In reading Locke I think one needs to find out how he is using such ideas as ideas, mind, and perception, that is, how these ideas are being descriptively used and related to each other. One ambiguous idea for Locke is `the mind'. He views the mind as the knowing subject, while also the place of ideas. The mind is both perceiver and container of the objects of knowing. Do ideas need a place to be? If ideas do not have a mental place to exist, then would they be some sort of physical thing? Do we need to posit a mental place or mental substance for their existence? Since knowing is mental and what is known is mental; we can speak of both as taking place within some mental substance which is called the mind.

For Locke, there is no having an idea in the mind without a consciousness of having the idea. He does not suggest that the mind is a storehouse of ideas which are found, re-found or remembered. We do not collect ideas in the mind. Locke doesn't hold this paradigm of memory, such as a data-base collector of information. Instead, the mind must be a function of understanding -- a perceiver of ideas and the mental substratum of their existence.

Locke seems to use the idea of perception in two basic ways: a) perception being an idea, as in "ideas or perceptions in our minds" (II,viii,7); and b) perception being an action, as in [what is] "the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding, that I call idea" (II,viii,8). The first sense of `perception' is as an object of understanding, denoting what the mind thinks or the content of a perceptual act. Here, ideas and perceptions are synonymous as "immediate objects of the mind". In the other use of the word, perception as an action means an act of thinking or of having [holding] an idea in the mind. In this sense, a perception is not a mental image or entity to be known, but is the act of understanding itself. Here, perception and idea are correlative but not synonymous, since the idea "is the immediate object of [the act of] perception".

Locke mainly holds a representational theory of perception, where ideas represent real qualities found in the external world. But not all ideas are representations; some ideas, such as universals and abstractions point to nothing outside of the idea itself, having logical meaning rather than representational meaning.

An idea, as Locke mostly uses the term, is the object of thought or perception, or whatever it is that the mind is perceiving at any given time. Much of what we perceive seems to be the physical world around us. But Locke did not want to say that one perceives the actual world. The mind is not perceiving this table; it is perceiving some kind of representation of the actual physical table, which, according to Locke, is the idea of table perceived in my mind. And when I think about the table I am thinking about the idea I have of this table. I suppose could say that I find the idea of table in the table, but it may be more appropriate to say the idea of this table is found in my mind.

Ideas signify or represent real things, events, or powers in the material world. This representation may not be exact or a copy, but it has direct correspondence to what it represents. The ideas are about real things or events. They are not a priori to the world. They are not innate, but given or derived from experiences; though, the powers of perception and various modes of thinking are innate. This does not rule out the probability that certain ideas are inevitably found in reference to existence, or that certain ideas are inevitably formed by the power of reason, inference, or abstraction upon sensory and intuitive knowing.


Locke maintains a distinction between ideas [in the mind] and qualities [in the world]. He writes, "Whatsoever the mind perceives in itself... I call idea; and the power to produce any idea in our mind, I call quality" (II 8,8). He then distinguishes between primary qualities and secondary qualities, in order to distinguish between those properties which a thing actually (or independently) possesses and those properties which are dependent upon the perceiver or the mind.

Primary qualities "produce simple ideas in us, viz. solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number" (II,viii,9). The secondary qualities are "nothing in the objects themselves but powers to produce various sensations in us by their primary qualities" (II,viii,10), that is, by the particular arrangement or texture of their corpuscular insensible parts. So secondary qualities are the powers emanating from primary qualities, powers capable of producing sensations in us. Colors, tastes and sounds are not the secondary qualities but are ideas of them; they represent and are caused by the secondary qualities, which are the arrangements of primary corpuscles.

Locke maintains that "the ideas of primary qualities of bodies are resemblances of them, and their patterns do really exist in the bodies themselves, but the ideas produced in us by these secondary qualities have no resemblance of them at all" (II, viii,15).

I may perceive an object to be a red square box. My perception (or idea) of square can be assumed as accurately representing an actual quality (squareness) of the box. The box is in fact square (at least approximately). Yet my perception of red does not accurately describe an actual quality of or in the box. There is no red on or in the box, but only a certain arrangement of corpuscles (or let us say atoms). The red is how I perceive that arrangement or how I am affected by its emanating power/quality; and thus the red is an idea of a secondary quality or power in the object. So, ideas or descriptions of primary qualities are appropriate resemblances to what is actually there with the object; while ideas or descriptions of secondary qualities are not appropriate resemblances to what is there --only the affect upon us from what is there.

