Esser, Frederick: John Locke‘s Investigation into our Knowledge of Bodies


Kapitel 1. Ideas and Archetypes

At the end of the second book of the Essay Locke compares the content of an ordinary idea of bodies with its archetype. He conceives an archetype as what an idea is intended to represent and identifies the archetype with a real essence. More specifically, some people refer their ideas to Aristotelian real essences whereas others relate them to corpuscularian real essences. Yet, despite this difference, all speakers understand the archetypes to be the real essences of bodies experienced in nature. Locke‘s primary claim is that our ideas of bodies represent only inadequately their archetypes or real essences respectively. In addition, the ideas are said to be inadequate representations as to the substratum of bodies.

Generally speaking, commentators do not pay much attention to the topic of archetypes in the first place,<22> but if they do so, they tend to focus on corpuscularian real essences since they apparently regard corpuscularian real essences as the true archetypes of ideas of bodies and Aristotelian real essences as only alleged archetypes.<23> But this picture does not fit with Locke‘s comments, as a closer examination will reveal. The upshot is a far more complex account, namely that according to Locke a subject conceives an idea as standing in the perspective of a certain epistemic project, which goes beyond the idea‘s content, when relating ideas to archetypes. An idea is formed to serve a specific classificatory end that is not part of the idea. This epistemic intention varies among subjects in so far as they have different ideas of what the real essences of bodies are, but they share the basic conception to depict species experienced in nature and that real essences are the archetypes of ideas of bodies. These insights will prove to be important in chapter seven on real essences, but there is an immediate implication as well: Locke‘s account that our ideas of bodies are inadequate both as to corpuscularian real essences and as to their substratum adds up to an assessment of our conceptual grasp of bodies from an ideal


viewpoint of scientific classification.

The first step is to clarify what an idea is. Giving the gist of Yolton‘s interpretation and of Ayers‘s supplemental account and acknowledging both views in principal, I argue in later chapters that, pace Ayers, Yolton‘s reading applies thoroughly to the context of bodies. The punchline is to give the reader the established interpretation of Lockean ideas at hand as well as to delineate Ayers‘s account against which the argument is directed in the following chapters. Then, an analysis of Locke‘s comments on archetypes contends that there he links ideas to the classificatory venture a subject has in mind. Both the differences and the common ground of the Aristotelian and corpuscularian epistemic project will be highlighted which, according to Locke, speakers pursue with their ideas. Subsequently, I will make plain Locke‘s assessment of our ideas from an ideal scientific viewpoint. This latter result will be reconfirmed in the chapters on substratum, the theory of qualities, and real essences.

a. The Notion of Idea

Locke‘s central characterizations of ideas highlight them as “the immediate object of Perception, Thought, or Understanding“.<24> Reading this portrayal on the philosophical backdrop of Locke‘s time, Yolton in particular has developed an interpretation which comprehends Lockean ideas as intentional objects.<25> The point is to explain how thought can be concerned with entities which are “outside“ the mind. Conceiving entities, the claim is, is to grasp them by a mental representation. For example, one can think of tigers by having a conception of tigers. In this explanation, tigers “appear“ in two ways; namely, firstly, tigers as the (material or physical) entities being referred to by one‘s thinking of tigers, and, secondly, tigers as the (intentional) entities being the content of one‘s conception of tigers, i. e. as the entities being referred to in so far as they are thought of. In the second sense, tigers are the intentional object or the object of thought respectively, namely the entities being conceived of in so far as they are conceived of. The difference


between the two “ontological modes“ becomes apparent with respect to their existence conditions as to non-existant entities. When thinking of centaurs, there are centaurs as the object of this thought of centaurs even though there are no centaurs in the world to which the thought refers; while, on the other hand, when no one thinks of gold, there would be gold in nature to which a thought refers even though there were no gold as the object of a thought.

Interpreting Locke‘s notion of the immediate objects of the understanding as intentional objects, to say for Locke, ideas are the immediate objects of the understanding, is to emphasize that one conceives entities only by thinking of them. One conceives entities in terms of ideas, i. e. one grasps entities by them being the intentional object of one‘s thought. ’Thought‘ is taken here in a very general sense which signifies all kinds of intentional states whether they are, for example, sensations or memories. For instance, the thought of an particular apple might be one‘s sensation or one‘s memory of the apple. Moreover, Locke speaks of ideas not only in the sense of them being the content or object of intentional states, but also in the sense of them being an intentional state. For example, with ’idea of gold‘ Locke could mean either gold in so far as it is a thought of gold or gold in so far as it is the object of thoughts of gold.

