John locke essay concerning

For we cannot observe any alteration to be made in, or operation upon anything, but by the observable change of its sensible ideas; nor conceive any alteration to be made, but by conceiving a change of some of its ideas. As able to make, or able to receive any change. The one may be called active , and the other passive power. Whether matter be not wholly destitute of active power, as its author, God, is truly above all passive power; and whether the intermediate state of created spirits be not that alone which is capable of both active and passive power, may be worth consideration.

I shall not now enter into that inquiry, my present business being not to search into the original of power, but how we come by the idea of it. But since active powers make so great a part of our complex ideas of natural substances, as we shall see hereafter, and I mention them as such, according to common apprehension; yet they being not, perhaps, so truly active powers as our hasty thoughts are apt to represent them, I judge it not amiss, by this intimation, to direct our minds to the consideration of god and spirits, for the clearest idea of active power.

For, our ideas of extension, duration, and number, do they not all contain in them a secret relation of the parts? For all power relating to action, and there being but two sorts of action whereof we have an idea, viz.

Thinking and motion, let us consider whence we have the clearest ideas of the powers which produce these actions. Locke draws what should by now be a familiar distinction. Thus a snowball having the power to produce in us the ideas of white, cold, and round—the power to produce those ideas in us, as they are in the snowball, I call qualities; and as they are sensations or perceptions in our understandings, I call them ideas; which ideas , if I speak of sometimes as in the things themselves, I would be understood to mean those qualities in the objects which produce them in us.

These, which I call original or primary qualities of body, are wholly inseparable from it; and such as in all the alterations and changes it suffers, all the force can be used upon it, it constantly keeps; and such as sense constantly finds in every particle of matter which has bulk enough to be perceived; and the mind finds inseparable from every particle of matter, though less than to make itself singly be perceived by our senses: e.

It being impossible to conceive that body should operate on what it does not touch which is all one as to imagine it can operate where it is not , or when it does touch, operate any other way than by motion. By the operation of insensible particles on our senses. Bulk, figure, texture, and motion of parts and therefore I call them secondary qualities. There is nothing like our ideas, existing in the bodies themselves.

They are, in the bodies we denominate from them, only a power to produce those sensations in us …. But light, heat, whiteness, or coldness, are no more really in them than sickness or pain is in manna. Take away the sensation of them; let not the eyes see light or colours, nor the can hear sounds; let the palate not taste, nor the nose smell, and all colours, tastes, odours, and sounds, as they are such particular ideas , vanish and cease, and are reduced to their causes, i.

Hinder light from striking on it, and its colours vanish; it no longer produces any such ideas in us: upon the return of light it produces these appearances on us again. Can any one think any real alterations are made in the porphyry by the presence or absence of light; and that those ideas of whiteness and redness are really in porphyry in the light, when it is plain it has no colour in the dark?

It has, indeed, such a configuration of particles, both night and day, as are apt, by the rays of light rebounding from some parts of that hard stone, to produce in us the idea of redness, and from others the idea of whiteness; but whiteness or redness are not in it at any time, but such a texture that hath the power to produce such a sensation in us. What real alteration can the beating of the pestle make in an body, but an alteration of the texture of it? For, if we imagine warmth , as it is in our hands, to be nothing but a certain sort and degree of motion in the minute particles of our nerves or animal spirits, we may understand how it is possible that the same water may, at the same time, produce the sensations of heat in one hand and cold in the other; which yet figure never does, that never producing the idea of a square by one hand which has produced the idea of a globe by another.

If there were no observers or perceivers, what would the world be like, according to Locke? That is, what qualities does a physical object have in itself? How does Locke argue for his three theses? If our sensation of heat resembled any quality in the object, that quality would have to be the cause of the heat that it produces. Why think that the color of an object i. Hint: use II.


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Finally, what about thesis iii : secondary qualities are nothing but powers in objects to produce certain ideas in us? Well, this is just to combine i and ii. Note that primary qualities are powers and genuine qualities in objects; secondary are merely powers. But as Locke points out, ideas of secondary qualities depend not just on the objects; they also depend on the perceivers. Think of as many different ways to change the color of this room as you can. Had the poor Indian philosopher who imagined that the earth also wanted something to bear it up but thought of this word substance, he needed not to have been at the trouble to find an elephant to support it, and a tortoise to support his elephant: the word substance would have done it effectually.

And he that inquired might have taken it for as good an answer from an Indian philosopher—that substance, without knowing what it is, is that which supports the earth, as take it for a sufficient answer and good doctrine from our european philosophers—that substance, without knowing what it is, is that which supports accidents. So that of substance, we have no idea of what it is, but only a confused obscure one of what it does. Would he not think himself mocked, instead of taught, with such an account as this?

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If any one should be asked, what is the subject wherein colour or weight inheres, he would have nothing to say, but the solid extended parts; and if he were demanded, what is it that solidity and extension adhere in, he would not be in a much better case than the Indian before mentioned who, saying that the world was supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested on; to which his answer was—a great tortoise: but being again pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied— something, he knew not what.

Now that we know how we think about individual substances e. From III. By this way of abstraction they are made capable of representing more individuals than one; each of which having in it a conformity to that abstract idea, is as we call it of that sort. The ideas of the nurse and the mother are well framed in their minds; and, like pictures of them there, represent only those individuals.

