"Just thus it is with our ideas, which are as it were the pictures of things."

— Locke, John (1632-1704)


Place of Publication
London
Date
1690, 1694, 1695, 1700, 1706
Metaphor
"Just thus it is with our ideas, which are as it were the pictures of things."
Metaphor in Context
Secondly, Another fault which makes our ideas confused, is, when though the particulars that make up any idea are in number enough, yet they are so jumbled together, that it is not easily discernible, whether it more belongs to the name that is given it, than to any other. There is nothing properer to make us conceive this confusion than a sort of pictures usually shewn as surprising pieces of art, wherein the colours, as they are laid by the pencil on the table itself, mark out very odd and unusual figures, and have no discernible order in their position. This draught, thus made up of parts wherein no symmetry nor order appears, is in itself no more a confused thing, than the picture of a cloudy sky; wherein though there be as little order of colours or figures to be found, yet nobody thinks it a confused picture. What is it then that makes it be thought confused, since the want of symmetry does not? as it is plain it does not; for another draught made, barely in imitation of this, could not be called confused. I answer, that which makes it be thought confused, is, the applying it to some name, to which it does no more discernibly belong, than to some other: V.g. When it is said to be the picture of a man, or Caesar, than any one with reason counts it confused: Because it is not discernible in that state, to belong more to the name man, or Caesar, than to the name baboon, or Pompey; which are supposed to stand for different ideas from those signified by man, or Caesar. But when a cylindrical mirrour, placed right, hath reduced those irregular lines on the table into their due order and proportion, then the confusion ceases, and the eye presently sees that it is a man, or Caesar, i.e. that it belongs to those names; and that it is sufficiently distinguishable from a baboon, or Pompey, i.e. from the ideas signified by those names. Just thus it is with our ideas, which are as it were the pictures of things. No one of these mental draughts, however the parts are put together, can be called confused (for they are plainly discernible as they are) till it be ranked under some ordinary name, to which it cannot be discerned to belong, any more than it does to some other name of an allowed different signification.
Provenance
Searching in Pastmasters for "as it were"
Citation
Locke began composition as early as 1671 (Drafts A and B).

I find over 25 entries in the ESTC (1690, 1694, 1695, 1700, 1706, 1710, 1715, 1721, 1726, 1731, 1735, 1741, 1748, 1753, 1759, 1760, 1765, 1768, 1775, 1777, 1786, 1788, 1793, 1795, 1796, 1798). See also the many abridgements issued in the period.

First published as An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. In Four Books. (London: Printed by Eliz. Holt, for Thomas Basset, at the George in Fleetstreet, near St. Dunstan's Church, 1690). <Link to EEBO><EEBO-TCP>

Searching first in a Past Masters edition based on the 12th Edition of Locke's Works and proofread against the 1959 Fraser edition. More recent searches in EEBO-TCP.

Reading John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter Nidditch (Oxford, Oxford UP, 1975)--against which I have checked the text searched in Past Masters. Note, Nidditch's text is based on 4th ed. of 1700.
Theme
As it Were
Date of Entry
09/27/2006

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.