I prefer to speak of ideas in terms of mental representations.<26> That is, Locke‘s ideas are either mental representations, i. e. intentional states representing entities, or the content of representations, i. e. the object of thought. For example, in the first sense the idea of centaurs is the mental representation of a sort of entities, namely of centaurs. In this sense of idea, an idea is specified by its content. An idea is the mental depiction or portrayal of specific entities, an idea is a mental state which represents entities. One can speak of course not only of particular mental representations, but also of a type of mental representations which is individuated by a common content. Two persons have the same idea of gold, if the two mental representations have the same content, i. e. if they depict the same entities. And Locke calls both types of mental representations and their token idea. Moreover, whether ideas are understood as types or tokens of representations, to highlight ideas as mental representations explains why in some contexts ideas are


identified with mental states being characterized by having a specific content and a causal history, e. g. the sensation of yellow. On the other hand, in most contexts and especially in connection with his comments we are concerned with, Locke means by idea the content of mental representations, i. e. the object of thought. He examines our mental representations with respect to the sort of entities they represent. For example, the discussion of our ideas of bodies is an analysis of the kind of features by which bodies are conceived as bodies. Since ideas in the sense of representations are genuinely characterized by their content, there is a floating transition from ideas understood as representations to ideas understood as the content of representations. Yet, one should keep in mind that for Locke ’idea‘ can denote both the content of mental representations as well as these mental representation themselves.

By and large, in some cases a Lockean idea might be regarded as making up the whole content of a thought. For example, if one thinks of tigers simply in the sense that one conceives of tigers as they are depicted by one‘s idea, one could regard the whole cognitive content of the thought as solely consisting of the idea of tigers. More precisely, however, for Locke ideas serve as aspects of intentional content. This becomes evident in his theory of knowledge where a “combination“ of ideas represents a state of affairs. As will be developed more in detail,<27> to know that a state of affairs holds is to perceive the holding of that state of affairs, e. g. that gold is yellow. States of affairs are therefore likewise content of intentional states where a single idea serves to represent an aspect of a state of affairs, e. g. the idea of gold stands for gold. Moreover, given Locke‘s emphasis that not ideas but only propositions can be true or false,<28> if pressed, Locke should concede that one‘s thought of tigers is not simply aquivalent to the idea of tigers, but to a proposition representing a state of affairs expressing or spelling out the depiction of tigers as it is entailed in the idea, e. g. ’Tigers are predatory cats with yellow and brown stripes‘. Thus, strictly speaking, Lockean ideas are aspects of thoughts.

There is a close connection between ideas and concepts. Words are regarded as signs which acquire semantic content only when they are used to signify ideas.<29> Categorematic


terms like substantives, predicates, adjectives, and adverbs signify ideas whereas so-called particles, i. e. syncategorematic terms, like ’but‘ refer to relations between ideas.<30> This shows, since ’idea‘ is the central notion of Locke‘s theory, that from his perspective concepts or the meaning of words have to be explained in terms of ideas, namely as the content of ideas. Concepts, meaning, words, etc. are entities which have to be related to intentional states of an epistemological subject, i. e. they terminate ultimately in the content of mental representations. On the other hand, at central places Locke explains ideas by referring to words. An idea represents what a word stands for:

“§1. EVERY Man being conscious to himself, That he thinks, and that which his Mind is employ‘d about whilst thinking, being the Ideas, ‘tis past doubt, that Men have in their Minds several Ideas, such as are those expressed by the words, Whiteness, Hardness, Sweetness, Thinking, Motion, Man, Elephant, Army, Drunkenness, and others: [...]“.<31>

Given this nexus between ideas and the meaning of words, an idea can be conceived of characterizing entities in the way concepts do. An idea entails the kind of portrayal of entities as it is entailed in concepts. In modern terms, the content of an idea amounts to the meaning, or intension, of a concept.<32> In this sense, one‘s idea of entities represents one‘s conceptual understanding of these entities. In the contexts, where Locke focuses on the content of ideas, ideas add up to what one usually calls concepts. For instance, Locke‘s analysis of the content of our ideas of bodies is effectively an account of our concepts of bodies. More precisely, to discuss “our“ or “the“ ideas of bodies, means for Locke to examine the kind of ideas which are commonly signified by our names of bodies. As his repeated criticism of Descartes‘s notion of bodies shows,<33> Locke is only interested in our


usual concepts of bodies, namely in those ideas which are given by experience and which therefore represent entities in the world. Having said that, one should keep in mind however that in connection with other issues it is relevant that ideas are mental representations.

