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

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Kapitel 7. Real Essences

The notion of real essences is present in large parts of the Essay, which often relate to bodies in particular, namely in his accounts of archetypes, species, knowledge, and the imperfection and abuses of names. A correct grasp of the notion is essential for a precise understanding of what Locke contends as to bodies. Controversies about the details are still going on,<332> but the concept is typically determined by elucidating the real essences of bodies (and of any other kind of entities) in terms of Locke‘s defining portrayal, namely that the real essence of the member of a species is that on which the species‘s nominal essence and other coexisting properties depend. The nowadays orthodox view on real essences, established by Woolhouse,<333> reads the depend-on relationship as an explanatory one: the real essence of a specimen is what explains the nominal essence and other coexisting properties. The topic of real essences is thus conceived to be the explanation of properties. This means more specifically in the case of bodies that the real essence of a specimen is thought to consist of the microphysical structure corresponding to the features making up the nominal essence of the sort. Spelling out Woolhouse‘s formula differently as to some of Locke‘s comments, several commentators complement this reading by taking there the real essence of a body to be the set of all the microphysical properties the body has.<334>

By contrast, I will argue that the prevailing line of interpretation cannot coherently be squared with the characterizations which real essences of bodies receive in Locke‘s various arguments. His theories of species, archetypes and knowledge afford a different notion of real essences as commonly ascribed to him. Locke‘s definition of real essences should instead be understood in the light of his major claims and in particular on the backdrop of his theory of archetypes. In turn, the leading theme of real essences is not the explanation of properties serving in our everyday classification of bodies, but the


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epistemic project of an ideal scientific comprehension of bodies as specimens of sorts, a comprehension which underlies our everyday understanding and classification. It thus becomes plain that the notion of real essences serves Locke as the conceptual nexus to link different threads of his most substantial comments on bodies. Correspondingly, real essences emerge in the centre of a network of contentions which virtually are all elements of his assessment of the extent of human knowledge.

I intend to show first in 7.1 that the role, which real essences play in the various parts of Locke‘s theory of bodies, suggests a different understanding of ’real essence‘ in general and of the real essences of bodies in particular. The argument proceeds as follows. First, Woolhouse‘s approach to comprehend the definition of the real essences of bodies will be critized and modified; I will then point out that the defining portrayal alone does not sufficiently specify what real essences are; and, subsequently, the notion of real essence, its specification as to bodies, and the implications for the topic of real essences will be highlighted on the backdrop of Locke‘s other explanations, e. g. his account of archetypes. In other words, to conceive the defining portrayal of real essences in the light of Locke‘s further comments on them leads to a different understanding of what the issue of real essences is. In 7.2, this claim will be underpined in two ways. First, the analysis of two passages shows that there Locke consciously characterizes real essences as proposed. Secondly, a careful interpretation of Locke‘s comments reveals that they do not support competing views on the real essences of bodies in contrast to what is usually thought. The advanced reading will moreover be confirmed in the next chapter, since the discussion of the fifth abuse of language makes plain that the proposed comprehension of real essences is present there as well.


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7.1 The Real Essences of Bodies

a. ’Real Essence‘ and the Depend-on Relationship

Locke‘s dominant portrayal of real essences depicts the real essence of a specimen as what both the nominal essence of the sort and coexisting properties depend on, a portrayal which is present in his definition of ’real essence‘ as well as throughout the Essay.<335> Locke also uses alternative wordings, e. g. a real essence is what these features flow from. Locke does not precisely elucidate the depend-on relationship. Consequently, there is a need to interpret Locke‘s definition in the light of his further comments what is the deeper reason for the ongoing debate of what real essences are. Besides the passages discussed in 7.2, there are additional comments which commonly serve as textual evidence to establish the orthdox line of interpretation. But they are not conclusive, as I will argue now.

Commonly, the depend-on relationship is explained in the light of Locke‘s comparison between the real essence of natural substances and the mechanical set-up of artifical substances. Features of the macrophysical level, Locke says, depend on the real essence of a natural substance just as the outer appearances of a clock, e. g. the moving of the hour hand, depend on the inward contrivances of a clock, i. e. its springs and wheels.<336> The backdrop of this analogy is Locke‘s grasp of both types of entities as machines.<337> Artifical substances are machines being designed and constructed by human beings, natural


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substances are bodies being produced by nature.<338> For Woolhouse, the analogy imparts that the real essence of a natural substance causes and explains features of the macrophysical level just as the so-called inward contrivances of a clock, i. e. its springs and wheels, cause and explain the so-called outer appearances of the clock, e. g. the moving of the hour hand.<339> In this sense, Woolhouse and other commentators comprehend the depend-on relationship as an explanatory relationship and a real essence as the causal basis of a nominal essence. They regard the real essences of bodies (being conceived of as natural substances, not as artificial substances) as the sets of properties that on the microphysical stage correspond to the features which a nominal essence consists of. In this sense, a real essence is understood as the causal basis of a nominal essence, namely as the set of microphysical properties in terms of which the features on the macrophysical level are identified and explained.<340> Properties are thus conceived as depending on a real essence in the sense of being reducible to the real essence.

However, it is doubtful whether Locke really wants to convey this kind of depend-on relationship with his analogy. First of all, one cannot simply equate the relationship holding between the internal constitutions of natural substances and their nominal essences with the relationship holding between internal contrivances of artefacts and their outer appearances, since Locke emphasizes fundamental differences between artificial and natural substances. For whereas there is hardly any difficulty to come to grips with a classification of artefacts since one depicts artefacts by known features of their internal contrivances known to us, there are contraversies in the case of natural substances since one is ignorant of their internal constitutions.<341> In other words, to classify artefacts as to their internal contrivances is not problematic according to Locke since they consist of macrophysical features being epistemically accessible to us, whereas the sorting of natural substances as to their internal constitutions leads to difficulties since they consist of microphysical features which we do not know. This shows, Locke is clearly aware of the fact that the internal contrivances of artificial and natural substances differ in


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kind, namely that the internal contrivances of artefacts comprise macrophysical features whereas the real essences of natural substances consist of microphysical features. When Locke elucidates the depend-on relationship as to the real essences of natural substances in terms of a comparison to artificial substances, one can therefore not simply equate the former case with the latter one. This means, it is not evident how the analogy is exactly to be understood, since it is not clear which aspect is meant to be the one being common to both cases.

