Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
To Mr. Molyneux, 1693
By John Locke (16321704)
From Familiar Letters
OATES, 23rd August 1693.
SIRYours of 12th August, which I received last night, eased me of a great deal of pain, your silence had for some time put me in; for you must allow me to be concerned for your health, as for a friend that I could not think in danger, or a disease, without a concern and trouble suitable to that great esteem and love I have for you. But you have made me amends plentifully, by the length and kindness, and let me add too, the freedom of your letter. For the approbation you so largely give to my book, is the more welcome to me, and gives me the better opinion of my method, because it has joined with it your exception to one rule of it; which I am apt to think you yourself, upon second thoughts, will have removed before I say anything to your objections. It confirms to me that you are the good-natured man I took you for; and I do not at all wonder that the affection of a kind father should startle at it at first reading, and think it very severe that children should not be suffered to express their desires; for so you seem to understand me. And such a restraint, you fear, would be apt to mope them, and hinder their diversion. But if you please to look upon the place, and observe my drift, you will find that they should not be indulged, or complied with, in anything, their conceits have made a want to them, as necessary to be supplied. What you say, that children would be moped for want of diversion and recreation, or else we must have those about them study nothing all day but how to find employment for them; and how this would rack the invention of any man living, you leave me to judge, seems to intimate, as if you understood that children should do nothing but by the prescription of their parents or tutors, chalking out each action of the whole day in train to them. I hope my words express no such thing; for it is quite contrary to my sense, and I think would be useless tyranny in their governors, and certain ruin to the children. I am so much for recreation, that I would, as much as possible, have all they do be made so. I think recreation as necessary to them as their food, and that nothing can be recreation which does not delight. This, I think, I have so expressed; and when you have put that together, judge whether I would not have them have the greatest part of their time left to them, without restraint, to divert themselves any way they think best, so it be free from vicious actions, or such as may introduce vicious habits. And therefore, if they should ask to play, it could be no more interpreted a want of fancy, than if they asked for victuals when hungry; though, where the matter is well ordered, they will never need to do that. For when they have either done what their governor thinks enough, in any application to what is usually made their business, or are perceived to be tired with it, they should of course be dismissed to their innocent diversions, without ever being put to ask for it. So that I am for the full liberty of diversion as much as you can be; and, upon a second perusal of my book, I do not doubt but that you will find me so. But, being allowed that as one of their natural wants, they should not yet be permitted to let loose their desires in importunities for what they fancy. Children are very apt to covet what they see those above them in age have or do, to have or do the like; especially if it be their elder brothers and sisters. Does one go abroad? They, if you once allow it them, will be impatient for the like, and think themselves ill dealt with, if they have it not. This, being indulged when they are little, grows up with their age, and with that enlarges itself to things of greater consequence, and has ruined more families than one in the world. This should be suppressed in its very first rise, and the desires you would not have encouraged, you should not permit to be spoken, which is the best way for them to silence them to themselves. Children should, by constant use, learn to be very modest in owning their desires; and careful not to ask anything of their parents but what they have reason to think their parents will approve of. And a reprimand upon their ill-bearing a refusal comes too late, the fault is committed and allowed, and if you allow them to ask, you can scarce think it strange they should be troubled to be denied; so that you suffer them to engage themselves in the disorder, and then think the fittest time for a cure, and I think the surest and easiest way is prevention. For we must take the same nature to be in children that is in grown men; and how often do we find men take ill to be denied what they would not have been concerned for, if they had not asked? But I shall not enlarge any further in this, believing you and I shall agree in the matter; and indeed it is very hard, and almost impossible, to give general rules of education, when there is scarce any one child which, in some cases, should not be treated differently from another. All that we can do in general is only to show what parents and tutors should aim at, and leave to them the ordering of particular circumstances as the case shall require.
One thing give me leave to be importunate with you about: you say, your son is not very strong; to make him strong you must use him hardly as I have directed, but you must be sure to do it by very insensible degrees, and begin an hardship you would bring him to only in the spring. This is all the caution needs be used. I have an example of it in the house I live in, where the only son of a very tender mother was almost destroyed by a too tender keeping. He is now, by a contrary usage, come to bear wind and weather, and wet in his feet; and the cough which threatened him, under that warm and cautious management, has left him, and is now no longer his parents constant apprehension, as it was.
I am of your mind as to shorthand. I myself learned it since I was a man, but had forgot to put it in when I wrote, as I have, I doubt not, overseen a thousand other things which might have been said on this subject. But it was only, at first, a short scheme for a friend, and is published to excite others to treat it more fully.
My essay is now very near ready for another edition; and upon review of my alterations, concerning what determines the will, in my cool thoughts, I am apt to think them to be right, as far as my thoughts can reach in so nice a point, and in short is this. Liberty is a power to act, or not to act, accordingly as the mind directs. A power to direct the operative faculties to motion or rest in particular instances, is that which we call the will. That which in the train of our voluntary actions determines the will to any change of operation, is some present uneasiness, which is, or at least is always accompanied with that of desire. Desire is always moved by evil to fly it; because a total freedom from pain always makes a necessary part of our happiness. But every good, nay every greater good, does not constantly move desire, because it may not make, or may not be taken to make, any necessary part of our happiness, for all that we desire is only to be happy. But though this general desire of happiness operates constantly and invariably in us; yet the satisfaction of any particular desire, can be suspended from determining the will to any subservient action, till we have maturely examined, whether the particular apparent good we then desire, make a part of our real happiness, or be consistent, or inconsistent with it. The result of our judgment, upon examination, is what ultimately determines the man, who could not be free, if his will were determined by anything but his own desire, guided by his own judgment. This, in short, is what I think of this matter; I desire you to examine it in your own thoughts. I think I have so well made out the several particulars, where I treat them at large, that they have convinced some I have shown them to here who were of another mind; and therefore how much soever contrary to the received opinion, I think I may publish them, but I would first have your judicious and free thoughts, which I much rely on; for you love truth for itself, and me so well, as to tell it me without disguise.
You will herewith receive a new chapter Of identity and diversity, which, having written only at your instance, it is fit you should see and judge of, before it goes to the press. Pray send me your opinion of every part of it. You need not send back the papers, but your remarks on the paragraphs you shall think fit; for I have a copy here.
You desired me to enlarge more particularly about eternal verities, which, to obey you, I set about; but, upon examination, find all general truths are eternal verities, and so there is no entering into particulars; though, by mistake, some men have selected some, as if they alone were eternal verities. I never, but with regret, reflect on the distance you are from meand am, sir, your most humble servant,