Ayers has complemented Yolton‘s account of Lockean ideas by adding another understanding of ideas which is present in some of Locke‘s comments on simple ideas. An idea is understood as a mental state in the sense of a “blank effect“ of an external cause.<34> A blank effect is a mental state characterized by phenomenological features and caused by an external power or property. The idea of yellow is, for instance, the kind of effect which is caused by yellow objects. The phenomenological feature of the idea of yellow is thereby contrasted by the phenomenological features of other sorts of sensations, e. g. the phenomenological feature of sensations of green. As Ayers has convincingly shown, this understanding of ideas is indeed present in Locke‘s arguments.<35>

Now, matters become complicated if one asks what is the content of a simple idea. In many contexts, a simple idea is said to be about the property that causes the simple idea in ordinary sensation. For example, the idea of yellow is about the feature of material objects which causes the sensation of yellow when one visually perceives yellow. Given this “causal understanding“ of the content of simple ideas, there is a seemingly innocuous connection between ideas as blank effects and ideas as intentional objects. Simple ideas of sensible qualities, e. g. colours, tastes and sounds, are individuated by phenomenological features. Yellow is the property of bodies that causes sensations of yellow, whereas green is the feature producing sensations of green. But this kind of characterization does not apply to all simple ideas. For example, the idea of the form of globes is the mental representation of the form of globes whether one has a visual or tactual idea of the shape.<36> In other words, for Locke there is no difference between a visual and a tactual idea of the form of globes as there is a difference between the idea of yellow and the idea of green. On first thought, one might want to explain this difference by pointing out that it is justified for Locke to take the visual and the tactual idea of a shape to be the same


ideas, since they represent the same property. These two ideas, one might add, are only different in the sense that they have been received by different senses. And indeed Locke does hold that experience has to show that the tactual and the visual idea of globes have the same content.<37> Lockean simple ideas, one could move on, are mental representations that are prima facie individuated by their specific phenomenological features, but which are identified by their content, namely by the kind of property causing this sort of mental representations in sensation. Simple ideas are portrayed as mental representations having both a property as their content and phenomenological features by which one specifies the content.

However, Locke‘s position is not that straight forward, since there are other passages in which a simple idea is depicted as an intentional state whose content consists in the phenomenological features of a mental state. Sensations are the paradigm again. For example, in some passages the idea of pain is understood as a mental state being characterized by phenomenological features which differ from sensations of colour.<38> In this sense, one can move on to distinguish between pondering and stinging pain, i. e. between ideas representing various sorts of pains. Here, simple ideas do not represent their cause, but their phenomenological features. In sensations, such a simple idea is effectively a self-representing mental state; but since there are also other intentional states than sensations, e. g. memories of one‘s having been in pain, simple ideas in this sense need not to be self-representing states. Rather, more generally, simple ideas of this kind represent mental states being characterized by phenomenological features. Ayers‘s speaks therefore rightly of two different models of ideas which are partly interrelated and partly excluding each other. On the one hand, by characterizing simple ideas as blank effects one can explain how they represent their cause, namely by asserting that a simple idea represents the property which causes a certain kind of blank effect. On the other hand, in other contexts simple ideas are said to represent a blank effect.

Ayers shows convincingly both that Locke‘s understanding of simple ideas as blank effects is part and parcel of his conception of ideas as being mental representations of their cause


and that the blank-effect model is employed in some places to specify the content of a simple idea as a blank effect. But I disagree with Ayers with respect to the range of contexts in which the content of a simple idea is identified with a blank effect. In particular, I will argue that in Locke‘s theory of qualities and resemblance the content of ideas of secondary qualities is identified with their cause.<39> For example, the idea of pain is conceived there as representing the property of bodies which causes the idea of pain, i. e. as standing for the disposition of bodies to produce pain. This interpretation of ideas of secondary qualities implies that Locke only uses rarely the blank effect model to determine a simple idea as a blank effect representing a mental state being characterized by phenomenological features. Pace Ayers, there is no clash between the two models, but rather a peaceful coexistence.<40> On the other hand, as we have seen, Ayers correctly points to unclarified parts of Locke‘s theory. Some simple ideas, e. g. the idea of pain, are in some contexts portrayed as representing blank effects, but in other ones as representing its cause; some simple ideas, e. g. the visual and the tactual ideas of the shape of a globe, are said to be one idea conveyed by different senses, whereas other simple ideas being likewise conveyed by different senses, e. g. ideas of colours and of smells, are said to be different. These are no contradictions but represent either ambiguities or the lack to clarify exactly what mental representations should have in common to be signified by the same name, e. g. by ’pain‘ or ’globe‘.

b. Ideas of Bodies and their Archetypes

Ideas, we have seen, are mental representations of entities. This means for ideas of bodies more specifically that they each stand for a species of bodies having a distinct set of properties. For example, a particular idea of bodies might depict the class of bodies being yellow and having a metallic shine. Bodies are thereby understood as entities having a substratum, consisting of coherent solid parts as well as being extended and capable of


communicating motion by impulse.<41> As will be delineated in the next chapter, the substratum of bodies is the kind of stuff they consist of, namely matter.<42> Thus, an idea of bodies comprises the idea of substratum, the ideas of extension, solidity and motion as well as a set of other ideas of properties which specify the depicted class of bodies as a particular species, e. g. as gold.<43> Now, Locke assesses our ideas of bodies in comparison with the epistemic project a subject pursues with his or her ideas. As will now be argued, Locke‘s comments entail that his account on ideas being inadequate as to corpuscularian real essences and substratum is an examination of our conceptual grasp of bodies from an ideal scientific viewpoint.

