Discussion Questions on John Locke, #1
Reading Locke is very different than reading Descartes. (This
is a good example of how different philosophical theories are
presented by very different types of philosophic texts.) First,
we are not reading a translation, but the actual words that Locke
wrote in 1690. Second, Locke does not present a tight argument,
but a more loosely connected set of discussions. What unifies
Locke's discussion is his attempt to provide an empiricist
account of our knowledge. So, in your reading, you should be
focusing on what characterizes Locke's method as empiricist,
as opposed to the rationalism of Descartes.
1. In Book I, Locke criticizes
the concept of innate ideas. He presents a number of arguments
for his view. What are they? Do you agree with them? How might
a Cartesian respond?
2. The central concept of Locke's philosophy is idea.
What does he mean by this term? What types of ideas does Locke
claim there are?
3. How does Locke distinguish simple ideas from complex ones?
How are complex ideas formed?
4. Locke distinguishes our ideas of the primary qualities of
bodies from our ideas of secondary qualities. What is the basis
of this distinction? How does it function in his philosophy?
5. What does Locke mean by abstraction? How are ideas formed
by this mental process?
6. What is the problem posed by Mr.
Molineux? How does Locke resolve it?
7. What makes Locke an empiricist?
How does his empiricism differ from Descartes' rationalism?