CHAPTER IX. ABSTRACTION.
“I think, too, that he (Mr. Locke) would have seen the ad vantage of ‘thoroughly weighing,’ not only (as he says) the imperfections of Language; but its perfections also: For the perfections of Language, not properly understood, have been one of the chief causes of the imperfections of our knowledge.” Diversions of Purley, by John Home Tooke, A.M., i. 37.
THE two cases of Consciousness, CLASSIFICATION, and ABSTRACTION, have not, generally, been well distinguished.
According to the common accounts of Classification, ABSTRACTION was included in it. When it is said, that, in order to classify, we leave out of view all the circumstances in which individuals differ, and retain only those in which they agree; this separating one portion of what is contained in a complex idea, and making it an object of consideration by itself, is the process which is named Abstraction, at least a main part of that process.
It is necessary now to inquire what are the purposes to which this separating of the parts of a complex idea, and considering and naming the separated parts by themselves, is subservient.
We have already observed the following remarkable things in the process of naming: 1, Assigning names of those clusters of ideas called objects; as man, fish; 2, Generalizing those names, so as to make them re present a class; 3, Framing adjectives by which minor classes are cut out of larger.
Those adjectives are all names, of some separate portion of a cluster, and are, therefore, all instruments of abstraction, or of that separating one or more of the ingredients of a complex idea from the rest, which has received the name of Abstraction. One purpose of Abstraction, therefore, is the formation of those subspecies, the formation of which is required for certain purposes of speech.
These observations will be rendered familiar by examples. We say, tall man, red flower, race horse. In my complex idea of a man, or the cluster of ideas of sense to which I affix that mark, are included, certain ideas of colour, of figure, size, and so on. By the word tall, I single out a portion of those ideas, namely, the part relating to size, or rather size in one direction, and mark the separation by the sign or name. In my complex idea of a flower, colour is always one of the ingredients. By applying the adjective red, I single out this one from the rest, and point it out for peculiar consideration. The explanation is obvious, and need not be pursued in a greater number of instances.
Words of this description all denote differences; either such as mark out species from genera, or such as mark out individuals from species. Of this latter sort the number is very small; of which the reason is obvious; individual differences are too numerous to receive names, and are marked by contrivances of abridgment which will be spoken of hereafter.
To explain this notation of differences; the same examples will suffice. In the phrase “tall man,” the adjective “tall” marks the difference between such a man, and “short man,” or “middle-sized man.” Of the genus man, tall men are one species; and the difference between them and the rest of the genus is marked by the word tall. Of the genus flower, red flowers form a species, and the difference between them and the rest of the genus is marked by the adjective red. Of the genus horse, race horse forms a species, and the difference between this species and the rest of the genus is marked by the word race.
It is of importance further to observe, that adjectives singling out ideas which are not differences, that is, ideas common to the whole class, are useless: as, tangible wood; coloured man; sentient animal. Such epithets express no more than what is expressed by the name without them.
Another thing requiring the attention of the student is the mode in which these differential adjectives are generalized. As the word man, applied first to one individual, then to another, becomes associated with every individual, and every variety of the species, and calls them all up in one very complex idea; so are these adjectives applied to one class after another, and by that means at last call up a very complicated idea. Let us take the word “black” for an example; and let us suppose that we apply this adjective first to the word man. We say “black man.” But we speedily see that for the same reason for which we say black man we may say black horse, black cow, black coat, and so on. The word black is thus associated with innumerable modifications of the sensation black. By frequent repetition, and the gradual strengthening of the association, these modifications are at last called up in such rapid succession that they appear commingled, and no longer many ideas, but one. Black is therefore no longer an individual but a general name. It marks not the particular black of a particular individual; but the black of every individual, and of all individuals. (81) The same is the case with all other words of the same class. Thus I apply the word sweet, first to the lump of sugar in my mouth, next to honey, next to grapes, and so on. It thus becomes associated with numerous modifications of the sensation sweet; and when the association is sufficiently strengthened by repetition, calls them up in such close succession, that they are converted into one complex idea. We are also to remember, that the idea and the name have a mutual power over one another. As the word black calls up the complex idea, so every modification of black calls up the name; and in this, as in other cases, the name actually forms a part of the complex idea.