At various places, Locke comprehends ideas of bodies to depict a class of bodies which one has regularly experienced. For example, in the chapter on the ideas of substances, Locke asserts that one forms an idea of substances in the light of the repeated experience of substances having a particular set of properties.<44> To experience recurrently various bodies being yellow and fixed, leads to the genesis of an idea of bodies being yellow and fixed. In other passages, an idea of substances is said to copy an existing pattern, e. g. bodies being yellow and fixed. An idea of bodies depicts therefore an existing class of bodies, since the idea has been formed in the light of bodies displaying a common set of features. In this sense, substances are said to be the “standard“ of an idea, namely the entities according to which one generates the idea. The idea has its standard in nature.<45> Similarly, one puts together properties in an idea because there are bodies in nature which show a corresponding union of these properties: “the Union in Nature of these Qualities“ is “the true Ground of their Union in one complex Idea“.<46>

This account is developed further in his theory of real and fantastical ideas. An idea of substance is real if it depicts existing substances: if there “are such Combinations of simple Ideas, as are really united, and coexist in Things without us“.<47> By contrast, fantastical idea


of substances “are made up of such Collections of simple Ideas, as were really never united, never were found together in any Substance.“<48> A fantastical idea is not a copy of an existing pattern or standard. For example, the idea of a centaur or the idea of a body possessing the colour of gold and the weight of iron are fantastical, since one has not experienced bodies of this kind. Yet, Locke insists, a fantastical idea might represent substances existing in the world even though one does not know whether this is possible.<49> One is ignorant of whether these bodies could exist because one‘s idea is not a copy. Locke speaks at some places of real ideas as if specimens must actually exist so that the idea is real. However, the characterization of fantastical ideas and their opposition to real ones as well as passages on real knowledge show that an idea is real even if no specimens exist presently. Real ideas of substances “[have to] be taken from something that does or has existed“.<50> Once the idea is made, there need not to be members of the depicted sort. Locke‘s point is that a real idea must be a copy and thus guaranteeing the possibility that specimens exist.

Locke‘s distinction of real and fantastical ideas makes plain that ideas of bodies corresponding to our everyday concepts of natural kinds serve as copies for species existing in nature. The epistemic purpose of real ideas of bodies is to portray classes of bodies which do exist or at least have existed in the world. This becomes evident by the contrast between substances and mixed modes or relations.<51> Ideas of mixed modes or of relations might have been made in accordance with features of an existing entity, but this need not to be the case: they are “not always copied from Nature“.<52> Correspondingly, an idea of mixed modes is real even if it is not a copy and is fantastical only if it depicts entities by properties which exclude each other logically.<53>

Locke‘s account of fantastical ideas likewise makes clear that an idea of bodies represents


entities in the world even if the idea is not a copy. In this sense, the representative content of ideas is independent of its epistemic purpose for which it has been introduced. Whatever epistemic function a subject attaches to its ideas, they represent the kind of bodies which they depict. A fantastical idea portrays, in principle, bodies in the world even if it is not truly a copy of some specimens of the sort. This independence of an idea‘s content from the opinions and intentions of a speaker is affirmed rigorously by Locke in his theory of true and false ideas. According to Locke, a truth value can be ascribed only to propositions because only they express a state of affairs.<54> Properly speaking, he maintains, an idea cannot be judged to be true or false, since ideas, if taken by themselves, represent simply the kind of entities they do. For this reason it does not make sense to call them either true or false.<55> Only ideas which include properties logically contradicting each other may be termed false as to their content<56> - since such ideas do not really portray any kind of entity. Usually, however, one asserts an idea to be true or false in reference to another entity.<57> As to substances, this means, an idea is related to another entity in the sense that the idea depicts this entity.<58> For example, our common ideas of bodies are false in the way that they do not depict bodies by microphysical properties, namely by their corpuscularian real essences.

We have seen, ideas of bodies are designed to copy real existing patterns, i. e. classes of bodies possessing a common set of properties. But besides this epistemic function, a speaker has further epistemic intentions with regard to his ideas. One does not only aim at portraying an existing class of bodies by the set of properties one has experienced. Rather, one intends to depict these bodies also by properties which exceed the set of features one has experienced and which go thus beyond the content of the idea. This means, one has a conception of the bodies that are represented by one‘s idea which goes beyond the depiction of the idea.

