of compa∣ring, or considering two things together; and giving one, or both of them, some appellation from that Comparison, and sometimes giving even the Relation it self a Name.

§. 8. Secondly, This farther may be considered concerning Relation, That though it be not contained in the real existence of Things, but some∣thing extraneous, and superinduced; yet the Ideas which relative Words stand for, are often clearer, and more distinct, than of those Substances to which they do belong. The Notion we have of a Father, or Brother, is a great deal clearer, and more distinct, than that we have of a Man: Or, if you will, Paternity is a thing whereof 'tis easier to have a clear Idea, than of Humanity: And I can much easier conceive what a Friend is, than what GOD. Because the knowledge of one Action, or one simple Idea, is oftentimes sufficient to give me the Notion of a Relation: but to the knowing of any substantial Being, an accurate collection of sundry Ideas is necessary. A Man, if he compare two things together, can hardly be supposed not to know what it is, wherein he compares them: So that when he compares any Things together, he cannot but have a very clear Idea of that Relation. The Ideas then of Relations are capable at least of being more perfect and distinct in our Minds, than those of Sub∣stances: Because it is commonly hard to know all the simple Ideas, which are really in any Substance, but for the most part easie enough to know the simple Ideas that make up any Relation I think on, or have a Name for; v. g. comparing two Men, in reference to one common Parent, it is very easie to frame the Ideas of Brothers, without having yet the perfect Idea of a Man. For significant relative Words, as well as others, standing only for Ideas; and those being all either simple, or made up of simple ones, it suffices for the knowing the precise Idea the relative term stands for, to have a clear conception of that, which is the foundation of the Re∣lation; which may be done without having a perfect and clear Idea of the thing it is attributed to. Thus having the Notion, that one laid the Egg, out of which the other was hatched, I have a clear Idea of the Re∣lation of Dam and Chick, between the two Cassiowaries in St. Iames's Park; though, perhaps, I have but a very obscure and imperfect Idea of those Birds themselves.

§. 9. Thirdly, Though there be a great number of Considerations, wherein Things may be compared one with another, and so a multitude of Relations, yet they all terminate in, and are concerned about tho••simple Ideas, either of Sensation or Reflection; which I think to be the whole Materials of all our Knowledge. To clear this, I shall shew it in the Page  153 most considerable Relations that we have any notion of, and some that seem to be the most remote from Sense or Reflection; which yet will ap∣pear to have their Ideas from thence, and that the Notions we have of them, are but certain simple Ideas, and so originally derived from Sense or Reflection.

§. 10. Fourthly, That Relation being the considering of one thing with another, which is extrinsical to it, it is evident, that all Words, that ne∣cessarily infer, and lead the Mind to any other Ideas, than are supposed really to exist in that thing, to which the Word is applied, are relative Words; v. g. A Man Black, Merry, Thoughtful, Thirsty, Angry, Ex∣tended; these, and the like, are all absolute, because they neither signifie nor intimate any thing, but what does, or is supposed really to exist in the Man thus denominated: But Father, Brother, King, Husband, Blac∣ker, Merrier, &c. are Words, which, together with the thing they deno∣minate, imply also something else separate and exterior to the existence of that thing.

§. 11. Having laid down these Premises concerning Relation in general, I shall now proceed to shew, in some instances, how all the Ideas we have of Relation are made up, as the others are, only of simple Ideas; and that they all, how refined, or remote from Sense soever they seem, terminate at last in simple Ideas. I shall begin with the most comprehensive Relation, wherein all things that do, or can exist, are concerned; and that is the Relation of Cause and Effect. The Idea whereof, how derived from the two Fountains of all our Knowledge, Sensation and Reflection, I shall in the next place consider.