More importantly, the common line of interpretation is even less convincing because the analogy would not hold if it had to be understood in the suggested way. In the case of natural substances, we have seen, the explanatory relationship is taken to relate to sets of properties which are causally interrelated in the sense of being reducible to each other. Macrophysical properties like colours are identified with microphysical features. But in the case of artefacts the explanatory relationship holds between sets of properties which are causally interrelated in a temporal way, one being the effect of the other. Outer appearances like the moving of the hour hand and the striking of the clock are causally explained as effects of the internal construction of the clock but are not reduced to features of the mechanical set-up.

In addition, the prevailing comprehension of the depend-on relationship cannot apply to all types of species. Pace Woolhouse,<342> Mackie has rightly pointed out<343> that Locke introduces the essence distinction not only with respect to the species of natural substances, but as to every sort. But contrary to species of bodies, the real essences of specimens of other sorts are identical with their nominal essences. For example, both the


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real essence and the nominal essence of triangles is space being enclosed by three straight lines. And consequently, being in line with his identification of nominal and real essence and his characterization of real essences in terms of the depend-on relationship, Locke regards the non-defining features of triangles as depending on their real essence, namely on the properties defining them as triangles.<344> But, crucially, the depend-on relationship cannot meant here to be a causal one, since the defining properties of triangles cannot intelligibly be said in the relevant sense to be the cause of their other mathematical properties. One does not identify the triangle‘s property that the sum of its three angles is equal to two right ones with its feature of being a space which is enclosed by three straight lines. There is no property reduction in the case of triangles which is analogous to the identification of being yellow with a specific microphysical structure. This means, the ascription of the depend-on relationship in cases like triangles refutes the prevailing view that the real essences of bodies are defined as the properties with which nominal essences are identifiable.

The last objection makes furthermore plain that one has to elucidate the depend-on relationship in a way which fits all types of species. But in which way? The key to Locke‘s comprehension of real essences lies in his tendency to associate the depend-on relationship with necessary connections. Necessary connections, we will see,<345> come into play in the context of deductive, demonstrative knowledge, namely that perception of (the holding of) a necessary connection leads to the recognition of a fact, e. g. that specimens of a sort have a property. According to the primary usage of ’necessary connection‘, a necessary connection holds between two ideas.<346> For instance, there is a necessary connection between the idea of the sum of the angles of a triangle and the idea of being equal to two right angles.<347> That is, grasping the necessary connection between the two just mentioned ideas results in knowing that the sum of the angles of a triangle is


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equal to two right angles. The grasp of a necessary connection turns thus out to be the comprehension of a proof, as Locke himself maintains.<348>

Necessary connections therefore relate to an entity‘s possession of its properties. This becomes apparent in those passages as well where Locke speaks of necessary connections holding between entities and their properties and understands them as aquivalent to necessary connections holding between the idea of entities and their properties: the necessary connection indicates that the entities possess the features.<349> Now, crucially, in the same context features depending on a real essence are said to have a necessary connection with the real essence or with primary qualities respectively as well. That is, the depend-on relationship between a real essence and other properties of a specimen corresponds to a necessary connection between (the idea of) the real essence and (the ideas of) the properties. This means, the recognition of a feature depending on a real essence therefore leads to demonstrative knowledge that entities having the real essence possess the property. This close nexus between the two relationships manifests in Locke‘s interchangeable use of ’dependence‘, ’connection‘ and similar terms.<350> Locke apparently understands the depend-on relationship as roughly aquivalent to the necessary-connection relationship. To be precise, the depend-on relationship is more specific than a necessary connection, since it is confined to relationships concerning real essences.

Having said that, I suggest to comprehend the depend-on relationship in a way that applies to species of all kinds of entities and that is understood in the light of both the link of depend-on relationships to necessary connections and the analogy to artefacts; namely, in terms of an explanatory relationship relating to the possession of properties. Features of an entity depend on its real essence in the sense that the entity‘s possession of these features is explained by the entity‘s possession of its real essence: the entity has the features in virtue of its real essence. And explaining the possession of features consists in making plain why having the real essence entails the possession of the features.


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This conception of real essences implies for the real essences of natural substances that they are not defined as the microphysical properties with which features of the macrophysical level are identified. Of course, properties being defined as the set of features which explain the possession of the features making up everyday nominal essences are also the kind of features with which properties of the macrophysical level are to be identified. But this is only an additional aspect of the real essences of natural substances, not their defining feature, according to this line of interpretation.

But even given this modified comprehension of the depend-on relationship, one cannot read Locke‘s standard portrayal as truly being a definition of ’real essence‘ since the depend-on relationship does not sufficiently characterize real essences. As noted above, only in the case of bodies real essences are not identical with nominal essences. Of course, if one gets to know the microphysical properties of bodies, one could generate ideas depicting classes of bodies whose nominal essences are the real essences of their specimens. The point however is that there is the possibility of nominal essences being not equal with real essences solely in the case of bodies. But why? What determines that the nominal essences of our everyday species of bodies afford real essences being different from them while the nominal essences of all other species are equal with their real essences? This difference between the real essences of bodies and of other entities is neither based on nor accountable by the depend-on relationship, namely that real essences are the kind of properties in terms of which one explains the possession of the nominal essence and other coexisting features. This becomes evident in two ways.

First, there are other types of entities whose defining features, or nominal essences, Locke regards as depending on other properties without calling the latter the real essence of the entities. Take for example entities like secondary qualities. Locke conceives secondary qualities as features being identical with microphysical structures and which, in principle, could determine and explain a multiplicity of features on the macrophysical level, just as the microphysical figure of a body determines both, for instance, the visual idea of a cube and the tactile idea of a cube. Thus, such a microphysical structure could be regarded as the “microphysical real essence“ of a secondary quality which determines not only the secondary quality but also further, coexisting properties on the macrophysical stage. The case of secondary qualities seem to be perfectly analogous to the one of bodies. But why


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does Locke not conceive the nominal essences of secondary qualities to depend on real essences consisting of primary, microphysical qualities?