Aristotelians, for example, grasp the species being portrayed by their ideas of bodies as


classes which are characterized by an Aristotelian real essence. By contrast, other speakers understand the bodies being depicted by their ideas to possess corpuscularian real essences. Epistemic subjects therefore comprehend the specimens of a sort by properties which are not included in their ideas. In other words, they conceive the members of a sort as being a particular kind of entities, e. g. as entities having an Aristotelian real essence in common. This account of Locke becomes obvious in his theory of (in-) adequate ideas. Ideas of bodies, he explains, are used in two ways. Either one refers them to a class of bodies sharing an Aristotelian real essence, or to a class of bodies possessing corpuscularian real essences.<59> Either way, ideas of bodies are inadequate, since they do not include either type of real essences.<60>

This means, a subject comprehends the specimens of a sort as of a particular kind of entities. Speakers conceive of bodies as being of a certain type of entities what is not entailed in their ideas. Importantly, one does not only grasp bodies being depicted by an idea to be such entities; one also intends to represent bodies as such entities, e. g. as bodies having the same Aristotelian real essence. If one knew real essences, one would form ideas including these real essences and thus representing bodies as the entities as one conceives them. In this case, one‘s ideas of bodies were adequate since they would represent the bodies they depict by the features one intends to portray the bodies. More precisely, according to Locke subjects intend to portray bodies not only by their real essence, but by their substratum as well. An idea is therefore adequate if it depicts the represented bodies by their real essence and substratum. One‘s intentions as to representing bodies involves therefore a conception of the properties by which one ideally wants to portray bodies by one‘s ideas.

This comprehension of the specimens of a sort of bodies is entailed in Locke‘s notion of archetype. Archetypes are the entities one regards to be the originals or standards of one‘s ideas. The archetype of an idea is the entity “which the Mind supposes [to have] taken [the idea] from“.<61> One conceives of the standard of an idea to be the archetype of the idea; the archetype is the entity which one takes the standard to be. In the case of bodies, speakers


thus conceive of their ideas as copies of their archetype. The archetype is the entity which one believes the standard to be and according to which one has formed the idea. A subject grasps the standard as the idea‘s archetype, and comprehends the idea as a copy of the features the archetype has displayed. The archetype of an idea is therefore a conception of the standard of the idea - a conception portraying the standard beyond the experienced properties and serving as the ideal as what kind of entity one wants to depict the standard.

Given this notion of archetype and Locke‘s corpuscularian belief that bodies possess corpuscularian real essences, it is legitimate for Locke to apprehend the standard of an idea as a corpuscularian archetype and to signify the standard with ’archtetype‘ when discussing the corpuscularian use of ideas.<62> This identification of standards and corpuscularian archetypes is natural for Locke, but one has to keep in mind that an archetype is not defined as the kind of entity which actually serves as the original of our ideas. Only if one has an understanding of archetypes which discerns correctly the (unknown) features of one‘s standards, standards can be conceived as instantiations of one‘s archetypes. The case of Aristotelian archetypes exemplifies this. Since speakers intend their ideas to represent the archetype which they have in mind and since speakers take their archetypes to be the originals of their ideas, Aristotelians conceive the standards of their ideas as having an Aristotelian real essence. But according to Locke, bodies do not have Aristotelian real essences; the conception of Aristotelian real essences is for him even incomprehensible.<63> The Aristotelian case shows, the archetype of an idea need not to be also the idea‘s standard. An archetype is only the kind of entity which one conceives the original of our ideas to be.

Furthermore, an archetype is not only a speaker‘s comprehension of his standard. More specifically, a subject intends his idea to represent its archetype, i. e. one refers the idea to its archetype. Locke therefore calls ideas inadequate because they are “a partial, or incomplete representation of those Archetypes to which they are referred“, because they do not “perfectly represent those Archetypes ... which it [scil. the mind] intends them [scil. the ideas] to stand for, and to which it [scil. the mind] refers them“.<64> The kind of


archetype, which an idea has, depends on the way it is used by a speaker. An Aristotelian use of ideas ascribes Aristotelian-real-essence archetypes to ideas, a corpuscularian use refers ideas to corpuscularian real essences. Locke calls therefore ideas inadequate because they do not portray the archetype as one uses one‘s ideas: “[with respect to both ways in which ideas of bodies can be used] these Copies of those Originals, and Archetypes, are imperfect and inadequate“.<65> In other words, ideas of bodies are inadequate depictions of their archetypes - whether one wants to represent bodies by Aristotelian or by corpuscularian real essences - since either kind of real essences is not contained in our ideas. This entails, the archetype of an idea represents the kind of entity as which one would like ideally to portray its standard. More generally, one‘s comprehension of archetypes embodies a conception of the features by which one would ideally represent a body.