[81 The example which the author has here selected of a general name, sets in a strong light the imperfection of the theory of general names, laid down by him in the preceding chapter. A name like “black,” which marks a simple sensation, is an extreme case of the inapplicability of the theory. Can it be maintained that the idea called up in our minds by the word black, is an idea compounded of ideas of black men, black horses, black cows, black coats, and the like? If I can trust my own consciousness, the word need not, and generally does not, call up any idea but that of a single black surface. It is still not an abstract idea, but the idea of an individual object. It is not a mere idea of colour; it is that, combined with ideas of extension and figure, always present but extremely vague, because varying, even from one moment to the next. These vague ideas of an uncertain extension and figure, combined with the perfectly definite idea of a single sensation of colour, are, to my consciousness, the sole components of the complex idea associated with the word black. I am unable to find in that complex idea the ideas of black men, horses, or other definite things, though such ideas may of course be recalled by it.
In such a case as this, the idea of a black colour fills by itself the place of the inner nucleus of ideas knit together by a closer association, which I have described as forming the permanent part of our ideas of classes of objects, and the meaning of the class-names. Ed.]
The next thing, which I shall observe, deserves in a high degree, the attention of the learner. In the various applications of that species of marks which we are now considering, they are associated with two distinguishable things; but with the one much more than the other. Thus, when we say black man, black horse, black coat, and so of all other black things, the word black is associated with the cluster, man, as often as black man is the expression; with the cluster horse, as often as black horse is the expression, and so on with infinite variety: but at the same time that it is associated with each of those various clusters, it is also associated with the peculiar sensation of colour which it is intended to mark. The CLUSTERS, therefore, with which it is associated, are variable; the PECULIAR SENSATION with which it is associated is invariable. It is much more constantly, and there fore much more strongly associated with the SENSATION than with any of the CLUSTERS. It is at once a name of the clusters, and a name of the sensation; but it is more peculiarly a name of the SENSATION.
We have, in a preceding note, observed, that such words have been called connotative; and I shall find much convenience in using the term NOTATION to point out the sensation or sensations which are peculiarly marked by such words, the term CONNOTATION to point out the clusters which they mark along with] this their principal meaning.
Thus the word, black, NOTES that of which black is more peculiarly the name, a particular colour; it CONNOTES the clusters with the names of which it is joined: in the expression, black man, it connotes man; black horse, it connotes horse; and so of all other cases. The ancient Logicians used these terms, in the inverse order; very absurdly, in my opinion. (82)
[82 The word Connote, with its substantive Connotation, was used by the old logicians in two senses; a wider, and a narrower sense. The wider is that in which, up to this place, the author of the Analysis has almost invariably used it; and is the sense in which he defined it, in a note to section 6 of his first chapter. “There is a large class of words which denote two things both together; but the one perfectly distinguishable from the other. Of these two things, also, it is observable, that such words express the one primarily as it were; the other in a way which may be called secondary. Thus white, in the phrase white horse, denotes two things, the colour and the horse; but it denotes the colour primarily, the horse secondarily. We shall find it very convenient to say, therefore, that it notes the primary, connotes the secondary signification.”
This use of terms is attended with the difficulty, that it may often be disputed which of the significations is primary and which secondary. In the example given, most people would agree with the author that the colour is the primary signification; the word being associated with the objects, only through its previous association with the colour. But take the other of the two words, horse. That too is connotative, and in the same manner. It signifies any and every individual horse, and it also signifies those attributes common to horses, which led to their being classed together and receiving that common name. Which, in this case, is the primary, and which the secondary signification? The author would probably say, that in this case, unlike the other, horse is the primary signification, the attributes the secondary. Yet in this Equally with the former case, the attributes are the foundation of the meaning: a thing is called a horse to express its resemblance to other horses; and the resemblance consists of the common attributes. The question might be discussed, pro and con, by many arguments, without any conclusive result. The difference between primary and secondary acceptations is too uncertain, and at best too superficial, to be adopted as the logical foundation of the distinction between the two modes of signification.