Second, given the interpretation of ’real essence‘ in question, one could conceive the everyday nominal essences of bodies as being also their real essences, since according to Locke the nominal essences are sets of properties on which other coexisting features depend. The backdrop of this objection is Locke‘s contention that there are necessary connections between features on the macrophysical level as well. For instance, impenetrability is said to be necessarily connected with solidity, and Locke claims that a body struck by another one will move.<351> This means, some features of the macrophysical level could serve as real essences in the sense that other properties depend on them. But why does Locke not conceive nominal essences (of bodies), which comprise these features, as being also real essences? In other words, why is for Locke in the context of essences the possession of properties of the macrophysical level not to be explained in terms of the possession of properties of the macrophysical level, but only in microphysical terms?

To conclude, when Locke portrays real essences in terms of their relationship with nominal essences, he must have an additional depiction in mind that specifies which nominal essences afford real essences being different from them and which nominal essences are also their real essences. ’Nominal essence‘ and ’to depend on‘ do not add up to ’real essence‘. Nominal essences are determined by the content of an abstract idea; what determines real essences?

There are even more problems to read Locke‘s standard formula as a proper definition of real essences. Locke speaks only in connection with bodies that real essences are that on which nominal essences depend. With respect to other entities, Locke simply says that the real essence is equal to the nominal essence and that properties other than the nominal essence depend on the real essence. That is, their real essences is not said to depend on their nominal essences. Of course, one can intelligibly maintain that the nominal essence of these sorts depend on their real essences in the sense that the nominal essences qua real essence explain why their specimens possess the properties comprising the nominal essence. But this is not how Locke puts it, i. e. in this context he does not speak of


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dependence. And since the nominal essences of ideal sorts of bodies are also identical with their real essences, Locke‘s choice of words indicates that his formula is tailor-made for our everyday sorts of bodies whose real essences are not equal to their nominal essences.

b. ’Real Essence‘ in the Light of Locke‘s Major Arguments

Having said all that, Locke‘s “definition“ of real essences appears in a different light. As Locke declares, he introduces the distinction between real and nominal essences to clarify the common notion of essences. Thus, according to Locke, there has been a conception of essences combining features which he wants to keep seperate. His punchline is to demonstrate that nominal and not real essences determine species and kind membership. Locke‘s distinction between real and nominal essences therefore serves to make plain that, in principle, nominal essences do not have the characteristics of real essences, as it is commonly conceived. But, as just argued, Locke‘s formula for real essences does not determine whether the specimen of a sort have a real essence different from their nominal essence or whether they coincide. Locke‘s grasp of real essences is surely linked to the depend-on relationship, but it cannot be the whole story. The description of real essences as what nominal essences depend on thus seems, strictly speaking, not only to apply solely to everyday species of bodies, but apparently also operates with a presumed notion of real essences (which in Locke‘s eyes is in some sense part of a widespread conception of essences.) Thus: what does this presumed comprehension of real essences consist in?

It seems to me, Locke‘s depiction of real essences as archetypes entails the answer. An archetype is a conception of the properties which a body serving as a standard for an idea has and which are ideally included in the idea. The archetype of an idea comprises the features which one conceives as comprising a perfect or adequate idea of the standard. An archetype is what one intends an idea to represent, as Locke puts it. In the case of bodies, he determines the archetype of an idea as the real essence which one conceives the idea‘s standard to possess. Real essences are therefore ascribed to bodies as being the properties as


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to which one intends to represent them by an ideal idea. Of course, Locke‘s conception of archetypes does not only apply to bodies serving as standards, but relates effectively to all bodies insofar as they are represented by abstract ideas as members of species. According to Locke, all bodies are ideally to be depicted by real essences insofar as they are grasped as specimens of sorts of natural substances. (A body, e. g. a human being, does not have to be depicted as a natural substance, e. g. as a human being, but can also be portrayed as a mixed mode, e. g. a musician, whose real essence coincides with its nominal essence.) Thus one‘s conception of the real essences of bodies specifies as to which features bodies are ideally to be depicted by ideas (portraying bodies as natural substances).

Consequently, pointed likewise out in the first chapter,<352> Locke regards our everyday ideas of bodies as provisio for adequate ideas portraying bodies by real essences. When we examine bodies to form an idea of them, Locke maintains, only those properties of the macrophysical level are taken into the idea which one believes to correspond to the real essences of the bodies. Only those features of the macrophysical stage are included into an idea which are conceived as depending on the real essence of the examined body. In this sense, ideas of bodies are called partial representations of their archetypes: the ideas depict the entities they represent not by their real essences, but only by features serving as substitutions for their real essences.

Matters become a bit more complicated because speakers vary in their conception of the archetypes of ideas of bodies. Aristotelians intend to portray bodies by Aristotelian real essences and corpuscularians by corpuscularian real essences. But the deeper reason for the differences in archetypes is a divergent view on what the real essences of bodies are. For Locke conceives the Aristotelian and the corpuscularian view as expressing two different opinions on what the real essences of bodies are.<353> This shows, on the one hand, that one‘s conception of the real essences of bodies specifies as to which features bodies are ideally to be depicted by an idea. Yet, on the other hand, it becomes plain as well that for Locke Aristotelians and corpuscularians share a common epistemic project despite their divergent views on real essences, namely to grasp bodies as members of species by their


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real essences. Speakers vary only in their conception of what the real essences of bodies are and consequently also in their conception of the archetypes of ideas of bodies. But they all intend to depict bodies in terms of their real essences.

The theory of archetypes thus implies that sorts of natural substances and their specimens are understood on the backdrop of the epistemic project to represent bodies ideally by their real essences. This grasp of bodies goes beyond the depiction of our everyday ideas and provides a framework for the genesis of ideas, species and (everyday) nominal essences respectively. For example, corpuscularians like Locke regard our common species as provisional classifications which are ideally to be substituted by a scheme sorting bodies in accordance with their microphysical similarities.<354> This means, the comprehension of bodies in terms of real essences is an integral part of our grasp of bodies as members of (our everyday) species.