The names they first gave to them are confined to these individuals; and the names of nurse and mamma , the child uses, determine themselves to those persons. Afterwards, when time and a larger acquaintance have made them observe that there are a great many other things in the world, that in some common agreements of shape, and several other qualities, resemble their father and mother, and those persons they have been used to, they frame an idea, which they find those many particulars do partake in; and to that they give, with others, the name man , for example.

And thus they come to have a general name, and a general idea. Wherein they make nothing new; but only leave out of the complex idea they had of Peter and James, Mary and Jane, that which is peculiar to each, and retain only what is common to them all. When therefore we quit particulars, the generals that rest are only creatures of our own making; their general nature being nothing but the capacity they are put into, by the understanding, of signifying or representing many particulars.

For the signification they have is nothing but a relation that, by the mind of man, is added to them.


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But yet I think we may say, the sorting of them under names is the workmanship of the understanding, taking occasion, from the similitude it observes amongst them, to make abstract general ideas , and set them up in the mind, with names annexed to them, as patterns or forms, for, in that sense, the word form has a very proper signification, to which as particular things existing are found to agree, so they come to be of that species, have that denomination, or are put into that class.

The frequent productions of monsters, in all the species of animals, and of changelings, and other strange issues of human birth, carry with them difficulties, not possible to consist with this hypothesis; since it is as impossible that two things partaking exactly of the same real essence should have different properties, as that two figures partaking of the same real essence of a circle should have different properties.

But were there no other reason against it, yet the supposition of essences that cannot be known; and the making of them, nevertheless, to be that which distinguishes the species of things, is so wholly useless and unserviceable to any part of our knowledge, that that alone were sufficient to make us lay it by …. By this real essence I mean, that real constitution of anything, which is the foundation of all those properties that are combined in, and are constantly found to co-exist with the nominal essence; that particular constitution which everything has within itself, without any relation to anything without it.

But essence, even in this sense, relates to a sort, and supposes a species.

Essay on John Locke

For, being that real constitution on which the properties depend, it necessarily supposes a sort of things, properties belonging only to species, and not to individuals: e. Hre are essences and properties, but all upon supposition of a sort or general abstract idea, which is considered as immutable; but there is no individual parcel of matter to which any of these qualities are so annexed as to be essential to it or inseparable from it. For let it be ever so true, that all gold, i.

For if we know not the real essence of gold, it is impossible we should know what parcel of matter has that essence, and so whether it be true gold or no. Now that we have some story about how our ideas of substances are constructed, we need to look at the two main kinds of substance we seem to find in the world: mind and body. These, I think, are the original ideas proper and peculiar to body; for figure is but the consequence of finite extension.

John Locke’s (–) Essay Concerning Human Understanding () – Modern Philosophy

It is true, solidity cannot exist without extension, neither can scarlet colour exist without extension, but this hinders not, but that they are distinct ideas. And if it be a reason to prove that spirit is different from body, because thinking includes not the idea of extension in it; the same reason will be as valid, I suppose, to prove that space is not body, because it includes not the idea of solidity in it; space and solidity being as distinct ideas as thinking and extension , and as wholly separable in the mind one from another … Extension includes no solidity, nor resistance to the motion of body, as body does.

When considered between the extremities of matter, which fills the capacity of space with something solid, tangible, and moveable, it is properly called extension. And so extension is an idea belonging to body only; but space may, as is evident, be considered without it. Locke here sets out the constituent ideas that make up the complex idea of the mind. Most famously, he denies that we can be sure that what thinks in us in an immaterial substance.

Thinking and motivity The ideas we have belonging and peculiar to spirit , are thinking , and will , or a power of putting body into motion by thought, and, which is consequent to it, liberty. For, as body cannot but communicate its motion by impulse to another body, which it meets with at rest, so the mind can put bodies into motion, or forbear to do so, as it pleases. The ideas of existence , duration , and mobility , are common to them both. And therefore, though thinking be supposed never so much the proper action of the soul, yet it is not necessary to suppose that it should be always thinking, always in action.

It is doubted whether I thought at all last night or no. The question being about a matter of fact, it is begging it to bring, as a proof for it, an hypothesis, which is the very thing in dispute: by which way one may prove anything …. But men in love with their opinions may not only suppose what is in question, but allege wrong matter of fact.

John Locke

How else could any one make it an inference of mine, that a thing is not, because we are not sensible of it in our sleep? I do not say there is no soul in a man, because he is not sensible of it in his sleep; but I do say, he cannot think at any time, waking or sleeping, without being sensible of it.


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Our being sensible of it is not necessary to anything but to our thoughts; and to them it is; and to them it always will be necessary, till we can think without being conscious of it. Now, Locke realizes that the Cartesian will not leave things at that; he will insist that minds think even during sleep, though they do not remember it.

Locke thinks this move has a heavy price:. If the soul doth think in a sleeping man without being conscious of it, I ask whether, during such thinking, it has any pleasure or pain, or be capable of happiness or misery? Voltaire wrote:. Just as a skilled anatomist explains the workings of the human body, so does Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding give the natural history of consciousness. So many philosophers having written the romance of the soul, a sage has arrived who has modestly written its history.

Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" Book I, ch's 1-2

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Works listed chronologically. Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Some Thoughts Concerning Education. Of the Conduct of the Understanding. An Essay concerning Human Understanding The fourteenth edition.