The author, however, has, throughout the preceding chapters, regarded words as connoting any number of things which though included in their signification, are not, in his judgment, what they primarily signify. He said, for example, that a verb notes an action, and connotes the agent (as either me, thee, or some third person), the number of agents (as one or more), the time (as past, present, or future), and three modes, that in which there is no reference to anything preceding, that in which there is a reference to something preceding, and “that in which reference is made to the will of one of the Persons.” I cite this complicated case, to shew by a striking example the great latitude with which the author uses the word Connote.
But in the present chapter he follows the example of some of the old logicians in adopting a second and more restricted meaning, expressive of the peculiar connotation which belongs to all concrete general names; viz. that twofold manner of signification, by which every name of a class signifies, on the one hand, all and each of the individual things composing the class, and on the other hand the common attributes, in consideration of which the class is formed and the name given, and which we intend to affirm of every object to which we apply the name. It is difficult to overrate the importance of keeping in view this distinction, or the danger of overlooking it when not made prominent by an appropriate phrase. The word Connote, which had been employed for this purpose, had fallen into disuse. But, though agreeing with the old logicians in using the word Connote to express this distinction, the author exactly reverses their employment of it. In their phraseology, the class-name connotes the attributes: in his, it notes the attributes, and connotes the objects. And he declares that in his opinion, their mode of employing the term is very absurd.
We have now to consider which of these two modes of employing it is really the most appropriate.
A concrete general name may be correctly said to be a mark, in a certain way, both for the objects and for their common attributes. But which of the two is it conformable to usage to say that it is the name of? Assuredly, the objects. It is they that are called by the name. I am asked, what is this object called? and I answer, a horse. I should not make this answer if I were asked what are these attributes called. Again, I am asked, what is it that is called a horse? and I answer, the object which you see; not the qualities which you see. Let us now suppose that I am asked, what is it that is called black; I answer, all things that have this particular colour. Black is a name of all black things. The name of the colour is not black, but blackness. The name of a thing must be the name which is predicated of the thing, as a proper name is predicated of the person or place it belongs to. It is scarcely possible to speak with precision, and adhere consistently to the same mode of speech, if we call a word the name of any thing but that which it is predicated of. Accordingly the old logicians, who had not yet departed widely from the custom of common speech, considered all concrete names as the names of objects, and called nothing the name of an attribute but abstract names.
Now there is considerable incongruity in saying that a word connotes, that is, signifies secondarily, the very thing which it is a name of. To connote, is to mark something along with, or in addition to, something else. A name can hardly be said to mark the thing which it is a name of in addition to some other thing. If it marks any other thing it marks it in addition to the thing of which it is itself the name. In the present case, what is marked in addition, is that which is the cause of giving the name; the attributes, the possession of which by a thing entitles it to that name. It therefore seems more con formable to the original acceptation of the word Connote, that we should say of names like man or black that they connote humanity or blackness, and denote, or are names of, men and black objects; rather than, with the author of the Analysis, that they note the attributes, and connote the things which possess the attributes.
If this mode of using the terms is more consonant to propriety of language, so also is it more scientifically convenient. It is of extreme importance to have a technical expression exclusively consecrated to signify the peculiar mode in which the name of a class marks the attributes in virtue of which it is a class, and is called by the name. The verb “to note,” employed by the author of the Analysis as the correlative of “to connote,” is far too general to be confined to so specific a use, nor does the author intend so to confine it. “To connote,” on the contrary, is a phrase which has been handed down to us in this restricted acceptation, and is perfectly fitted to be used as a technical term. There is no more important use of a term than that of fixing attention upon something which is in danger of not being sufficiently taken notice of. This is emphatically the case with the attribute-signification of the names of objects. That signification has not been seen clearly, and what has been seen of it confusedly has bewildered or misled some of the most distinguished philosophers. From Hobbes to Hamilton, those who have attempted to penetrate the secret of the higher logical operations of the intellect have continually missed the mark for want of the light which a clear conception of the connotation of general names spreads over the subject. There is no fact in psychology which more requires a technical name; and it seems eminently desirable that the words Connote and Connotative should be exclusively employed for this purpose; and it is for this purpose that I have myself invariably employed them.