Crucially, if ideas are intended to represent bodies as to their real essences, there are - logically speaking - firstly real essences and secondly ideas and nominal essences. That is, from the viewpoint of our intentions to represent bodies as members of species, natural substances are primarily characterized by or identified with their real essence. The logical priority of the depiction of bodies possessing real essences plays an important role in Locke‘s comments on archetypes. As indicated, if we are ignorant of real essences, one includes properties in an idea of bodies which are taken to depend on the real essences of the bodies that serve as samples in the formation of the idea. In this sense every property of the macrophysical stage, which depends on the real essence of the standard, is said to have “the same right“ to be included in an idea.<355> Correspondingly, it would be irrational, Locke maintains, to include the form or bulk of a parcel of gold in an idea of gold because it would be unreasonable to suppose that bulk and form depend on the parcel‘s real essence.<356> That is, for corpuscularians like Locke, it would be unreasonable to assume that the microphysical structures corresponding to macrophysical bulk and form are part of the microphysical similarities existing amongst bodies. This would indeed be irrational, since our everyday experience shows already on the macrophysical level that


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parcels of chemical substances vary too much in their bulk and form (and thus also in the corresponding microphysical structure) for being classified as to these properties. And an appeal to our everyday experience of bodies is justified for Locke, since according to him one makes ideas of bodies in the light of such experience. But if properties on the macrophysical level are to be taken into an idea only if they depend on the real essence of the standard, a speaker must first have a conception of real essences before he subsequently forms ideas, i. e. before he generates nominal essences. In this sense, one‘s conception of real essences is logically prior to one‘s conception of nominal essences. Likewise, the comprehension of bodies as possessing real essences is logically prior to our ascription of (common) nominal essences to bodies. Nominal essences are established in the light of one‘s ascription of real essences to bodies.

The logical priority of real essences embodies Locke‘s view that one conceives bodies as members of species and as having nominal essences on the backdrop of our comprehension of bodies as possessing real essences and of our intention to represent bodies ideally as to their real essences. And part and parcel of this comprehension is the doctrine that we generate abstract ideas of similarites existing on the macrophysical level as a substitution for a depiction of bodies as to their real essences on which the observed similarities depend. This means, one cannot separate our grasp of bodies in terms of nominal essences from both our grasp of bodies in terms of real essences and the depend-on relationship holding between nominal and real essence. But if common nominal essences are grasped as depending on real essences in the first place, Locke‘s formula of real essences as that on what everyday nominal essences depend simply expresses his belief that common nominal essences comprise features which depend on real essences in order to serve as a substitution for nominal essences being equal to real essences. Therefore, the variance between common nominal essences and real essences is rooted in both our principal grasp of bodies in terms of real essences and in our ignorance of real essences. The inequality between the nominal essences of our everyday sorts and the real essences of their specimens is partly due to our ignorance of real essences and partly to the conception of our epistemic project to comprehend bodies as specimens of sorts by features which do not coincide with the nominal essences of our everyday species.

Locke‘s portrayal of the real essences of bodies as depending on (our everyday) nominal


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essences now appears to be part and parcel of his view on our intentions to depict bodies as specimens of sorts. Locke‘s formula for real essences is thus not a proper definition of ’real essence‘, but rather illuminates the notion in the specific context of our common species of bodies. The reason for this is that his interests lie in the topic of natural substances. Another reason could be his belief that the reader is already familiar with a conception of real essences that is present in the common notion of the so-called essences of species. I therefore conclude that Locke does not satisfactorily explain his concept of real essences. But the comments on archetypes indicate on the other hand that he comprehends the real essence of a body as the set of features in terms of which the body is conceived and identified with respect to one‘s basic epistemic intentions to grasp the body as the member of a sort.

Importantly, the account of the archetypes of other ideas suggests that the just developed understanding of real essences is not only confined to bodies, but represents Locke‘s general comprehension of real essences. For, if one reads ’real essence‘ in this way, the theory of archetypes makes intelligible why the real essences of entities other than bodies coincide with their nominal essences. According to Locke, ideas other than those of bodies do depict entities as one intends to. The ideas are perfect or adequate representations of their archetypes. The adequateness of the ideas is explained by the type of conception which their archetypes have. For instance, a simple idea necessarily is adequate because it is intended to represent the type of power that causes the simple idea or mental representation in perception.<357> And an idea of mixed modes or of relations is necessarily adequate because it is intended to represent the sort of entity which is characterized by the idea.<358> This means, we intend to represent archetypes that are characterized by properties known to us, i. e. by properties of which we have ideas. Thus, all the ideas that are not portraying natural substances are necessarily adequate simply because the relationship between the ideas and their archetypes guarantees that the ideas represent the archetypes as one intends, namely by the sets of features which are included in the ideas. In short, the ideas are adequate because we intend to represent archetypes known to us. This means, if


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one understands here real essences in accordance to their role they play in the comments on the archetypes of ideas of natural substances, the real essences of entities other than of bodies are equal to their nominal essences because one‘s ideas depict the entities by the features with which the entities are identified by our epistemic intentions to represent the entities as specimens of their sort. Locke‘s theory of archetypes thus makes plain why real essences do not coincide with the nominal essences of our common species of natural substances and why real essences are necessarily equal to nominal essences in the case of all other sorts.

