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Lecture 16

PHIL 2160 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Monism

Course Code
PHIL 2160
Patricia Sheridan

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Locke – Identity, Philosophy of Language
Substance categories and ontologies
oCategory monism, dualism, or pluralism, and
oOntological monism, dualism, or pluralism
The meaning of words
oMeaning and signification
oWords are signs of ideas, for Locke
oThe meaning of a word is found in the ideas it signifies
Meaning and reference in Locke
oThe meaning of owl is, for Locke, found in the ideas we have in our minds – the more ideas I
have, the more meaning that word will have for me
o“Words stand for nothing but ideas in our minds.” (3.2.2)
oSo, when I use the term owl, am I referring to the thing up in the tree, or to the ideas I have in
my mind a white, feathered bird sitting in a tree?
Ideas do not represent
oOur complex ideas are not representational of extra-mental reality
oComplex ideas are created by us, and are not reliably representational of an extra-mental
oSince we cannot fix the representation of our ideas, Locke does not give us a theory of
reference for terms
oLocke cannot base the meaning of terms in reference beyond ideas
Particular and general terms
o“it is impossible that every particular thing should have a distinct peculiar name” (3.3.2)
oWe tend to sort particulars into more general categories of things
Most of ur words are general terms
But general things don’t have mind-independent reality
All we perceive are particulars
oHowever, “all things that exist are particular” (3.3.1)
What do abstract terms signify?
oAll our complex ideas are of particular things
oAbstract, general terms, signify general ideas constructed by the mind
o“General and universal do not belong to the real existence [essence] of things, but are the
inventions and creatures of the understand” (3.3.11)
Particulars and universals
o“When 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.” (3.3.11)
oRecall, this is the case for complex ideas of particular things, as well
oAbstract ideas are at a more remote level of construction
Both can only signify ideas in the mind
Complex ideas of particular substances less arbitrarily constructed
Abstract ideas a more incomplete and partial collection of ideas
Substance and category relativism
oWe aim to conform our ideas to what we take to be real unities outside the mind – but we do
so only very imperfectly
o“the mind of man, in making its complex ideas of substances, never puts any together that do
not really or are not supposed to coexist, and so it truly borrows that union from nature, yet
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