In studying the Analysis, it is of course necessary to bear in mind that the author does not use the words in this sense, but sometimes in a sense much more vague and indefinite, and, when definite, in a sense the reverse of this. It may seem an almost desperate undertaking, in the case of an unfamiliar term, to attempt to rectify the usage introduced by the actual reviver of the word: and nothing could have induced me to attempt it, but a deliberate conviction that such a technical expression is indispensable to philosophy, and that the author’s mode of employing these words unfits them for the purpose for which they are needed, and for which they are well adapted. I fear, however, that I have rarely succeeded in associating the words with their precise meaning, anywhere but in my own writings. The word Connote, not unfrequently meets us of late in philosophical speculations, but almost always in a sense more lax than the laxest in which it is employed in the Analysis, meaning no more than to imply. To such an extent is this the case, that able thinkers and writers do not always even confine the expression to names, but actually speak of Things as connoting whatever, in their opinion, the existence of the Things implies or presupposes. Ed.]
In using these connotative names, it is often highly convenient to drop the connotation; that is, to leave out the connoted cluster.
A mark is needed, to shew when it is meant that the connotation is dropped. A slight mark put upon the connotative term answers the purpose; and shews when it is not meant that anything should be connoted. In regard to the word black, for example, we merely annex to it the syllable ness; and it is immediately indicated that all connotation is dropped: so, in sweet ness; hardness; dryness; lightness. The new words, so formed, are the words which have been denominated ABSTRACT; as the connotative terms from which they are formed have been denominated CONCRETE; and, as these terms are in frequent use, it is necessary that the meaning of them should be well remembered.
It is now also manifest what is the real nature of ABSTRACT terms; a subject which has in general presented such an appearance of mystery. They are simply the CONCRETE terms with, the connotation dropped. And this has in it, surely, no mystery at all. (83)
[83 After having said that a concrete general name notes an attribute, that this, one of the sensations in a cluster, and connotes the objects which have the attribute, i.e. the clusters of which that sensation forms a part; the author proceeds to say that an abstract name is the concrete name with the connotation dropped.
This seems a very indirect and circuitous mode of making us understand what an abstract name signifies. Instead of aiming directly at the mark, it goes round it. It tells us that one name signifies a part of what another name signifies, leaving us to infer what part. A connotative name with the connotation dropped, is a phrase requiring to be completed by specifying what is the portion of signification left. The concrete name with its connotation signifies an attribute, and also the objects which have the attribute. We are now instructed to drop the latter half of the signification, the objects. What then remains? The attribute. Why not then say at once that the abstract name is the name of the attribute? Why tell us that x is a plus b with b dropped, when it was as easy to tell us that x is a?
The noticeable thing however is that if a stands merely for the sensation, x really is a little more than a: the connotation (in the author’s sense of the term) of the concrete name is not wholly dropped in the abstract name. The term black ness, and every other abstract term, includes in its signification the existence of a black object, though without declaring what it is. That is indeed the distinction between the name of an attribute, and the name of a kind or type of sensation. Names of sensations by themselves are not abstract but concrete names. They mark the type of the sensation, but they do not mark it as emanating from any object. “The sensation of black” is a concrete name, which expresses the sensation apart from all reference to an object. “Blackness” expresses the same sensation with reference to an object, by which the sensation is supposed to be excited. Abstract names thus still retain a limited amount of connotation in both the author’s senses of the term – the vaguer and the more specific sense. It is only in the sense to which I am anxious to restrict the term, that any abstract name is without connotation.
