An Essay Concerning Human Understanding By John Locke Book II: Of Ideas, Chapters 12-33

10. Their Parts inseparable.

Expansion and duration have this further agreement, that, though they are both considered by us as having parts, yet their parts are not separable one from another, no not even in thought: though the parts of bodies from whence we take our MEASURE of the one; and the parts of motion, or rather the succession of ideas in our minds, from whence we take the MEASURE of the other, may be interrupted and separated; as the one is often by rest, and the other is by sleep, which we call rest too.

11. Duration is as a Line, Expansion as a Solid.

But there is this manifest difference between them, — That the ideas of length which we have of expansion are turned every way, and so make figure, and breadth, and thickness; but duration is but as it were the length of one straight line, extended in infinitum, not capable of multiplicity, variation, or figure; but is one common measure of all existence whatsoever, wherein all things, whilst they exist, equally partake. For this present moment is common to all things that are now in being, and equally comprehends that part of their existence, as much as if they were all but one single being; and we may truly say, they all exist in the SAME moment of time. Whether angels and spirits have any analogy to this, in respect to expansion, is beyond my comprehension: and perhaps for us, who have understandings and comprehensions suited to our own preservation, and the ends of our own being, but not to the reality and extent of all other beings, it is near as hard to conceive any existence, or to have an idea of any real being, with a perfect negation of all manner of expansion, as it is to have the idea of any real existence with a perfect negation of all manner of duration. And therefore, what spirits have to do with space, or how they communicate in it, we know not. All that we know is, that bodies do each singly possess its proper portion of it, according to the extent of solid parts; and thereby exclude all other bodies from having any share in that particular portion of space, whilst it remains there.

12. Duration has never two Parts together, Expansion altogether.

DURATION, and TIME which is a part of it, is the idea we have of PERISHING distance, of which no two parts exist together, but follow each other in succession; an EXPANSION is the idea of LASTING distance, all whose parts exist together and are not capable of succession. And therefore, though we cannot conceive any duration without succession, nor can put it together in our thoughts that any being does NOW exist to-morrow, or possess at once more than the present moment of duration; yet we can conceive the eternal duration of the Almighty far different from that of man, or any other finite being. Because man comprehends not in his knowledge or power all past and future things: his thoughts are but of yesterday, and he knows not what to-morrow will bring forth. What is once past he can never recal; and what is yet to come he cannot make present. What I say of man, I say of all finite beings; who, though they may far exceed man in knowledge and power, yet are no more than the meanest creature, in comparison with God himself. Finite or any magnitude holds not any proportion to infinite. God's infinite duration, being accompanied with infinite knowledge and infinite power, he sees all things, past and to come; and they are no more distant from his knowledge, no further removed from his sight, than the present: they all lie under the same view: and there is nothing which he cannot make exist each moment he pleases. For the existence of all things, depending upon his good pleasure, all things exist every moment that he thinks fit to have them exist. To conclude: expansion and duration do mutually embrace and comprehend each other; every part of space being in every part of duration, and every part of duration in every part of expansion. Such a combination of two distinct ideas is, I suppose, scarce to be found in all that great variety we do or can conceive, and may afford matter to further speculation.

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