Philosophy 202
Great Traditions of Western Thought
The Modern Period

Discussion Questions on John Locke, #2

We continue to look at Locke's empiricist attempt to explain the origin of our ideas. At this point, however, Locke focuses on how certain complex ideas arise out of simple ones. In addition, Locke discusses a number of interesting philosophic issues that have no direct bearing on the empiricist program.

1. In his discussion of power, Locke addresses one of the standard questions of philosophy: Are human beings really free or are all human actions determined? How does Locke attempt to solve this question? Do you agree with his solution?

2. Locke's discussion of substance begins with his attempt to explain the origin of this idea. Where does this idea come from? What do you think of Locke's attempt to explain its origin?

3. Locke then goes on to make a distinction between the primary and secondary qualities of a substance. What is the basis of this distinction? How does it relate to Descartes' distinction between ideas of sense and ideas of reason? How is the physical world actually constituted according to Locke?

4. After discussing the ideas of identity and diversity, Locke goes on to discuss the interesting question of personal identity: What makes me the same thing from one moment to another? In discussing this question, Locke distinguishes various different senses in which I might be the same, as a person, a man, and a substance. What is the ground for the differences in these different senses of identity? Which are central to our understanding of ourselves?

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