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Locke And Berkeley Collected Notes

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Locke on Essence Locke writes about knowledge against the backdrop of the sixteenth-century rediscovery of Pyrrhonian scepticism of Sextus Empiricus - rather than the Hobbesian approach of asserting that what is required for knowledge is the appropriate method, Locke begins by investigating our capacity for knowledge, and, should we find that limitations exist upon our capacity for knowledge, concerning ourselves chiefly with those elements of the natural world that fall within our capacity. What we can know, for Locke, is just what we need to know!
All ideas that exist in our mind come from experience. Knowledge is 'ultimately' derived from the senses, but not necessarily directly - for example, our senses cannot tell us that the sum of all the parts equal the whole, or that all numbers are even or odd, but it is our senses that give us the ideas of 'part', 'whole', 'number', 'evenness' and 'oddness', which our reason then considers, and from this consideration we derive our knowledge of these facts. Experience gives us the ideas which form the material for knowledge. By this method, Locke can incorporate those kinds of ideas which others argued to be innate into his empiricism. Experience is a source of ideas in two ways: by sensation, and the interaction of our senses with the world, and by reflection, the operation of our minds upon these ideas acquired by sensation. All our ideas thus come from experience, and we can have ideas of things we have not experienced, like a centaur, or infinity, or God, by virtue of 'complex' ideas assembled in the mind out of component 'simple' ideas, which come from our senses. Locke: Knowledge is 'the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of any of our ideas'. For example, I know that any number is either even or odd because of the connections between the ideas that I hold of 'number', 'evenness' and 'oddness', and by perceiving these ideas and their relation, I come to have knowledge. Locke's account of knowledge relies upon the perception of a connection between ideas, but the fact that such connections are not always observable seems to discount much that we might ordinarily count as knowledge. For example, our knowledge that iron rusts when left out in the rain relies upon observation, experience and perhaps informal experiment, not the intellectual perception of any connection between ideas. Locke is essentially talking about two kinds of knowledge - roughly what we would call a priori (knowledge, for Locke) and a posteriori (opinion or belief, for Locke) knowledge. Locke refers to 'opinion' and 'experimental knowledge' as the same thing. Scientia Locke rejects the Scholastics' notion of 'Scientia', which was notion of a secure knowledge based upon the understanding of the 'true essence' of a thing, in which truth was considered highly epistemic and in which 'knowledge entailed certainty'. Locke asserted that knowledge based upon the operation of 'pure reason' and 'first principles' was worthless, since our minds are not fitted out to access these 'essences', even if they do exist. Substance Locke argued that we cannot have a genuine 'idea' of substance, since it is not something we may acquire by reason or experience. Rather, in the absence of a clear 'idea', the notion of 'substance' asserts the existence of some thing behind or anterior to what we can experience, that determines what we experience in particulars. But what is substance? For Locke, substance is something neither perceived nor correctly 'inferred', but is simply a posited 'something, we know not what'. Substance is the 'explanatory' (real) level of a particular thing, as contrasted against the 'observable' (nominal) level. The idea of substance we infer from the observable effects, as we do with the internal workings of a watch, given that it observably functions and keeps time. Locke intended his account of substance to echo the traditional logical account of substance as substratum to qualities - that to which qualities are affixed:

a) each individual object has a substratum b) this substratum is conceived of indirectly as the support to the observable powers and qualities of the object c) these qualities inhere to the substratum, such that they cannot exist apart form it, but the substratum subsists of itself, existing or inhering within nothing else d) this relationship of inhering between the qualities and the substratum is a logical one, not a causal one - when the qualities of an object change, nothing about the substratum itself changes, since the substratum is differentiated from the real essence. Nominal essence = quid nominis = 'whatness of the name'. For example, 'hobbit' has a nominal essence, since it is meaningful, and does describe something. We cannot know the real nature of a hobbit, since it is not a real thing. For Locke, nominal essence is the 'abstract general idea'. Real essence = quid rei = 'whatness of the thing'. This is what is possessed by definitions of actual extant things, such as 'man'. We can know both what this means in a nominal sense and in a real sense. For Locke, real essence is that which actually does for the nature, but it is not objective. It is that which gives rise to nominal essences, by virtue of our desire to classify, and to group. Locke: Essay III.iii.15: "Several significations of the word "essence." But since the essences of things are thought by some (and not without reason) to be wholly unknown, it may not be amiss to consider the several significations of the word essence. Real essences. First, Essence may be taken for the very being of anything, whereby it is what it is. And thus the real internal, but generally (in substances) unknown constitution of things, whereon their discoverable qualities depend, may be called their essence. This is the proper original signification of the word, as is evident from the formation of it; essentia, in its primary notation, signifying properly, being. And in this sense it is still used, when we speak of the essence of particular things, without giving them any name. Nominal essences. Secondly, The learning and disputes of the schools having been much busied about genus and species, the word essence has almost lost its primary signification: and, instead of the real constitution of things, has been almost wholly applied to the artificial constitution of genus and species. It is true, there is ordinarily supposed a real constitution of the sorts of things; and it is past doubt there must be some real constitution, on which any collection of simple ideas co-existing must depend. But, it being evident that things are ranked under names into sorts or species, only as they agree to certain abstract ideas, to which we have annexed those names, the essence of each genus, or sort, comes to be nothing but that abstract idea which the general, or sortal (if I may have leave so to call it from sort, as I do general from genus), name stands for. And this we shall find to be that which the word essence imports in its most familiar use. These two sorts of essences, I suppose, may not unfitly be termed, the one the real, the other nominal essence."

The relation between real essence and pure substance: We might ask if Locke simply replaced talk of pure substance with talk of real essence, but it is arguable that by RE and PS Locke in fact meant the same thing, from which observable properties 'flow' or 'result'. Substance is naked - real essence is what we have when properties are annexed to that pure substance by virtue of the arrangement of that substance's constituent corpuscles in order to create different real essences of the things in the world. Nature is like a watch! The PS - RE relationship is a logical one (not a causal one), since we can abstract from RE to PS, e.g. thinking back from 'red' to 'colour' - in this case however only one thing (in 'red') is present in the world!
Ayers advocates this reading of Locke: in the same way that cause is observed indirectly, by

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