An abstract name, then, may be defined as the name of an attribute; and, in the ultimate analysis, as the name of one or more of the sensations of a cluster; not by themselves, but considered as part of any or all of the various clusters, into which that type of sensations enters as a component part. Ed.]
It hence, also, appears that there can be no ABSTRACT term without an implied CONCRETE, though cases are not wanting, in which there is much occasion for the ABSTRACT term but not much for the CONCRETE; in which, therefore, the concrete is not in use, or is supplied by another form of expression.
In irregular and capricious languages, as our own, the dropping of the connotation of the concrete terms is not marked in a uniform manner; and this requires some illustration. Thus, heavy is a concrete term, and we shew the dropping of the connotation, by the same mark as in the instances above, saying heaviness; but we have another term which is exactly the equivalent of heaviness, and frequently used as the abstract of heavy; that is, weight. Friend is a concrete, connotative term, in the substantive form. Its connotation is dropped by another mark, the syllable ship; thus, friendship; in like manner, generalship; brothership; cousinship. The syllable age is another of the marks we use for the same purpose; pilotage, parsonage, stowage.
Among concrete connotative words, we have already had full opportunity of observing that verbs constitute a principal class. Those words all NOTE some motion or action and CONNOTE an actor. There is the same frequency of occasion to leave out the connotation in the case of this class of connotative words, as in other classes. Accordingly ABSTRACT terms are formed from them, as from the connotative adjectives and substantives. The infinitive mood is such an abstract term; with this peculiarity, that, though it leaves out the con notation of the actor, it retains the connotation of time. (84) It is convenient, however, to have abstract terms from the verbs, which leave out also the connotation of time; such are the substantive amor from amo, timor from timeo, and so on.
[84 The infinitive mood does not always express time. At least, it often expresses it aoristically, without distinction of tense. “To love” is as abstract a name as “love,” “to fear,” as “fear”: they are applied equally to past, present, and future. The infinitives of the past and future, as amavisse, amaturus esse, do, however, include in their signification a particular time. Ed.]
Verbs have not only an active but a passive form In the passive form, it is not the action, but the bearing of the action, which is NOTED; and not the actor, but the bearer of the action, that is CONNOTED. In this case, also, there is not less frequent occasion to drop the connotation. By the simple contrivance of a slight alteration in the connotative term, the important circumstance of dropping the connotation is marked. In the case of the passive as the active form of verbs, the infinitive mood drops the connotation of the person, but retains that of the time. Other abstract terms, formed from the passive voice, leave out the connotation both of person and time. Thus from legor, there is lectio; from optor, optatio; from dicor, dictio; and so on.
It is to be remarked that the Latin mode of forming abstract terms from verbs, by the termination “tio,” has been adopted to a great extent in English. A large proportion of our abstract terms are thus distinguished; as action, association, imagination, navigation, mensuration, friction, motion, station, faction, legislation, corruption, and many others.
It is also of extreme importance to mark a great defect and imperfection, in this respect, of the Latin language. Such words as lectio, dictio, actio, are derived with equal readiness either from the supine, lectum, dictum, actum; or from the participle, lectus, dictus, actus. The supine is active, the participle, passive. From this circumstance probably it is, that these abstract terms in the Latin language possess both the active and passive signification; and by this most unfortunate ambiguity have proved a fertile source of obscurity and confusion. This defect of the Latin language is the more to be lamented by us, that it has infected our own language; for as we have borrowed from the Latin language a great proportion of our abstract terms, we have transplanted the mischievous equivocation along with them. This ambiguity the Greek language happily avoided: thus it had πραζις and πραγμα the first for the active signification of actio, the latter the passive. (85)
[85 I apprehend that πραγμα is not an abstract but a concrete term, and does not express the attribute of being done, but the thing done – the effect which results from the completed action. Ed.]