One might still question, as Berkeley did, how our ideas of primary qualities could resemble the actual primary qualities. Certainly, Locke would not even have considered the absurd criticism that the 2x2 foot square box was in my head, although he might have to roughly admit that the red is somewhere in my head. We might also wonder how we can distinguish between ideas of primary qualities and those of secondary qualities. How do I immediately know which type of quality this perception is of? and if I cannot know this distinction with any certainty, then how can I know if my idea is fairly exact or merely an affect? Berkeley also questions how we could know with certainty that these ideas do resemble the actual qualities, since we do not actually perceive the quality, only the idea of it, and also we could be mislead by the primary size or shape of things almost as easy as being mistaken about the secondary quality of color And if the real essence of things is unknown then the reality of primary qualities in general must be known by conjecture and not sensation, and conjecture can always be wrong.

Locke does recognize the epistemological problem in the dualism of idea/object. He admits that the "mind knows not things immediately, but only by the intervention of the ideas it has of them". These ideas may or may not be real in the sense of conforming to the reality of things. But how can we know if there is conformity? He asks, "How shall the mind, when it perceives nothing but its own ideas, know that they agree with things themselves?" (IV, 4,3). If I do not perceive the actual object but only the idea of it, then how can I compare the representation with what is being represented?

There are fundamental epistemological problems with ideas representing realities. How can we really know what is outside our minds or ideas, if all that the mind can perceive are its ideas? The mind doesn't perceive objects in the world, only ideas of objects in the world. All that the objects do is to affect the sensations and hence convey a representative idea to the mind. There is a lot that can go astray in this mediation. Even if it all worked well most of the time, it is difficult to find a way to test the representational truth of these ideas, if all that we can perceive and judge are our ideas. We never perceive objects directly, only ideas, so we can never know of any correspondence between our ideas and the supposed objects represented. Since we cannot directly perceive the object, we cannot use `this' in a comparison with the idea of `it'. If all that can be perceived are the representations, not the realities in themselves, then there is nothing beyond the veil of our perception to compare representations to.

Also, we might question what kind of representation is being conveyed or produced? How does our representational idea reflect the object at hand? Can mental ideas, or even sensory experiences, adequately represent physical properties in the world? Berkeley says that "ideas can only be like ideas". How can colors be like the powers producing them in the mind? How can size as known in the mind be like the real size of things?

Locke maintains that the secondary qualities, such as color and sounds, cannot be represented adequately by ideas but the primary qualities, such as extension and shape, can. Yet, both kinds of ideas are mental representations --how do they then differ? The stone is not heavy and big in my mind, I only perceive that it is heavy and big. What is heavy and big to my mind? -- is it the same as the stone's heaviness and size? Somehow, ideas are always of a different sort than the physical properties they assume to repre

sent, so it is difficult to know how ideas of primary qualities could be any more adequate than secondary qualities, if both kinds are not exact copies.

The implications of this lead to Berkeley's idealism. There is no means for verification of conformity because the actual things are not in view. And if I could possibly perceive the actual things then representations would not be needed! Or how could I even know that these ideas are not the actual things, only appearances, if all that I know are ideas?


The building blocks of knowledge are simple ideas corresponding to our experience of the world and of our own powers of mind. Sensations become the significant intermediary between real existences and mental ideas about these existences. Somehow, ideas are conveyed to the mind, or perceived by the mind, through sensations. Locke states, "Our Senses, conversant about particular sensitive objects, do convey into the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do affect them" (II 1,3).

Implied in this is a theory of sensation -- whereby physical objects do affect the senses and the senses convey perceptions [ideas] "into the mind". What he probably means is that the senses are passively changed or affected by the powers or emitting effluences in objects, and the mind perceives these changes or affects, which give rise to ideas. Locke is assuming here a realistic position that physical objects do in fact exist and have the power (or "effluential" force) to affect the senses, and he is also assuming that the senses can and do affect the mind, that is, convey ideas into the mind. But, the senses are only a means to knowledge, not the knowledge itself. The senses provide the raw material, or building blocks, of real knowledge which is something actively attained.