On first thought, there seems to be an obvious objection against this line of interpretation. Locke speaks of inadequate ideas of mixed modes (or of relations) as well. An idea of mixed modes is inadequate if a speaker intends to generate an idea being equal to the one which another speaker has and if the first one fails to do so. More precisely, the first speaker intends to use a name with the same signification as another person does, but does not succeed. First of all, an idea which is inadequate in this way is not inadequate in the other, previously discussed sense. More importantly, the inadequateness does not really relate to the intentions of the speaker which kind of entities the idea is intended to depict. It rather relates to the objective to use the same name for the same idea. Locke sees this when he concedes: “And on this account, our Ideas of mixed Modes are the most liable to be faulty of any other; but this refers more to proper Speaking, than knowing right.“<359>

Locke effectively reiterates this position when asserting that ideas of mixed modes are false in the sense that they do not conform to the ideas which other people signify by the same name. More importantly, Locke‘s account indicates as well that this kind of falsehood does not apply to ideas of mixed modes exclusively, but also to simple ideas and ideas of substances, even though less frequently.<360> This correspondingly implies that all types of abstract ideas are inadequate in this second sense even though this is explicitly ascribed as to ideas of mixed modes only. One should therefore distinguish between two types of inadequacy. The first one relates to what a speaker intends to represent ideally


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with an idea, the second one relates to the idea a person intends to signify ideally with a name. And the existence of the latter inadequacy does not refute the advanced reading of the former one in connection with real essences. It rather shows that the issue of archetypes and (in-) adequacy cannot simply be equated with the topic of real essences being equal or different to nominal essences.

It therefore seems to me that Locke‘s theory of archetypes indicates that he comprehends the real essence of an entity as the set of features in terms of which the entity is conceived and identified with respect to one‘s basic epistemic intentions to grasp the entity as the member of a sort. This is apparently Locke‘s core conception of real essences since: it applies to the specimens of all kinds of sorts, elucidates the relationship between real and nominal essences, is logically prior to the notion of nominal essences, and expresses a fundamental assumption of Locke‘s view on our epistemic venture to classify bodies in species.

This general notion of real essences is easily specified as to sorts of entities not being natural substances since their archetypes guarantee that the real essences of their specimens coincide with their nominal essences. But in the case of bodies one cannot spell out the notion as straight forwardly. Yet, the reconstruction developed so far allows to specify the real essences of bodies in two ways. First, real essences consist of features explaining the possession of properties on the macrophysical stage. Second. Locke speaks of two different kinds of real essences. As argued, this means that according to him speakers vary in their conception of what the real essences of bodies consist in. This implies, speakers must share a common idea of the features by which they want to grasp bodies ideally. In the light of the reconstruction given so far, one naturally looks to the theory of archetypes to find the answer.

In connection with the comments on archetypes, ideas of natural substances are said to be made in order to represent a class of bodies which has been experienced regularly. That is, one intends to sort bodies by features which one has recurrently found to go together in nature, i. e. by features being shared by various bodies. Given the principal character of this conception, it applies to resemblances on both the macrophysical and the explanatory stage. Ideas thus ideally portray bodies by their similarities on the explanatory level, since real essences consist of features on which properties of the macrophysical level depend.


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And this account holds whether one believes in Aristotelian real essences or in corpuscularian ones. The real essence of a specimen of a sort of bodies is therefore conceived as comprising of explanatory basic features which the body shares with other ones. Thus, for Locke, the real essence of a body consists of microphysical similarities which it has in common with various other bodies.

Crucially, this understanding of real essences does not appear isolated in connection with archetypes. Rather, the previous chapter showed that Locke characterizes corpuscularian real essences in the context of species in the same way, namely as comprising microphysical similarities as to which one would ideally sort bodies. Likewise, as will be delineated in the third part, the same comprehension of real essences is at work in the theory of knowledge where ideal knowledge of bodies is understood in terms of real essences. Ideas representing bodies as to their real essences are said to be a prerequisite for acquiring a comprehensive, scientific understanding of bodies and their properties.<361> Real essences are understood as the sets of properties which allow systematic deductive knowledge of bodies.<362> Thus, real essences are portrayed again as the sets of features as to which bodies are ideally classified and grasped from a scientific, explanatory viewpoint. Moreover, in this context ideal ideas of bodies are clearly conceived again as depicting natural substances by corpuscularian real essences which indicate microphysical resemblances amongst bodies.

We see, there is a portrayal of the real essences of bodies which runs through Locke‘s comments on archetypes, species, and knowledge. The real essence of a natural substance comprises microphysical properties in terms of which bodies are ideally comprehended and sorted. A real essence is conceived as the set of explanatory features which a natural substance shares with other ones, i. e. a real essence stands for the microphysical similarities which a body has with respect to other ones. This grasp of bodies in terms of their real essences is one‘s primary conception of bodies as being specimens of sorts. This is why Locke takes properties of the macrophysical level to make up our ideas or nominal essences only as a substitution for ideas and nominal essences which represent


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respectively comprise the real essences of bodies. More specifically, as Locke‘s account of archetypes, species, and knowledge demonstrates, real essences are microphysical features which prima facie do not correspond to known macrophysical resemblances. This understanding of corpuscularian real essences is present in Locke‘s most substantial arguments on bodies, namely in connection with archetypes, species, and knowledge.

Having said that, Locke apparently defines real essences in the light of the third model. When introducing ’real essence‘, Locke maintains that we talk of essences in the sense of essentia “when we speak of the Essence of particular things, without giving them any Name.“<363> The important bit is that Locke refers to a common usage of the concept of real essences when general terms are not involved. That is, we ascribe real essences to bodies in a context where we do not use a general term. This means, since Locke discusses our everyday use of names, he claims that we ascribe a real essence to bodies when we do not regard them as members of species being characterzied by our everyday nominal essences. As we have seen, the theory of archetypes affords an ascription of real essences to bodies without regarding them as members of a particular species. A use of ’real essence‘ of this kind is involved in one‘s reference to the real essence of a standard in order to decide which features are to be taken into an idea of the standard. And in this context real essences cannot be understood in the light of the two prevailing models, but in accordance to the third one. This approach to read Locke‘s defining portrayal of real essences will be reconfirmed and further developed in the next chapter in connection with the fifth abuse of words.<364>

c. A Third Model for the Real Essences of Bodies

The advanced characterization of real essences contradicts the prevailing interpretations of the corpuscularian real essences of bodies. To come to grips with this, I will first introduce the two dominant models for real essences in the light of Locke‘s formula for real essences, point then out their differences as to the new characterization and spell


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subsequently out this third, alternative view which has already been largely unfolded. The three models of real essences differ most obviously as to the set of microphysical properties which the models each determine for a corpuscularian real essence to comprise.

