John Locke (1632-1704)

Some of his significant works:

John Locke: general ideas of his thoughts

Among Locke's philsophical works,the best known is his Essay concerning human understanding. In the Essay,Locke concentrates his assessment on the origins and nature of human knowledge,which is one of the fundamental questions asked in epistemology.As he gains lots of influences from his scientists friends such as Robert Boyle,he forms his system of knowledge with empiricist idioms. I shall introduce one or two distinct thoughts which Locke forms: The first is that he establishes an account that there are two kinds of ideas,i.e. simple and complex ideas.The former such as 'sweet','blue',and 'cold' have attributes of sensory experiences to objects, whereas the latter is the compounds of the former.However,both simple and complex ideas are regarded as the mere material basis for knowledge. The extended version of Locke's assessment of this is his distinction between primary and secondary qualities.Locke regards primary qualities as in solidity,extension,figure motion or rest and number all of which are intrinsic properties of material objects.The secondary qualities are characterised as colours,sounds and tastes ,and they are the powers to produce various sensations in us by the primary qualities.They also depend on partly the perceptual power of an observer. For instance, a bar of chocolate ,its primary quality can be portrayed as a solid brick which resembles most of all chocolate shape,and the secondary quality as 'sweetness','bitterness', 'darkness',and 'hardness' of the chocolate,depending on each individual's palatal taste or other kinds.These features do not correspond to the feature of the chocolate.They are merely sensory sources of what makes a chocolate chocolate character.The primary quality corresponds to the resemblance of material objects and are ideas of being things in themselves. In a nutshell,the ideas of primary qualities have no power to produce perceptions on us but resemble the grounds of the powers to produce such ideas, (they can depict what is there in things),whereas of secondary qualities have powers to produce perceptions and can provide corresponding attributes to the material objects. Although Locke's theory of knowledge is often attacked by many philosophers for its equivocality and inconsistency in his Essay,some other philosophers take it that his theory is only misunderstood by them. Locke's other thought: possibility of innate moral and religious ideas, human knowledge derived from experiences.

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Last updated 21/1/97 by Shino