Locke (1632-1704).
Born 1632, during Charles I. Sent to Westminster school by father, stern Puritan parliamentarian. 1652 goes to Oxford where in 1658 gets the post of senior student tenurable for life. His interest in medicine.
1666, enters the service of Lord Ashley, later Earl of Shaftesbury, on whom he performs an operation successfully.
1675 goes to France for  4 years, comes back and follows ups and downs of Shaftesbury's anti-Catholic politics, who finally (1683) escapes to Holland, where he dies.  Charles II revokes Lk's studentship and Lk., now in Holland, fearing extradition changes name to Dr. van der Linden.
1689, comes back after Glorious Revolution (James II deposed and William of Orange king). Refuses post of ambassador.  In 1691 goes to live in Lady Masham's house where he stays till he dies 1704.
Letters Concerning Toleration (1689-92). Very important liberal document which, however, denies toleration to atheists and Catholics.
Two Treatises (1690): importance for founding fathers. Chapter on slavery.
An Essay concerning human understanding (1690). Leibniz' New Essays.
The reasonableness of Christianity (1695).

The aim of the Essay is to investigate the origin, extent and certainty of human knowledge.

Idea:  Locke uses the term 'idea' to refer at least to three different things:

  1. the act of perceiving (e.g., II, 1, 3;  II 10, 2)
  2. the mental state (Descartes' subjective idea)

  3. NOTE: to what extent this can be distinguished from (1) is a matter of debate.  Still, Lk is not averse to talking of perception as a passion (as for Berkeley) rather than as an act (II, 1, 25; II, 9, 1)
  4. the intentional content of the mental state (Descartes' objective idea) (II, 8, 8)
Still, perhaps overall he accepts (3) as the primary notion of idea.  An idea is "whatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding" (II,8,8).  If so, Lk. adopts the representative theory of perception: we directly perceive our ideas, which in turn represent objects which we 'perceive' indirectly.
NOTE: Three main alternatives:
  1. Direct Realism

  2. Problems: bent stick; time light takes to get to us (Lz & Russell);
  3. Idealism;
  4. Representationalism

  5. Problems: the veil of perception.
A. The origin of ideas
The origin of ideas is in experience, which has two aspects, sensation and reflection of which the former is prior. B. Simple ideas: C. The attack on the Cartesian notion of matter.
For Descartes, the essence of matter is three-dimensional extension. In effect, then, space is reduced to matter, and therefore there cannot be any empty space.  For Locke, the notion of matter must also include that of solidity.  To show Descartes wrong, he has two arguments:
  1. Hand stretching beyond the edge of the universe.  Then, either matter infinite, or essence of matter more than three-dimensional extension (II, 13, 21).

  2. NOTE: argument is old.
  3. God can stop all motion.  Then, certainly he can annihilate this book.  Since there's no motion, no matter can fill the vacuum.  So, a vacuum is possible, and the essence of matter is not merely extension .

D. Primary/secondary/tertiary qualities.

a) the distinction:

b) the origin of the distinction and its goals: c) philosophical grounds for the distinction:  d) Problems and issues:

E. Power.
a) power, what:

b) the will & freedom:
In contrast to other discussions, that of freedom is not tinged with pessimism or agnosticism, presumably because freedom is necessary for morality, to which the Essay tries to provide the preconditions.
1. Some definitions: 2. Freedom is the power a person has to act (successfully) on the basis of what he actually wills or could will.  By and large, Lk adopts a compatibilist approach.

3. Locke holds that we have the power to suspend our volitions, and that this is the source of what is "improperly called free will." (II, 21, 47).  This can be red as an endorsement of contracausal freedom and therefore to open problems of consistency, since he seems to adopt both libertarianism and compatibilism.  Perhaps, however, the passage can be read merely as stating an obvious capacity compatible with determinism.

4. Theory of motivation: what determines the will?