Although there is a variety of proposed interpretations how to comprehend Locke‘s notion of the real essences of bodies, these views can be expressed in terms of two models. According to one model, a real essence is a microphysical structure which on the microphysical level corresponds to a sort‘s nominal essence. A real essence in this sense is a sub-set of microphysical properties which a class of natural substances has in common since they share the nominal essence to which the real essence corresponds. This means, a real essence is specific for a species like its nominal essence. And only features of the macrophysical stage which correspond to this set of microphysical properties are conceived as depending on this set, i. e. on the real essence. Thus, one determines first the real essence as the set of microphysical properties corresponding to the features of the nominal essence and determines then the set of properties depending on this real essence as the set of properties on the macrophysical level which correspond to the real essence. For example, if the nominal essence of gold comprises being yellow and having a particular sound, the real essence is the microphysical structure corresponding to these two features and the set of properties depending on the real essence consists of all the features which are likewise determined by this microphysical structure, e. g. the fusibility of gold.

According to the second model, a real essence is the set of all the microphysical properties a particular body has. This means, a real essence in this sense is specific for each particular body and without being specific for the body in virtue of being the specimen of a particular sort. Whether one regards a body with respect to its being gold or metal, it has the same real essence, namely the set of all its microphysical properties. And since a real essence comprises all microphysical features, all properties of the macrophysical level are conceived as depending on the real essence.

Mackie and Woolhouse, for example, identify a real essence with a microphysical


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structure according to the first model.<365> Ayers and Phemister distinguish between two conceptions of real essences, each of them referring to one of the two models.<366> By contrast, for Guyer the real essence of body is a microphysical structure, whereas he understands Locke‘s notion of the real or internal constitution of bodies to denote the set of all the microphysical properties a body has.<367> But although Ayers and Guyer interpret Locke‘s account also in terms of the second model, they take a real essence to be primarily a microphysical structure.<368> In sum, commentators usually understand the real essence of a body to be (primarily) a microphysical structure or set of microphyiscal properties which specimens of a sort have in common and which corresponds to the properties of the nominal essence. Some commentators read in addition several passages to be conversant about real essences being the set of all the microphysical properties a body has.

A comparison now shows that the two models do not coincide with the characterization of real essences which are present at least in many of Locke‘s comments on bodies. We start with the first model. As we have seen, real essences are conceived as microphysical similarities which prima facie do not correspond to known macrophysical resemblances. This implies, the real essence of a specimen is not the set of microphysical features corresponding to the sort‘s nominal essence. For, to say that real essences are microphysical similarities not corresponding to known macrophysical similarities, simply means that real essences do not correspond to everyday nominal essences, i. e. nominal essences which reflect our experience of similarities on the macrophysical level. Thus, in the discussed passages, real essences are not understood as microphysical structures corresponding to nominal essences.


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Locke‘s theory of the genesis of ideas shows as well that real essences are there not conceived in the light of the first model. As delineated above, for Locke every property may be taken into an idea which depends on the real essence of a body being examined and serving as the standard of the idea. Conversely, it is irrational for Locke to include properties which one cannot reasonably assume to depend on the real essence. In other words, features are included in an idea only if they are regarded to depend on the real essences of the examined bodies. Thus, a speaker has first a conception of the real essences of bodies and generates then the nominal essences of species. This implies, the examiner makes use of a conception of real essences which is logically prior to the notion of the nominal essence of a species. The decision which feature can be taken into an idea, i. e. which feature can make up the nominal essence of a species, is based on the depend-on relationship between the property and the real essence of the body. This however contradicts the first model according to which the logical relationship between real and nominal essence is the other way around, namely that the real essence is understood to be the set of microphysical properties corresponding to a nominal essence. A real essence which is specified in relation to a nominal essence cannot determine before hand which property may make up the nominal essence. This becomes more evident if one takes into account that according to the first model a real essence is specified as to a particular nominal essence, whereas in his comments on the genesis of ideas the real essence of the standard is not related to any particular nominal essence since there the real essence is portrayed to determine as to every idea which properties may be taken into an idea.

The second model cannot be at work in the discussed comments as well. As has been argued, in Locke‘s comments on archetypes, species, and knowledge, real essences are conceived as microphysical similarities according to which one would ideally sort bodies. This implies, in these contexts real essences cannot consist of all the microphysical properties a body has. For, on the one hand, these microphysical similarities are regarded as being shared by various bodies in nature whereas, on the other hand, bodies are not identical as to all the microphysical features they have, as it is obvious from our everyday experience of their differences on the macrophysical level. The appeal to everyday experience is justified here since Locke‘s own view on everyday species shows that their members are conceived as not being identical with respect to their macrophysical figure.


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Living substances are sorted in virtue of the similarities of their shape,<369> whereas chemical substances are not sorted as to their form and bulk at all.<370> Only some structural features of the macrophysical form are at best included into an idea of bodies. Consequently, if at all, bodies are ideally sorted and represented by only some features of their microphysical form.

There is an additional reason why the second model is not present in the theory of archetypes. If the real essence of a body comprised all its microphysical features, every macrophysical property would be conceived as depending on the real essence of a body and thus as being elligible to be included in an idea. This however contradicts Locke‘s assertion that features depending on the real essence of a body should be included in an idea, whereas for properties not depending on the real essence it were irrational to include them.

Locke‘s portrayal of real essences in his theory of archetypes, species, and knowledge cannot be understood in the light of one of the two models. On the other hand, Locke‘s comments suggest a different understanding of corpuscularian real essences. There, the real essence of a body comprises the microphysical similarities according to which it would be classified and characterized in an ideal scientific account. With respect to real essences thus understood, our everyday species are judged to be classifications not representing the relevant resemblances amongst bodies on the microphysical level. Our everyday sorting is provisional. And as to real essences thus understood, one conceives features on the macrophysical level as depending or not depending on real essences and therefore includes the features in an idea or not. According to this third model, properties of the macrophysical level depend on the real essence of a body if they correspond to the microphysical similarities according to which the body would be depicted and classified from an ideal scientific viewpoint. Crucially, Locke‘s contention that bodies would be sorted in classes different from our everyday species, if one classified them as to their microphysical similarities, or real essences respectively, implies: specimens of an everyday sort do not necessarily share the same real essence, namely the set of


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microphysical properties according to which one would ideally sort them. In other words, the real essences of the members of a sort differ prima facie. The real essence is a microphysical structure being prima facie specific for a particular specimen of a sort. A real essence is a sub-set of microphysical features which a body has and which might differ from the real essences which other members of the same sort have. The real essence of a particular body is a sub-set of all its properties, since not all microphysical features serve as similarities according to which one ideally classifies the body. And the real essence is prima facie specific for the body, in the sense that it might be different from the real essences of (some of) the other specimens of the same sort. Of course, if one knew real essences, one could form ideas of species whose nominal essences were identical with the real essences of their specimens.