We have seen, the notion of archetype relates directly to one‘s grasp of standards, but it entails indirectly a corresponding understanding which one has of bodies, species and ideas. For example, due to their comprehension of real essences, Aristotelians grasp every body to possess an Aristotelian real essence and to be classified by it into a species. The members of each species are regarded to share the same Aristotelian real essence. Consequently, they believe that the inclusion of further properties of the macrophysical level, which are displayed by several specimens, is a perfection of the idea they already have of that species. The possession of the same Aristotelian real essence is seen to guarantee that all members of a species have in common the same features of the macrophysical level. Locke brands this understanding of one‘s ideas (and words) as an abuse of language which according to him leads to false knowledge claims raised by the Aristotelians.<66> Moreover, due to their comprehension of species, real essences and archetypes, Aristotelians conceive their ideas as part of a scientific project to classifiy bodies ideally according to their respective Aristotelian real essence. Corpuscularians, by contrast, see themselves to sort bodies ultimately as to corpuscularian real essences. In the chapter on language and species, I will highlight this latter claim. Thus, from their own


perspective speakers pursue a certain epistemic project of classification; and depending on their understanding of bodies, species and real essences, subjects might have a different outlook on their depiction of bodies by their ideas.

Yet, despite the differences, both Aristotelians and corpuscularians recognize that their ideas are copies of standards in nature. Ideas are not only partial representations of their archetypes, but foremost copies of an experienced set of properties. Aristotelians and corpuscularians disagree over the epistemic purpose of their ideas only as to what goes beyond experience or respectively beyond the content of their ideas. Their respective beliefs in archetypes affect solely the broader outlook of the classification represented by their ideas. This corresponds to Locke‘s stance that the representative content of an idea is independent of the opinions and intentions one has. Thus for Locke, Aristotelians still have ideas of bodies which relate to bodies in the world regardless of their thoroughly false conception of bodies, species and real essences. The common ground of Aristotelians and corpuscularians is their use of ideas to copy and represent existing sorts of bodies.

Importantly, since Locke regards the corpuscularian understanding of archetypes as correct, his more specific comments on the corpuscularian use of ideas are effectively an assessment of one‘s ideas and classification of bodies from an ideal scientific viewpoint. As we have seen, for Locke ideas ideally depict bodies by their corpuscularian real essences. Consequently, Locke regards our ordinary ideas as provisional. According to him, one makes use of features of the macrophyiscal level only because of our ignorance of corpuscularian real essences and as a substitution for real essences.<67> Properties of the macrophysical level serve as a substitution of unknown real essences because one takes only those properties into one‘s ideas which one believes to be identical with parts of the real essence of the standard. Here the corpuscularian understanding of the reduction or identification of properties comes into play. For example, the colour of a body is comprehended as being identical to parts of the microphysical surface of the body. Features of the macrophyiscal level are thus identified with microphysical properties. Rough and ready in Lockean terms, features of the macrophysical level depend on the


real essence of the body.<68> Therefore, due to this correspondence or identity relationship between properties of the macrophysical level with features of the microphysical stage, the former can be taken as placeholders and substitutions for the latter. All properties of a standard which depend on its real essence, or microphysical internal constitution respectively, have a right to be included.<69> Correspondingly, according to Locke one does not include features in an idea which one regards as not depending on the real essence of its standard. For example, if one generates an idea of gold, one does not take the form of its standard into the idea because one cannot conceive its form to depend on its real essence.<70> The precedence of real essences over properties of the macrophysical level finds also expression when Locke judges our ideas still as inadequate even if they contained all the features of the macrophysical level which depend on the real essences of their standards.<71> Thus, the inclusion of properties in an idea is understood in the perspective of representing the corpuscularian real essence of the standard.

On the other hand, when portraying ideas of bodies in general, Locke puts forward another conception of ideas, namely that ideas serve to copy sets of features experienced recurrently. Consequently, this means for him, every property or set of properties may be taken into an idea which has been experienced repeatedly. As he puts it, every property, which has been found together with other features, has the right to be included in an idea: “For the complex Ideas of Substances, being made up of such simple ones as are supposed to coexist in Nature, every one has a right to put into his complex Idea, those Qualities he has found to be united together.“<72> In other words, properties making up an idea have “no more original precedency, or right to put it, and make the specifick Idea, more than others that are left out“.<73> Since this is a general conception as to ideas of substances in so far as they are (real) ideas of substances, an ideal idea is a copy of a recurrently experienced set of features.

