"According to Mr. Locke, the soul is a mere rasa tabula, an empty recipient, a mechanical blank."

— Taylor, Thomas (1758-1835)

Place of Publication
Printed for the author
"According to Mr. Locke, the soul is a mere rasa tabula, an empty recipient, a mechanical blank."
Metaphor in Context
According to Mr. Locke, the soul is a mere rasa tabula, an empty recipient, a mechanical blank. According to Plato, she is an ever-written tablet, a plenitude of forms, a vital and intellectual energy. On the former system, she is on a level with the most degraded natures, the receptacle of material species, and the spectator of delusion and non-entity. Hence, her energies are nothing but somnolent perceptions, and encumbered cogitations; of all her knowledge terminated in sense, and her science in passion. Like a man between sleeping and waking, her visions are turbid and confused, and the phantoms of a material night, continually glide before her drowsy eye. But on the latter system, the soul is the connecting medium of an intelligible and sensible nature, the bright repository of all middle forms, and the vigilant eye of all cogitative reasons. Hence she is capable of rousing herself from the sleep of a corporeal life, and emerging from this dark Cimmerian land, into the regions of light and reality. At first, indeed, before she is excited by science, she is oppressed with lethargy, and clouded with oblivion; but in proportion as learning and enquiry stimulate her dormant powers, she wakens from the dreams of ignorance, and opens her eye to the irradiations of wis- [end page xxxi] dom. On Mr. Locke's system, the principles of science and sense are the same, for the energies of both originate from material forms, on which they are continually employed. Hence, science is subject to the flowing and perishable nature of particulars; and if body and its attributes were destroyed, would be nothing but a name. But on the system of Plato, they differ as much as delusions and reality; for here the vital, permanent, and lucid nature of ideas is the fountain of science; and the inert, unstable, and obscure nature of sensible objects, the source of sensation. On Mr. Locke's system, body may be modified into thought, and become an intelligent creature; it may be subtilized into life, and shrink, by its exility, into intellect. On that of Plato, body can never alter its nature by modification, however, it may be rarefied and refined, varied by the transposition of its part, or tortured by the hand of experiment. In short, the two systems may be aptly represented by the two sections of a line, in Plato's Republic. In the ancient, you have truth itself, and whatever participates of the brightest evidence and reality: in the modern, ignorance, and whatever belongs to obscurity and shadow. The former fills the soul with intelligible light, breaks her lethargic fetters, and elevates her to the principle of things; the latter clouds the intellectual eye of the soul, by increasing her oblivion, strengthens her corporeal bands, and hurries her downwards into the dark labyrinths of matter.
(pp. xxxi-xxxii)
Searching "tabula rasa" in ECCO
2 entries in ESTC (1788, 1792).

The Philosophical and Mathematical Commentaries of Proclus; Surnamed, Plato’s Successor, on the First Book of Euclid’s Elements. And His Life by Marinus. Translated from the Greek. With a Preliminary Dissertation on the Platonic Doctrine of Ideas, &C. by Thomas Taylor. (London: Printed for the author: and sold by T. Payne and Son; B. White and Son; L. Davis; J. Robson; T. Cadell; Leigh and Co. G. Nicol; R. Faulder; and T. and J. Egerton, 1788-89). <Link to ESTC>
Blank Slate; Lockean Philosophy
Date of Entry

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