The talk of prima-facie specific real essences should not be misunderstood as implying that bodies have real essences being virtually individual to them. Quite the contrary, since the real essence of a body comprises the microphysical features according to which one would classify it in an ideal scheme, this means in general that numerous bodies share the same real essence. If one knows real essences, one can “grasp at a time whole Sheaves“<371> of bodies. This goes along with Locke‘s major contention that an abstract idea is only introduced when similarities have repeatedly been experienced.<372> Moreover, this conception fits in his general framework that one chief purpose of general terms is the grasp and communication of universal propositions that have an application common enough for practical ends.<373>

Thus, pace Phemister,<374> there are in general no species consisting of only one member, since a species is a class being signified by a general term and represented by an abstract idea which reflects repeatedly experienced similarities in nature.<375> Only few entities,


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namely Locke‘s monsters, which he loves so much to talk about,<376> are so diversant from the rest that they might be classified each in a separate class or, simply, in a more general one, e. g. mammals. The possibility of monsters does not contradict the proposed reading of real essences, because the purpose of Locke‘s account of real essences is to point out the difference between a classification scheme in terms of everyday nominal essences and one about real essences. In other words, the essence distinction is designed for a classification theory dealing with ordinary chemical stuffs and biological species, not with mutants.

More importantly than the issue of monsters is that the given explanation of the real essences of bodies leaves open as to which microphysical features one would sort them if one got to know the microphysical properties of bodies. To say one would classify bodies as to their similarities, as Ayers rightly points out, does not specify which similarities are the relevant similarities with respect to which one would sort bodies.<377> What determines which microphysical features comprise the real essence of a body being conceived as the member of a sort?

Reading Locke‘s account of real essences as coherent as possible, the decision which similarities are conceived as classificatory relevant should be understood as arbitrary in the sense that it depends on the choice and epistemic interests of the subject. This position is inherent in the rejection of (Aristotelian) real essences being made by nature and the assertion that nominal essences are man-made. Locke illustrates many times that species and kind memberships are partly a matter of our own decisions, e. g. frozen water might be called either ice or hardened water.<378> This conception of classification apparently applies to the microphysical stage as well, since Locke rejects the idea of sorts being established by real essences made by nature.<379>

Now I will turn to more substantial problems connected with Locke‘s notion of real essences. The essence distinction is introduced for every general term. This means, the members of species have real essences whether the sorts are more or less abstract, e. g.


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gold or metal. This contention is substantial for Locke, since it indicates that there is nothing special about the essences of the species of natural substances. Not only the species of bodies have nominal and real essences, but every class of entities being signified by a general term.<380> Given this approach, the same conception of real essences has to apply to both the least general species and the more general ones. Locke calls the former ’lowest species‘ and the latter ’genera‘. Importantly, there is a crucial difference between Locke‘s comprehension of lowest species and of genera. The nominal essence of a lowest species comprises all the features which have been found to go together in the standards when forming the idea.<381> This implies that an ideal lowest species is characterized by all the microphysical properties one conceives as being relevant for classification. By contrast, a genera is introduced to encompass various existing sub-classes for which reason the genera‘s nominal essence comprises features being shared by all sub-classes, i. e. one neglects on purpose other features which are included in the nominal essences of the sub-classes. For example, metal is defined by features shared by gold and silver and thus by neglecting several properties being specific for gold or silver.<382> This understanding of sorts implies that the same body can be conceived as both a member of lowest species and of genera. And depending on which sort one conceives the body to be a specimen of, one ascribes to him a different real essence.

Given Locke‘s conception of lowest species, the real essence of a body qua member of a lowest species comprises all the microphysical similarities one regards as classificatory relevant. For example, if gold is understood as the sort of bodies being yellow and having a metalic shine, the real essence of a specimen consists of all the microphysical properties as to which the specimen would ideally be sorted as the member of a lowest species in an ideal classification scheme. This conception of the real essences of members of lowest species is clear-cut within the mentioned arbitrariness.

By contrast, given Locke‘s conception of genera, the real essence of a body qua specimen of a genera consists only of a sub-set of the microphysical similarities one regards as classificatory relevant. In this case, the question however arises which type of


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microphysical similarities the real essence of a specimen comprises. For example, suppose the nominal essence of metal comprises three features of the macrophyiscal stage, e. g. having a metalic shine, being magnetic, and being heavier than water. In this case the real essence of bodies qua metal certainly comprises the microphysical similarities corresponding to the nominal essence. Yet, there might be further microphysical similarities existing amongst specimens of metal which do not correspond to one‘s nominal essence. Does the real essence of a piece of metal consist of these further similarities as well? On the backdrop of the thesis that species are man-made, one should assume that the answer depends on the epistemic intentions of the subject, i. e. on its grasp of bodies as metals. If ’metal‘ were introduced to catch all the similarities existing amongst bodies having the three properties and other features coexisting with these three properties, one would conceive their real essences as comprising all microphysical similarities which coexist with the microphysical similarities corresponding to the nominal essence. But if ’metal‘ were introduced to catch only the microphysical similarities corresponding to the three properties, one would conceive real essences as comprising only the microphysical similarities corresponding to the nominal essence. Which answer is the right one Locke does not tell us. After all, Locke might have an unclarified conception of real essences as to the genera of natural substances, since he virtually never discusses them. His paradigm are lowest species throughout his arguments.