We might question how ideas are somehow perceived in the affected senses, or how the senses "convey" perceptions or ideas in the mind. This is the same interactionist problem of dualism which plagued Descartes. How can physical sensations produce or become mental ideas? Having the senses as intermediary between objects and ideas does not really help much in this epistemological problem. There are still physical to mental interactional problems, and problems in verifying the conformity between what is thought to be real and what is real. Having a certainty of understanding the real world is problematic in Locke's epistemology, but then again, so is it for other philosophers.

Sensation of external events or objects must precede both the perceiving of simple ideas and the thinking about those ideas. Sensation is caused by the external powers, or qualities, of various substances, or things of the material world. Our internal power of perceiving ideas, then, represents these given sensations. In other words, the act of perception is an act of representing, or signifying, ideas from the effects of sensation.

The seems to me to be an improved way of stating the connection between ideas and sensations. For if sensations were to actually convey perceptions into the mind, as Locke has stated, then ideas, being the equivalent here to perceptions, would be first formed by sensations, since they could not convey ideas without first having them. This would place within sensation the intelligent ability to represent ideas for things, rather than the perceptual powers. It is more appropriate, I believe, to say that perception is the active power, or ability, which is responsible for ideas, rather than imply that ideas are somehow produced within sensation, or worse, that ideas come from the external world of things and powers.

So, the mind perceives simple ideas from the effects of sensation. I suppose one could say that simple ideas are given to the mind. But, as I argued above, simple ideas could not be given by sensation alone, unless sensation had the power to form ideas of the things effecting it, which would mean to say that sensation is intelligent. Simple ideas are given to the mind only in the sense that they originate firstly from external powers effecting the senses, which in turn effect what it is that is perceived. Certainly, the world is not giving ideas to the mind. One could maybe say that simple ideas and sensations are exactly the same. This would be equivalent to saying that sensations are conveyed to the mind, or perceived by the mind. Getting rid of one of these terms, either sensation or simple ideas, does help, I think, but still, there is an unexplained gap between the physiological sensations and the perceiving of ideas, or the perceiving of sensation `as' ideas.

Ideas are "given" means that they are not innately in the mind, nor are they creations of thinking. The thinking mind does not invent simple ideas. Yet somehow, the perceptual power must be the responsible formulator of ideas. Otherwise, how do they form? Where, or by what means, do the properties of things come to be represented in the mind as ideas, unless these ideas were exact copies of the things, which they are not?

Sensations are, thus, prior to perceptual acts, since there must first be something "there" to perceive. But ideas could not be prior to perceptual acts, because this would imply that ideas are waiting somewhere to be perceived, that is, somewhere either in sensation itself or in the mind. Yet, ideas do not exist in the mind independent of their being conscious. The mind is not, for Locke, a storehouse of ideas unknown to perception. An idea has to be conscious. It has to be perceived, which means there has to be an awareness of it. Thus; the perceiving must come before the idea, or the idea is formed by the very act of perception.


I believe that Locke began his inquiry into the empirical origin of knowledge by first assuming that the senses convey the most simple truths about the world, and we build [complex] knowledge from these basic, simple ideas coming from sensation or reflection. But it became evident to Locke, I think, that a mere compositional theory of knowledge could not suffice, that knowledge is not necessary a composition of simple, direct perceptions, mediated by the senses. To hold Locke to a strict compositional theory of knowledge would be to overly simplify Locke's empiricism. Locke does maintain that complex ideas are combinations of simple ideas, but not always. He seems to hold two views of this distinction between simple and complex ideas.

The first kind of distinction stated by Locke is that simple ideas are "uncompounded, containing nothing but one uniform Appearance, or Conception in the mind, and not distinguishable into different ideas" (II,ii,1), whereas complex ideas are distinguishable and divisible into different ideas. The second distinction is that the simple ideas are "given" to the mind by way of either sensation or reflection. They are merely received by the mind, not made by it. Then complex ideas are produced by the active mind from the simple ideas, by "combining several simple ideas into one compound one; and thus all complex ideas are made" (II,xii,1), or by comparing to find relations or by separating out accidental particulars to find abstractions.

Yet, in other parts of the essay he acknowledges that he can know certain simple ideas go together because they are observed together [in a complex]. He remarks that a "certain number of these simple ideas go constantly together; which being presumed to belong to one thing... so united in one subject, by one name", and we are apt to consider these as one simple idea, "which indeed is a complication of many ideas together" (II,xxiii,1). But, how can I recognize the table merely from the combination of simple ideas received from the senses? For if this were the case, I would have to first know a priori that these particular simple ideas going together signify what is named or known as a table. Instead, I think, I must first perceive the whole table, being a whole complex of ideas, and then name it and recognize it according to this complex. Then, its simple ideas could be analyzed out of this complex idea.