The present point is that at first sight Locke gives two different conceptions of the


properties which are included and which are ideally to be included in ideas. On the one hand, ideas include only properties depending on the real essence of their standard as a substitution for the standard‘s unknown, corpuscularian real essence which ideas ideally contain. On the other hand, ideas comprise and ideally comprise features that are found repeatedly together in various bodies. Crucially, these two conceptions of ideas are not detached from one another. They apparently go hand in hand, since Locke mentions them in the same contexts: properties of an idea‘s standard which are regarded as being left out are features that both depend on the real essence and go together regularly.<74>

How can these two conceptions of ideas of bodies be squared with one another? The usual readings of corpuscularian real essences cannot accomplish this, as we will see in chapter seven.<75> And as will be argued there as well, in the light of a different understanding of what Locke‘s corpuscularian real essences are, both conceptions turn out to be effectively aquivalent.<76> By and large, a classification as to real essences, is the sorting of bodies according to their microphysical similarities. And since similarities are sets of features which can be experienced repeatedly, the recurrent experience of microphysical properties that coexist in bodies, is the experience of microphysical similarities among bodies. To represent bodies by their real essence, is thus effectively the depiction of bodies by the largest set of microphyiscal features which recurrently coexists, namely by their microphysical similarities. If real essences are thus understood, it likewise becomes plain how features of the macrophysical level serve as substitutions for real essences. Due to the correspondence relationship, similarities on the macrophysical stage correspond to similarities on the microphysical level. A sorting of bodies in accordance with repeatedly experienced similarities on the macrophysical level approximates a classification of bodies in accordance with their microphysical similarities. By contrast, the traditional comprehension of Lockean real essences fails to deliver a satisfying answer as to the role properties of the macrophyiscal level play as substitutions for corpuscularian real essences.

As argued, ideas are said to be inadequate as to Aristotelian and corpuscularian


archetypes. That is, ideas of bodies are inadequate as to the features by which a speaker ideally wants to portray bodies. Ideas are therefore inadequate as to Aristotelian and corpuscularian real essences as well as to the substratum of bodies. However, in his comments Locke evidently focuses on corpuscularian real essences. In the summary of II.xxxi, the inadequacy as to Aristolian real essences is not mentioned any longer and the one as to substratum is briefly acknowledged for the first time. Moreover, in subsequent discussions ideas of bodies are said to be (in-) adequate, more or less, only with respect to corpuscularian real essences.<77> In addition, Locke‘s comments on our general epistemic venture and on the specific corpuscularian project naturally relate to his theory of an ideal classification since ideas of bodies represent species. To say that bodies are to be depicted by sets of features which have been experienced repeatedly, is to maintain that bodies are to be sorted according to their similarities. To assert that bodies are ideally portrayed by their corpuscularian real essence, is to contend that one ideally classifies bodies into species by their corpuscularian real essence. Thus, taking everything into account, in his comments on inadequacy Locke effectively assesses our ideas of bodies in the perspective of an ideal classification. That is, when claiming that ideas of bodies are inadequate as to corpuscularian real essences, Locke determines our conceptual understanding of bodies in the perspective of an ideal classification.

Importantly, the proposed ideal of ideas portraying bodies by their corpuscularian real essences applies to our ideas solely from a scientific viewpoint. Locke concedes that in everyday life one would still make use of our ordinary ideas, even if we knew real essences, since with our senses one can recognize and determine substances of a particular sort only by features of the macrophysical level.<78> After all, we do not have microscopical eyes to discover handily the real essence of a substance.<79> This acknowledgement of the need of ideas for our everyday use implies a devision between two sorts of ideas and, correspondingly, two sorts of language, namely one for everyday life and one for scientific


investigations. This ties in with Locke‘s remark to Stillingfleet that he does not claim that ideas of bodies are necessarily inadequate because not all speakers refer them to real essences as the archetypes of their ideas.<80> It depends on the speaker and his epistemic interests. Yet, this does not imply a principal devision between, on the one hand, laymen and, on the other hand, corpuscularians and Aristotelians, since for Locke both laymen and Aristotelians abuse their names of bodies by referring them to unknown real essences. In this latter case, there is only the difference that Aristotelians further obscure their use of words by an unintelligible theory of real essences.<81> This indicates that, according to Locke, speakers do generally refer their ideas of bodies to real essences qua archetypes.

Locke‘s focus is, however, on adequate ideas serving our scientific purposes and interests. It is his epistemological backdrop why in his account adequate ideas take precedence over our everyday, inadequate ideas. He is interested in determining the correct understanding of the classificatory quest which looms in the content and formation of our everyday ideas of bodies, and in assessing the content of our ideas from this ideal scientific viewpoint. From the scientific perspective, Locke contends, one should comprehend our ideas in the perspective of corpuscularian real essences.

