"The floating of other mens Opinions in our brains, makes us not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true."

— Locke, John (1632-1704)

Place of Publication
1690, 1694, 1695, 1700, 1706
"The floating of other mens Opinions in our brains, makes us not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true."
Metaphor in Context
ยง. 22. What censure, doubting thus of innate Principles, may deserve from Men who will be apt to call it, Pulling up the old foundation of Knowledge and Certainty, I cannot tell: I perswade my self, at least, that the way I have pursued, being conformable to Truth, lays those foundations surer. This I am certain, I have not made it my business, either to quit, or follow, any Authority in the ensuing Discourse: Truth has been my only aim; and where-ever that has appeared to lead, my Thoughts have impartially followed, without minding, whether the footsteps of any other lay that way, or no. Not that I want a due respect to other Mens Opinions; but after all, the greatest reverence is due to Truth; and, I hope, it will not be thought arrogance, to say, That, perhaps, we should make greater progress in the discovery of rational and contemplative Knowledge, if we sought it in the Fountain, in the consideration of Things themselves; and made use rather of our own Thoughts, than other Mens to find it: For, I think, we may as rationally hope to see with other Mens Eyes, as to know by other Mens Understandings. So much as we our selves consider and comprehend of Truth and Reason, so much we possess of real and true Knowledge. The floating of other mens Opinions in our brains, makes us not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true. What in them was Science, is in us but Opiniatrity, whilst we give up our Assent only to reverend Names, and do not, as they did, employ our own Reason to understand those Truths, which gave them reputation. Aristotle was certainly a knowing Man, but no body ever thought him so, because he blindly embraced, and confidently vented the Opinions of another. And if the taking up of another's Principles, without examining them, made not him a Philosopher, I suppose it can make no body else so. In the Sciences, every one has so much as he really knows and comprehends: What he believes only, and takes upon trust, are but shreads; which however well in the whole piece, make no considerable addition to his stock, who gathers them. Such borrowed Wealth, like Fairy-money, though it were Gold in the hand from which he received it, will be but Leaves and Dust when it comes to use. (I.iv.22, pp. 35-36)
Searching in EEBO-TCP
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.
Date of Entry

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