Peter Alexander makes the claim for Locke that "simple ideas are [perhaps always] the products of the analysis of `naturally occurring' complex ideas and that those complex ideas are not products of our construction out of simple ideas that `occur naturally' as clear and distinct" (112). This is not to deny that "constructed" complex ideas are constructed out of simple ideas. When Locke says that "all complex ideas are made" he means that all complex ideas made by the mind are made essentially by simple ideas. But some complex ideas are simply given by the nature of things.

Also, according to a compositional theory every idea which is divisible must be a composite idea made up of indivisible simple ideas; yet, abstract ideas cannot be composites in this sense. If we view this from the indivisible/divisible distinction previously described, then abstractions, being indivisible, would be simple ideas; yet they are certainly not "given" by simple sensations but are produced by some activity of the mind. Therefore, abstractions are either simple indivisible ideas, though made not given, or they are complex made ideas, though not divisible. Or to put even another way, some ideas are simple and yet not indivisible, and/or some ideas are complex and yet not divisible. The solution is that abstractions are complex ideas, made by the mind but not divisible into simpler elements. Or, abstractions are simplified complex ideas. Also, those ideas directly derived from the senses are not necessarily simple and indivisible, but could very well be complexes of simple, indivisible ideas/sensations which can then be analyzed into their separate, simple sensitive elements.

Simple ideas are not arbitrary representations of things/powers, but directly reflect existence, which is what Locke means by their being "taken from existence." Simple ideas are uniform and distinct as elementary sensed qualities. But they are also given in combinations, where some "go constantly together" and are simultaneously "united in one subject" (II,xxxiii,1).

A question arises here, whether each simple idea is perceived separately and then combined together into one complex idea or name, due to their proximity and simultaneity with each other, or one perceives a particular subject's qualities in one complex perception which is then analyzable into the simple sensory components. In the former, the complex idea of a particular thing would have to formed from the simple ideas (or sensed qualities) by an act of inference, that due to their proximity and simultaneity the mind will infer them to belong to one particular object. While in the latter possibility, the various sensed qualities of an object are perceived all at once, inseparably together in one stroke, and a latter activity of the mind is responsible for dividing up the simple ideas.

Locke seems to imply three sorts of complex ideas. One is that complex of simple ideas found constantly together, which are the complex ideas of particular substances. Each substance, or object, has various qualities, which have power to effect the senses, and thus the mind, and the complex of these various qualities, or simple ideas "found" together in that object, are what we know to be that object, are what we think about when thinking about this object; and from here we give it a name, which is the sign we use to talk about this complex idea or thing.


Another sort of complex idea is that of abstraction. These are formed by the power of abstraction. But abstractions are not really complex combinations of simple ideas. They are reductions of complex ideas into simple ones, which is a process of separating out the particular variants of things which are not the common invariants constituting each. Many similar things are compared and contrasted for their essences (common invariants) to be abstracted (or distilled). Though there may be a question as to if abstractions can be found from simple ideas of distinct qualities (such as blue), because if the simple ideas are defined as irreducible, then the abstraction would have to be even simpler than the simple. Generally though, abstractions are derived from complex ideas of substances.

The idea of a substance, or substratum in which together ideas subsist, seems to be an inference, which is that a real substance must be inferred to exist from which powers come to affect the senses, because otherwise, the causative power of sensations and of simple ideas would be merely within the mind or within the body sensations themselves, and Locke is certainly not willing to assent to such an idealistic/mentalist view. So, sensations of qualities must come from powers external to the mind perceiving them, and these powers are substantial (physical realism).

Then; the general idea of substance is an abstraction from these inferred ideas of substances. Or, it could be a more general inference, such that there exist a whole world of material-substance things having powers to affect the senses. In a similar manner, the idea of solidity is an inference based upon the sense of touch, which is that there must be something substantially solid here for me to be able to touch around it. So, again, the idea of particular solidity is a propositional inference, and the general idea of solidity is either an abstraction or a more general inference. It seems to be an inference, because what would be abstracted from such ideas as substance or solidity? What is common to all substance is substance. What is common to all solidity is solidity.

