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PHIL111 13/14 WEEK 16.docx

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Queen's University
PHIL 111
Jon Miller

January 28, 2014 ELYSE’S OFFICE HOURS Feb 4 1030-1130 Feb 6 230-4 Feb 7 1130-1230 Recalling - Locke was probably a representationalist - To understand Locke, we have to understand three features of his representationalist theory: the perceiving agent, the intermediary idea, and the object being perceived Locke’s Notion of an Idea - In I.i.8 Locke writes: o “I must here in the Entrance beg pardon of my Reader, for the frequent use of the Word Idea, which he will find in the following Treatise. It being that Term, which… serves best to stand for whatsoever is the Object of the Understanding when a Mind thinks”  An idea is whatever is before the mind when the mind thinks - In another passage, Locke says: o “Whatsoever the Mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of Perception, Thought or Understanding” - that is an idea (II.viii.8) - What is an idea? o Whatever is the object of understanding is an idea o Locke tries not to prejudge here what could serve or what is the object before the mind when it thinks o Comparison to an early geneticist’s explaining “gene” as standing for whatever it is that controls heredity. For several decades, geneticists believed in genes but knew nothing of their nature o Locke’s repeated use of “whatsoever” sounds like that. He thought that each individual idea has an intrinsic nature that is very well-known to its owner but he did not think that he could capture this nature in public language o Locke holds a causal view of how we come to possess ideas. He writes that ideas “are produced in us… by the operation of insensible particles on our Senses” (II.viii.13) o Whatever he means by idea, Locke regards them as falling into two classes: simple and complex  The idea of a perceptible quality like redness is simple, in that our idea of redness cannot be analyzed into any simpler elements  By contrast, our idea of a horse can be analyzed into simpler elements. Complex ideas are constructed out of simple ones  This allows Locke to deal with obvious objections to his claim that all our ideas ultimately derive from experience. The objection is - what about ideas of things that we never experience, such as unicorns?  Locke can dispense with this objection by appeal to his constructivism • It is true we never had direct experience of unicorns • Still, the notion of a unicorn is analyzable into simpler terms - say, those of a horse and a narwhal whale - which either have featured into our experience or else are further analyzable in terms of other ideas that have Primary vs. Secondary Qualities - Closely connected to the notion of an idea is the thing that produces the idea in us - Locke writes, “Whatsoever the Mind perceives in it self, or is the immediate object of Perception, Thought, or Understanding, that I call Idea; and the Power to produce an Idea in our mind, I call Quality of the Subject wherein that Power is” (II.viii.8) o To clarify the distinction between an idea and the power a body has to produce an idea, Locke offers the example of a snowball: “Thus a Snow-ball having the power to produce in us the Ideas of White, Cold, Round, the Powers to produce those Ideas in us, as they are in the Snow-ball, I call Qualities; and as they are Sensations, or Perceptions
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