Of the abstract terms, of genuine English growth, derived from the concrete names of action, or verbs, the participle of the past tense supplied a great number, merely dropping the adjective, and assuming the substantive form. Thus, weight, a word which we had occasion to notice before, is the participle weighed, with the connotation dropped: stroke is merely struck; the thing struck, the connotation, being left out: thought is the past participle passive of the verb to think, and differs from the participle in no thing, but that the participle, the adjective, has the connotation; the abstract, the substantive, has it not. Whether the concrete, or the abstract, is the term employed, is in such cases always indicated by the context; and, therefore, no particular mark to distinguish them is required.
In our non-inflected language, a facility is afforded in forming a non-connotative from the connotative, in the active voice of verbs; because the connotative word is always distinguished by the presence of the persons of the verb, or that of some part of the auxiliary verb. The same word, therefore, answers for the abstract, as for the concrete; it being of course the abstract, when none of the marks of the concrete are present. Thus the word love, is both the verb or the connotative, and the substantive or the non-connotative; thus also fear, walk, ride, stand, fight, smell, taste, sleep, dream, drink, work, breath, and many others.
We have in English, formed from verbs, a great many abstracts or non-connotatives, which terminate in “th,” as truth, health, dearth, stealth, death, strength. It may be disputed whether these words are derived from one part of the verb or another; but, in all other respects, the nature of them is not doubtful. The third person singular of the present, indicative active, ends in “th;” and, therefore, they may be said to be that part of the verb with the connotation dropped. The termination, however, of the past participle is “d,” and we know that “th” and “d,” are the same letter under a slight difference of articulation; and, therefore, they may just as well be derived from the past participle, and as often at least as they have a passive signification, no doubt are. Thus the verb trow, to think, has either troweth, or trowed; from one of which, but more likely from the last, we have truth: the verb to heal, has either healeth, or healed; from one of which, but more likely the last, we have health: the verb to string has stringeth, or stringed; from one of which we have strength; thus from dieth, or died, death; from stealeth, or stealed, stealth; mirth in the same manner, from a verb now out of use; so heighth, length, breadth. (86)
[86 The abstracts in -th belong to a very early stage of the language. We cannot now form words like health, truth, as we can abstracts in -ness. As in the case of adjectives in -en (wooden), and of preterites and participles like fell, fallen, that particular part of the vital energy of the language that produced them, is dead – ossified, as it were; and we cannot exemplify their formation by any process now going on. To account for many of them, we must suppose them formed from roots different from any now existing as separate words – roots from which the corresponding verbs and adjectives that we are acquainted with have been themselves derived by augmentation or other change. This being the case, it is impossible to say with certainty whether the immediate root of any particular abstract in -th was a verb, a noun, or an adjective; and, indeed, the question need hardly be raised, since a primitive root was of the nature of all three.
The structure of these derivatives is better seen in some of the other Teutonic dialects than in the English or the Anglo-Saxon, in which the affix is reduced to a mere consonant. Thus, for Eng. depth the Gothic has diupi-tha; for heigh-th, hauhi-tha. In Old High German the affix -tha becomes -da, and we have heili-da corresponding to Eng. heal-th; strenki-da, to streng-th; besides a great number of analogous forms, such as evi-da, “eternity” (from the same root as ever; compare Lat. aetas for aevitas). In modern German comparatively few of these derivatives survive; and in those that do; the -da of the Old German has passed into -de, as in ge-baer-de, the way of ‘bearing’ oneself, behaviour; equivalent to Latin habi-tus. The modern German equivalents of bread-th, leng-th, are breit-e, Iäng-e; but in some of the popular dialects the older forms breite de, läng-de are still retained; and in Dutch warm-te corresponds to warm-th, and grôt-te is great-ness. When we recollect that th or d in the Germanic languages represents in such cases the t of the Greek and Latin (compare Gr. μέλιτ (ος), honey with Goth, milith; Lat. alter with Eng. other), we cannot help seeing how analogous is the formation of the class of words we are now considering to that of Latin past participles (araa-tus, dic-tus, audi-tus). In the case of those abstracts that seem to come more naturally from an adjective root than from a verb, we can conceive the adjective formed on the analogy of the past participle; just as there are in English adjectives having no possible verbal root, yet simulating past participles; as able-bodi-ed, three-corner -ed. The abstract noun would appear to have been originally distinguished from the participle, or participial adjective, by some additional affix, as in lec-t-io. In Greek and Latin this additional affix very often consisted in a reduplication of the formative element t, as if for the purpose of denoting multitude, generality; as in Greek (νεό-τητ-ος), Latin juven-tut-is, sani-tat-is. It is not impossible that Goth. diupi-tha, O.H.G. heili-da are abbreviations of diupi-tha-th, heili-da-d, just as Lat. sani-tat has dwindled down in modern Ital. to sani-tà.