So for Locke, while properties can be adequately perceived or at least [secondarily] experienced, substance can only be inferred from experience. Locke, it seems, has made a kind of rational inference or supposition about that which he has no actual experience (or is this the one innate idea?), since all that he can actually experience are the sensory affects of properties and powers of objects, not property-less substances. One might then be inclined to say of Locke that he was not a pure empiricist because he made inferences and rational assumptions. Yet, this claim, which I think Berkeley hints at, would not be right of Locke, because Locke's empiricism does not reject reasoning or the building of new ideas, but only requires that ideas should come from the building blocks of experience. Also, substance is necessary in Locke's system because his real properties need substantiation, that is, there must be something real to which real properties refer. There must be a subject (or in this case object) in any statement describing properties or making claims of truth. There must be a `this' or `what' is... such.

On the other hand, the general idea of substance could be derived at from abstraction, which is one of the mind's abilities in producing complex ideas and knowledge. For Locke, many of our general ideas of things are abstractions from particular ideas of real things. Abstraction is a process of subtracting those accidental qualities of things which are not common characteristics of the group of things being compared. So, the process is a [re]simplification into general ideas or classifications of complex ideas. General ideas, such as human being or automobile, are found by noticing that certain properties go together in some things and if we then eliminate the properties from these similar `things', we know that all such things have those properties.

Berkeley objects to Locke's notion of general ideas as abstractions because in order to abstract one must take out of ideas all specific properties in order to arrive at the supposed idea, and if one subtracted all of these sensed or imagined properties there would no property-ideas to hold in the mind. For example, if I say that all living people have some color, but then subtract out any specific color, then I am left with an idea of colorful people without color. So what kind of idea is this of people having color without color? Locke seems to be forming an idea of color with no particular color in mind. Is this possible? Or, is a general idea of color possible without any reference or thought of color in particular?

It is possible to conceive of a line drawing of a man with no color. This is not the problem. The problem is conceiving of a man-in-general, a man having color but no particular color to represent color-in-general, and thus a man without any color: a colorless colorful man. What Berkeley might be missing in his objection is that ideas could be purely propositional, framed in sentence structure, such that "all people have color"; so an image or example is not necessary to the general idea. Still, to give Berkeley some credit, maybe general ideas without examples in mind are meaningless. And yet, we do have these general ideas and they do work well for us.


The other sort of complex idea is one which has been joined together from various simple ideas. These are either relations of ideas or inferential propositions. These complex ideas are voluntarily formed from comparing and relating certain simple ideas. Whereas in the previous sort, the complex is, in effect, given as already joined together, or already perceived together; these complex ideas must be produced by active powers of the mind. This activity of the mind is not the inference which I stated as a possible interpretation of Locke's complex ideas of particular substances. There is no inference to existences in these latter sorts of complex ideas.

Locke says, "All complex ideas, except those of substances, being archetypes of the mind's own making, not intended to be copies of anything, nor referred to the existence of anything, as to their originals, ... without considering any connexion they have in nature" (IV,iv,5). These complex ideas already stand on a firm foundation of simple ideas from direct sensations or direct reflections, and they are formed through the various powers of thinking, which are primarily the ability to perceive relations --i.e. connexions and non-connexions, or agreements and disagreements. Any correspondence or correlation to existences has already been made or implied with the simple ideas and/or the complexes of simple ideas going necessarily together.

So, these ideas are propositions, or judgments of proper relationships and connexions between or involving two or more simple ideas, the simple ideas being the terms of the propositions. These complex ideas, which are basic propositions, constitute what is knowledge, and the verification of these ideas consists in demonstrating the intuitively right relationship between various terms. Thus, the verification of truth, or assent to propositions, is by the "clear and distinct" relational coherence of complex and simple ideas. There is no possible reference, at this point, to real things, events, or existences: this has already been assumed.

Truth, now, purely depends upon the power of mind to find connective or disconnective relations between ideas already formed, that is, the mind must rationally judge how these ideas propositionally go together, or relate to each other. We cannot find the truth of their correspondence to existences, but we can find the truth of their coherence with each other, and this shows something of the extent of our knowledge.

Locke's method of verifying the truth of our ideas is basically perceiving the "relation between our ideas, and find out the agreement or disagreement they have with one another" (IV 1,5). This criteria for truth then has nothing necessarily to do with the outside world. Of course, agreement and coherence of ideas is a good and necessarily criteria for truth, but first we need a few good or appropriate ideas.