This account is enhanced by the results of chapter five. For real essences are understood in terms of microphysical primary qualities which, as will be argued, are features in terms of which bodies are conceived from an ideal scientific viewpoint. The same applies to the substratum of bodies, since it is likwise elucidated in terms of microphysical primary qualities as will be delineated in the next section. This scientific standpoint is generally speaking the physical one, but more specifically a particular epistemological one as well. Locke‘s focus on a corpuscularian understanding of archetypes thus means that his argument on inadequacy determines our everyday comprehension of bodies from an ideal scientific standpoint: our everyday ideas do neither characterize bodies by corpuscularian real essences nor by their substratum. And, as has been shown, this


assessment stands in the perspective of an ideal classification.

This account becomes more clear in the following chapters. Having said that, we can turn to the next section where Locke‘s notion of substratum will be reconstructed and his account that our comprehension of the substratum of bodies is confused.



There has however been a recent debate on the adequacy of simple ideas. Cp. Bermúdez (1992) and Ferguson (1996).


This becomes plain when Locke‘s assertion that ideas of bodies are inadequate is effectively reduced to the claim that the ideas do not depict bodies by their corpuscularian real essences. However, ideas of bodies are said to be inadequate as to Aristotelian real essences as well. Cp. Ayers (1991), II, 76.


134, II.viii.8. Cp. 525, IV.i.1; Works IV, 130. Cp. also 47, I.i.8; 104, II.i.1.


Yolton (1984), 88-104.


In this context, one should mention the classic article on this topic, namely Jackson (1930).


Cp. section 9b.


Cp. 9b.


Cp. 6a.


471-73, III.vii. Alston overlooks Locke‘s particles when being polemical against Locke: “Can you discern an idea of “when“, “in“, “course“, “becomes“, etc., swimming into your ken as each word is pronounced? [...] What are we supposed to look for by way of an idea of “when“? How can we tell whether we have it in mind or not?“. Cp. Alston (1964), 24.


104, II.i.1.


As will be delineated in the next part, one mistakes Locke‘s talk of ideas being the primary signification of words if one reads it as the claim that ideas are the extension of words. Cp. 6a. Ashworth has convincingly argued this point. Cp. Ashworth (1984), 60-64. That is, Locke does not contend in this modern sense of ’meaning‘ that the meaning of words are ideas, as some commentators do. Cp. Alston (1964), 22; Bennett (1971), 27; O‘Connor (1967), 131.


Cp. 449,; 603ff, IV.vii.12ff.


Ayers (1991), I, 62.


Cp. 372,; 375, II.xxxi.2.


Cp. 127, II.v; 145f, II.ix.8.


145f, II.ix.8. This is the so-called Molyneux problem.


229-33, II.xx.


Cp. 4c.


Cp. Ayers (1991), I, 63ff.


305, II.xxiii.15; 306, II.xxiii.17f; 307, II.xxiii.22; 312f, II.xxiii.29f.


Cp. 2a.


297, II.xxiii.4.


295, II.xxiii.1.


Cp. 468f,


483, III.ix.13.








568, IV.iv.12. Cp. 385, II.xxxii.5.


429, III.v.3; 430f, III.v.5f; 434, III.v.10; 435-37; III.v.12-15.


431, III.v.7. In this context Locke refers to mixed modes; but as other passages show, his claims relate likewise to ideas of relations. Cp. 437, III.v.16.


By contrast, ideas of substances are real only if they are copies; fantastical if they are contradictory or not copies. Cp. 374,


384, II.xxxii.1; 391, II.xxxii.19. Cp. 9b.


384, II.xxxii.1; 392f, II.xxxii.20-24.


393, II.xxxii.26.


384, II.xxxii.1.; cp. 385; II.xxxii.5.


390f, II.xxxii.18; 392f, II.xxxii.22-25.


378, II.xxxi.6.


378-83, II.xxxi.6-13.


375, II.xxxi.1.


381, II.xxxi.8; 482f, II.ix.13.


380, II.xxxi.6.


375, II.xxxi.1.


378, II.xxxi.6.


499-503, III.x.17-21. Cp. 8.2.


301, II.xxiii.11; 584,; 587f,; 647, IV.xii.12.


Cp. 7a-b.


Cp. 382, II.xxxi.10; 486, III.ix.17.


Cp. 381, II.xxxi.9.


377, II.xxxi.3; 383, II.xxxi.13.


483, III.ix.13. Cp. 485f, III.ix.17.


381, II.xxxi.8.


Cp. 382, II.xxxi.10; 486, III.ix.17.


Cp. 7.1.


Cp. 7.1.


383, II.xxxi.13.


300, II.xxiii.8.


303, II.xxiii.12. Cp. 381, II.xxxi.8: “Because endeavoring to make the signification of their specifick Names as clear, and as little cumbersome as they can, they make their specifick Ideas of the sorts of Substances, for the most part, of a few of those simple Ideas which are to be found in them: [...]“.


Works, IV, 78.


Cp. 8.1.

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