An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Volume I: Book II, Chapter XXXII. by@johnlocke

An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Volume I: Book II, Chapter XXXII.

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1. Truth and Falsehood properly belong to Propositions, not to Ideas. Though truth and falsehood belong, in propriety of speech, only to PROPOSITIONS: yet IDEAS are oftentimes termed true or false (as what words are there that are not used with great latitude, and with some deviation from their strict and proper significations?) Though I think that when ideas themselves are termed true or false, there is still some secret or tacit proposition, which is the foundation of that denomination: as we shall see, if we examine the particular occasions wherein they come to be called true or false. In all which we shall find some kind of affirmation or negation, which is the reason of that denomination. For our ideas, being nothing but bare APPEARANCES, or perceptions in our minds, cannot properly and simply in themselves be said to be true or false, no more than a single name of anything can be said to be true or false. 2. Ideas and words may be said to be true, inasmuch as they really are ideas and words. Indeed both ideas and words may be said to be true, in a metaphysical sense of the word truth; as all other things that any way exist are said to be true, i.e. really to be such as they exist. Though in things called true, even in that sense, there is perhaps a secret reference to our ideas, looked upon as the standards of that truth; which amounts to a mental proposition, though it be usually not taken notice of. 3. No Idea, as an Appearance in the Mind, either true or false. But it is not in that metaphysical sense of truth which we inquire here, when we examine, whether our ideas are capable of being true or false, but in the more ordinary acceptation of those words: and so I say that the ideas in our minds, being only so many perceptions or appearances there, none of them are false; the idea of a centaur having no more falsehood in it when it appears in our minds, than the name centaur has falsehood in it, when it is pronounced by our mouths, or written on paper. For truth or falsehood lying always in some affirmation or negation, mental or verbal, our ideas are not capable, any of them, of being false, till the mind passes some judgment on them; that is, affirms or denies something of them.

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by John Locke @johnlocke.English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers
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