"Now all these Expressions [concerning natural conscience] seem to signifie clear and distinct Representations, as Pictures or Sculptures represent their Originals."

— Burnet, Thomas (c.1635-1715)

Place of Publication
Printed for M. Wotton
"Now all these Expressions [concerning natural conscience] seem to signifie clear and distinct Representations, as Pictures or Sculptures represent their Originals."
Metaphor in Context
So much for Natural Religion. We return now to Natural Conscience, and to what you call Practical Principles; whereof you discourse amply in the aforemention'd Chapter. As to that Controversie about Natural Principles, I think it may turn either way, according as they understand the Terms of the Question; which, in my mind, you have not fairly represented. If by Principles, you understand distinct Knowledge, that is, distinct Idea's, and distinct Propositions; we do not hold innate Principles in that sense. Yet so you seem to represent them and their Idea's; and you call them Characters, fair Characters, indeleble Characters, stampt, imprinted, engraven in the Mind; for all those Expressions you use upon that occasion. Now all these Expressions seem to signifie clear and distinct Representations, as Pictures or Sculptures represent their Originals. Does any one assert that there are such express Ideas's, express Propositions in the Mind of Man, and an express discernment of their connexion and inconnexion before the use of Reason, or as much before it as after it? I say, as much before it as after it; for the fullest, clearest, and most distinct Knowledge that we have after the use of Reason, cannot be more amply express'd, than to say it is imprinted or engraven upon the Mind, in fair and indeleble Characters. You exaggerate the matter, and set the question at what height you please, that you may have the fairer mark to shoot at. If you had reflected upon that common distinction of Knowledge, as clear or obscure, general or particular, distinct or indistinct, whereof we have daily Instances in the Life of Man, you might have represented more softly, and more easily conceiv'd those Natural Impressions: which indeed compar'd with perfect Knowledge, are but general, obscure, and indistinct Notices, and yet sufficient for the Purposes to which they are design'd. When a Child feels the difference of bitter and sweet, he knows and understands that difference in some kind degree; for it hath its Consequences, and becomes a Principle of Action to him. Now, whether you please to call this Principle, Knowledge, or Sense, or Instinct, or by any other Name, it still hath the effect of Knowledge of some sort or other; and that before this Child hath the Name of Bitter or Sweet, Pleasant or Unpleasant: much less can he define what either of them is. We suppose these original Impressions to be like Gold in the Oar, that may be refin'd; or rough Diamonds, that by polishing, receive a further lustre: or, to come nearer to your similitude, like Monograms or Sketches, that want their full Lines and Colours to compleat them; and yet one may discern what or whom they are made to represent, though imperfectly drawn. I say this only by the bye, that the Question may be better stated; for my Design, at present, is only to speak of Practical Principles, or what I call Natural Conscience, in reference to the distinction of Moral Good and Evil. Accordingly, I understand by Natural Conscience, a Natural Sagacity to distinguish Good and Evil, or a different perception and sense of them, with a different affection of the Mind arising from it; and this so immediate as to prevent and anticipate all External Laws, and all Ratiocination. And when I say Moral Good and Evil, I mean it in contradistinction to Natural Good and Evil, Pleasure and Pain, Conveniences and Inconveniences, which are things of another order and character: This inward Sense we speak of, is simple and irrespective as to those Natural Evils or Goods, They are not its proper Objects; They may be frequently in conjunction, but not necessarily. By these Rules and Marks, I think it appears sufficiently what I mean by Natural Conscience, and I wish you would as freely and fully tell us your Notion of it, so far as it is opposite or different from this; that by a just state of the Question, we might come more easily to the discovery of Truth. For there are some Questions that are harder to state clearly and distinctly, than to resolve, when so stated.
(pp. 7-8)
Reading Burnet's three Remarks
See Third Remarks Upon an Essay Concerning Humane Understanding in a Letter Address'd to the Author. (London: Printed for M. Wotton, 1699). <Link to EEBO-TCP>

Reading Burnet, Thomas; Locke, John, and Porter, Noah. Remarks Upon an Essay Concerning Humane Understanding: Five Tracts. (Garland Publishing, Inc. New York and London, 1984).
Lockean Philosophy
Date of Entry

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