If knowledge is only the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas, then how do we acquire knowledge of real existences? If all we have to perceive, at this point, are our ideas, then how can we ever know of anything beyond these mental objects? Or, if these mental objects, or ideas, correspond to anything real outside of their own subjectivity? Locke raises objections such as these, declaring that "Knowledge placed in our ideas may be all unreal ... [and, thus] the visions of an enthusiast and the reasonings of a sober man will be equally certain" (IV,iv,1), since each may have agreement between their own particular ideas. Locke states the problem even more clearly in questioning "how shall the mind, when it perceives nothing but its own ideas, know that they agree with things themselves (IV,iv,3)?" Certainly, there cannot be a comparison between ideas and things themselves, if all that can be perceived as having connexions are ideas. Locke did not think this possible.

Locke is assuming that we do have a collection of foundational ideas which correspond to things in the world; otherwise, his relational coherence of ideas has no necessary connection with the external world. The simple ideas are, then, the empirical foundation of knowledge, and these simple ideas cannot be mere inventions or colorations of the mind, arbitrary to the world. As Locke says, they "must necessarily be the product of things operating on the mind ... and so carry with them all the conformity which is intended... [or which it] ought to have" (IV,iv,4).

Knowledge of the existence of external objects and powers corresponding to the ideas of them is a reasonable inference, according to Locke. This knowledge of external objects is called sensitive knowledge, because it is a "perception and consciousness we have of the actual entrance of ideas from them [these objects] (IV,ii,14)." This is really a poor statement, because ideas do not enter from actual things, nor do we have the perception of any kind of entrance whatsoever. All we perceive are the sensitive images and stimuli, as they appear to consciousness. We don't see any "coming in" of things or ideas. Instead, sensitive knowledge just stands before us. And we could, in fact, doubt the realness of this appearance, which Locke admits.

Yet, at this point, Locke makes an appeal to common sense and suggests that the experience of an external world through the senses is quite different in intensity and kind from dream or memory images, which is "an evidence, that puts us past doubting (IV,ii,14)," though it lacks the certainty of direct intuition. Also counting as evidence of existences would be that we do not voluntarily make up these ideas, as is the case with complex ideas and propositions. Of course, the complex idea or proposition that existences are real is made by way of an inference, but the evidence to which such a proposition refers are the simple ideas or sensations only given in experience and not made by a voluntary mind.

So, knowledge of external existences is a combination of intense sensitive experience with a common sense reasoning or inference that these experiences could not just be dreams, fantasies, or memories, but must come from powers outside of one's own mind and volition. We could also assume that the ideas or images we have of things out there correspond, at least roughly, if not exact. The first inference, that external objects are real and causative of our sensations, is more certain than the next level of inference, that each particular idea of a thing corresponds closely to that thing. Basically, Locke would maintain that the primary qualities perceived are very close to the actual qualities, while the secondary qualities perceived are not like those actual things but do correspond, in some way, to the actual power affecting the senses.

So, how do we know if any of our ideas are appropriate representations or signify any pragmatic correlation to what is real? I would think Locke would at least expect us to confirm our ideas in some sort of scientific manner of testing and verification with experience. If his idea of verification of truth is merely with ideas themselves, then I would call this a rationalist approach, not an empiricist approach. The testing for truth must go outside just our ideas; otherwise all of our ideas could be illusory. The ideas must not only agree well with eachother, but must also agree with our sensory and reflective experiences and prove themselves to be useful in predicting and pragmatically working with the world-at-hand. I would think this to be a necessary empirical verification.

What can still be maintained here is that all complex ideas ultimately are founded upon experience received from either sensation or reflection, and that what is made by the mind is made from given experiences. If experience is the ultimate cause of complex ideas and knowledge, then the mind must be capable of receiving such experience passively without any determining structuring or organizing from an active mind. Locke believes the mind to have active powers, but his theory requires this activity of compounding and relating to come after some primal passivity which purely receives impressions from the outside world or from thinking activities of the mind. But, can perception be a purely passive act? - Or does perception involve a kind of active structuring of experience or, at least, a representing of sensations into images or ideas?? Locke's empiricism seems to demand a distinction between the act of receiving and the act of doing something with that received.



Cambridge U. Press: 1985.


Abridged by Prof. Richard Taylor, Brown U.