In a great many words essentially belonging to the same class both in meaning and in mode of formation, the -th has, for the sake of euphony or from other causes, given place to t or d. Thus mood corresponds to Goth, mo-th, and means a motion (Lat. motus) or affection (of the mind); blood, to Goth. blo-th; theft, is in Ang. Sax. theof-th. Mur-ther, from a root akin to Lat. mori; burthen, from the root of to bear, are of similar formation, with additional affixes.
All these considerations would seem to put Horme Tooke’s proposed derivation of these abstracts from the third person singular of the present indicative of the verb, completely out of court. The famous case of truth from troweth is especially absurd. For one thing the Ang. Sax. verb treowan does not mean “to think,” but “to trust,” “rely on,” “believe.” This implies a ground for the trust, and that ground lies in the quality expressed by the adjective, true. Truth has the same relation, logically and etymologically, to true, that dearth has to dear, health to hale. Remarking on the identity in form be tween the Ang. Sax. treow, trust,” “a treaty,” and treow, “a tree” Jacob Grimm suggests that they are radically related, and that the idea common to tree and true is firmness, fixedness. Thus the “true” would be the “firm” the “fixed” – what may be relied on. This view is supported by the analogy of the Lat. robur, which means both an oak and strength. F.]
It would be interesting to give a systematic account of the non-connotatives, derived from English verbs; and this ought to be done; but for the present inquiry it would be an operation misplaced. The nature of the words, and the mode of their signification, is all which here is necessary to be understood.
One grand class of connotative terms is composed of such words as the following: walking, running, flying, reading, striking; and we have seen that, for a very obvious utility, a generical name was invented, the word ACTING, which includes the whole of these specific names; and to which the non- connotative, or abstract term ACTION corresponds. There was equal occasion for a generical name to include all the specific names belonging to the other class of connotative terms; such as coloured, sapid, hard, soft,. hot, cold, and so on. But language has by no means been so happy in a general name for this, as for the other class. The word SUCH, is a connotative term, which includes them all, and indeed the other class along with them; for when we apply the word SUCH to any thing, we comprehend under it all the ideas of which the cluster is composed. But this is not all which is included under the word such. It is a relative term, and always connotes so much of the meaning of some other term. When we call a thing such, it is always understood that it is such as some other thing. Thus we say, John is such as James. Corresponding with our “such as,” the Latins had tails qualis. If we could suppose qualis to have been used without any connotation of talis, qualis would have been such a word as the occasion which we are now considering would have required. The Latins did not use qualis, in this sense, as a general concrete, including all the other names of the properties of objects other than actions. But they made from it, as if used in that very sense, a non-connotative or abstract term, the word QUALITY, which answers the same purpose with regard to both classes, as action does to one of them. That is to say; it is a very general non-connotative term, including under it the non-connotatives or abstracts of hot, cold, hard, soft, long, short; and not only of all other words of that description, but of acting, and its subordinates also.
Quantus, is another concrete which has a double connotation like qualis. It connotes not only the substantive with which it agrees, but also, being a relative, the term tantus, which is its correlate. By dropping both connotations, the abstract QUANTITY is made; a general term, including under it the abstracts of all the names by which the modifications of greater and less are denominated; as large, small, a mile long, an inch thick, a handful, a ton, and so on.
