It’s one thing to attack the doctrines of innate knowledge and innate ideas; it’s another to come up with a replacement for them. Locke must explain how all our ideas are generated solely out of the materials given to us in experience, and how experience alone can justify our knowledge claims.
(From I.1.8—What Idea stands for) Thus much I thought necessary to say concerning the occasion of this inquiry into human understanding. But, before I proceed on to what I have thought on this subject, 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, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks, I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking; and I could not avoid frequently using it. I presume it will be easily granted me, that there are such ideas in men’s minds: every one is conscious of them in himself; and men’s words and actions will satisfy him that they are in others.
(From IV.xxi.4) [S]ince the things the mind contemplates are none of them, besides itself, present to the understanding, it is necessary that something else, as a sign or representation of the thing it considers, should be present to it: and these are ideas.
(From II.i.2—All Ideas come from Sensation or Reflection) Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas: how comes it to be furnished? … To this I answer, in one word, from experience. In that all our knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed either, about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring.
(From II.i.3—The Objects of Sensation one Source of Ideas) First, our senses, conversant about particular sensible objects, do convey into the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do affect them. And thus we come by those ideas we have of yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, sweet, and all those which we call sensible qualities …
(From II.i.4—The Operations of our Minds, the other Source of them) Secondly, the other fountain from which experience furnisheth the understanding with ideas is, the perception of the operations of our own mind within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got. … And such are perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the different actings of our own minds …
(From II.i.5—All our Ideas are of the one or of the other of these) … These, when we have taken a full survey of them, and their several modes, and the compositions made out of them we shall find to contain all our whole stock of ideas; and that we have nothing in our minds which did not come in one of these two ways. Let any one examine his own thoughts, and thoroughly search into his understanding; and then let him tell me, whether all the original ideas he has there, are any other than of the objects of his senses, or of the operations of his mind, considered as objects of his reflection.
Locke thinks that sensation and reflection are our only sources of ideas.We should now look at his response to Descartes’s argument for a third source of ideas, namely, the intellect (see the second paragraph of the Sixth Meditation: Of the Existence of Material Things, and of the Real Distinction Between the Mind and Body of Man.
(From II.xxix.13—Complex ideas may be distinct in one part, and confused in another ) Our complex ideas, being made up of collections, and so variety of simple ones, may accordingly be very clear and distinct in one part, and very obscure and confused in another. In a man who speaks of a chiliaedron, or a body of a thousand sides, the ideas of the figure may be very confused, though that of the number be very distinct; so that he being able to discourse and demonstrate concerning that part of his complex idea which depends upon the number of thousand, he is apt to think he has a distinct idea of a chiliaedron; though it be plain he has no precise idea of its figure, so as to distinguish it, by that, from one that has but 999 sides: the not observing whereof causes no small error in men’s thoughts, and confusion in their discourses.
1. How does Locke respond to Descartes’s argument in Sixth Meditation: Of the Existence of Material Things, and of the Real Distinction Between the Mind and Body of Man for the distinction between the intellect and the imagination? Who is right?