Much remains, beside what is here stated, of the full explanation of the mode in which talis qualis, tantus quantum, are made conducive to the great purposes of marking. But this must be reserved till we come to treat of RELATIVE TERMS, in general.
We have previously observed, that one of the purposes for which we abstract, or sunder the parts of a complex idea, marked by a general name, is, to form those adjectives, or connotative terms, which, denoting differences, enable us to form, and to name, subordinate classes. We now come to the next of the great purposes to which abstraction is subservient, and it is one to which the whole of our attention is due.
Of all the things in which we are interested, that is, on which our happiness and misery depend, meaning here by things, both objects and events, the most important by far are the successions of objects; in other words, the effects which they produce. In reality, objects are interesting to us, solely on account of the effects which they produce, either on ourselves, or on other objects.
But an observation of the greatest importance readily occurs; that of any cluster, composing our idea of an object, the effects or consequents depend, in general, more upon one part of it than another. If a stone is hot, it has certain effects or consequences; if heavy, it has others, and so on. It is of great importance to us, in respect to those successions, to be able to mark discriminately the real antecedent; not the antecedent combined with a number of things with which the consequent has nothing to do. I observe, that other objects, as iron, lead, gold, produce similar effects with stone; as often as the name hot can, in like manner, be predicated of them. In the several clusters therefore, hot stone, hot iron, hot gold, hot lead, there is a portion, the same in all, with which, and not with the rest, the effects which I am contemplating are connected. This part is marked by the word hot; which word, however, in the case of each cluster, connotes also the other parts of the cluster. It appears at once, how much convenience there must be in dropping the connotation, and obtaining a word which, in each of those cases, shall mark exclusively that part of the cluster on which the effect depends. This is accomplished by the abstract or non-connotative terms, heat, and weight.
Certain alterations, also, are observed in those parts of clusters on which such and such effects depend; which alterations make corresponding alterations in the effects, though no other alteration is observable, in the cluster, to which such parts belong. Thus, if a stone is more or less hot, the effects or successions are not the same; so of iron, so of lead; but the same alteration in the same part of each of those clusters, is followed by the same effects. It is true, that we know nothing of the alteration in the cause, but by the alteration in the effects; for we only say that a stone is hotter, because it produces such other effects, either in our sensations immediately, or in the sensations we receive from other objects. It is, however, obvious that we have urgent use for the means of marking, not only the alterations in the effects, but the alterations in the antecedents. This we do, by supposing the alterations to be those of increase and diminution, and marking them by the distinction of lower and higher degrees. But, for this purpose, it is obvious that we must have a term which is not connotative; because we suppose no alteration in any part of the cluster but that which is not connoted; thus we can say, with sufficient precision, that a greater or less degree of heat produces such and such effects; but we cannot say, that a greater or less degree of hot stone, of hot iron, of hot any thing else, produces these effects.
This then, is another use, and evidently a most important use, of abstract, non-connotative terms. They enable us to mark, with more precision, those successions, in which our good and evil is wholly contained.
This also enables us to understand, what it is which recommends such and such aggregates, and not others, for classification. Those successions of objects, in which we are interested, determine the classifications which we form of them.
Some successions are found to depend upon the clusters, called objects, all taken together. Thus a tree, a man, a stone, are the antecedents of certain consequents, as such; and not on account of any particular part of the cluster.
Other consequents depend not upon the whole of the cluster, but upon some particular part: thus a tall tree, produces certain effects, which a tree not tall, cannot produce; a strong man, produces certain effects, which a man not strong cannot produce. When these consequents are so important, as to deserve particular attention, they and their antecedents must be marked. For this purpose, are employed the connotative terms marking differences. These terms enable us to group the clusters containing those antecedents into a sub-class; and NON-CONNOTATIVE or ABSTRACT terms, derived from them, enable us to speak separately of that part of the cluster which we have to mark as the precise antecedent of the consequent which is engaging our attention.
It is presumed, that these illustrations will suffice, to enable the reader to discern the real marking power of abstract terms, and also to perceive the mode of their formation.