As we have seen, Locke‘s notion of real essences is indeterminate in the sense that it partly involves “arbitrary“ or personal decisions by the individual speaker to specify which features are conceived as classificatory relevant on the microphysical stage. On the one hand, this is certainly a bit dubious. Yet, on the other hand, given the success story of chemical classification as to lowest species - Locke‘s preferred example -, his conception of real essences is not unintelligible on first thought, i. e. his appeal to a notion of “relevant“ similarities without exactly defining what ’relevant‘ means. Moreover, Locke is not confined to define “in advance“ which properties comprise exactly the real essence of a body to get his arguments off the ground. He only needs to assume that there are similarities on the microphysical level and that one would sort bodies with respect to them to establish that our everyday species are not sorted by these similarities and that


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they are the workmanship of the understanding. But it seems to me that in this respect Locke has a rather naive view on this matter, since he does not discuss or even allude to the problem. Apparently, he simply takes it for granted that there are distinctive differences amongst the microphysical properties in virtue of which one can easily classify bodies in sorts on this level. In this context, I may quote Ayers‘s interpretation of the following passage:


“[...] if the formal Constitution of this shining, heavy, ductil Thing (from whence all these its Properties flow) lay open to our Senses, as the formal Constitution, or Essence of a Triangle does, the signification of the word Gold, might as easily be ascertained, as that of Triangle.“<383>

According to Ayers, this passage asserts that in the case of microphysical knowledge:


“[...] we could then fix and agree on a nominal essence consisting of a relatively few mechanical properties, as in the classification of machines with observable working parts, or indeed of geometrical figures: there would not be the same room for confusion as there now is, when we have to select defining properties from an indefinitely large number of powers.“<384>

I agree with Ayers, but would add that here the proposed interpretation is manifest: Locke uses ’formal Constitution’ to denote the set of microphysical properties which would best classify a piece of gold. Most commentators share the view that for Locke bodies are ideally classified as to microphysical similarities, but they do not take his notion of real essence to denote them.<385>

We have conceded that Locke‘s conception of real essences does not precisely determine which properties the real essence of a specimen comprises and that his distinction between lowest species and genera needs further clarification. On first thought, from today‘s perspective these aspects might appear so deficient that they cast doubt on, or at least represent prima-facie objections against, the proposed interpretation. The opposite seems to be true, however. Locke‘s account of real essences apparently appeals to a general intuition amongst some of contemporary natural philosophers. This can be seen by


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Boyle‘s attitude towards classification. On the one hand, he makes plain that classification is a matter of human based notions.<386> On the other hand, he contends that “there is a vast multitude of portions of matter endowed with store enough of differing qualities to deserve distinct appellations“.<387> That is: it is us who sort bodies, but, ideally, we have to do it in the right way because bodies “deserve“ an appropriate, distinct classification. The same thought is entailed in Marie Boas‘s account of Boyle:


“[Boyle] had already pointed out that salt of tartar, potash, and vegetable alkalis generally were all the same salt, without insisting that all salts were the same; and similarly he had pointed out that all animal alkalis, spirit of hartshorn, spirit of urine, spirit of soot were identical with spirit of sal ammoniac.
Boyle in fact interested himself very early in the problem of chemical classification because it played a part in his attempt to confute the whole theory of chemical elements and principles. He attacked on every occasion both those who over-generalized and tried to assign all chemical substances to a very few classes, and those who tried to separate substances into too many classes by insisting that they must be classed according to their origin.“<388>

In short: Boyle argued that bodies have to be “adequately“ classified. In this light, Locke apparently picks up Boyle‘s idea in terms of his conception of real essences. And as already became clear, Locke incorporates this idea in a highly systematic way which links many substantial topics of his philosophy of language and knowledge, namely his accounts of archetypes, species, imperfection, abuses, and knowledge.

A final remark to Locke‘s conception of real essences. If one takes all comments into account, Locke‘s (usage of his) notion of real essences turns out to be slightly incoherent, however. According to Locke, the ascription of real essences to bodies is a supposition although we have good reasons to believe that bodies do have unknown, microphysical properties on which the experienced features depend. For instance, the assumption of microphysical properties allows to highlight the change of features which bodies have on the macrophysical stage.<389> But after all, Locke insists, this conviction is only a


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conjecture.<390> His reason for this position is of course his understanding of knowledge. As long as we do not have ideas of the presumed properties, we are strictly speaking ignorant whether bodies possess the features or not. On the other hand, Locke is evidently convinced that there are unknown properties explaining the possession of the features on the macrophysical level. This manifests in his claim that our everyday nominal essences cannot be the real essences of bodies because they cannot explain the possession of features what, however, genuine real essences can:


“But such a complex Idea cannot be the real Essence of any Substance: for then the Properties we discover in that Body, would depend on that complex Idea and be deducible from it, and their necessary connexion with it be known; as all Properties of a Triangle depend on, and as far as they are discoverable, are deducible from the complex Idea of three Lines, including a Space.“<391>

But there is not only the possibility that Locke is mistaken and that there truly is no additional level of explanatory properties. Locke‘s conception of real essences is moreover based on his contention that there are resemblances amongst bodies on this level. To depict ideally bodies by their similarities existing on an explanatory basic stage, is for Locke the common epistemic project which Aristotelians, the laymen and corpuscularians share despite their differences. But since the supposition of an explanatory stage and of resemblances existing on this level is only an assumption, it is logically possible for Locke that bodies do not possess properties and similarities on an explanatory stage which is more basic than the macrophysical level. Consequently, if there were no similarities on an explanatory more basic stage, resemblances on the macrophysical stage would be the real essences of bodies since the core conception of ideas of bodies is the representing of bodies by regularly experienced sets of properties. However, real essences comprising features of the macrophysical level apparently contradict Locke‘s formula that real essences of bodies consist of features of the explanatory level on which the nominal essence of the sort depends.

This tension in Locke‘s account is not unimportant, since the thrust of his ascription of real essences to bodies is to conceive bodies in terms of explanatory features being


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different from the macrophysical stage. It shows that the defining portrayal of real essences works only on the supposition that there truly are explanatory more basic similarities which explain properties on the macrophysical level. And the reasoning moreover establishes that, if Locke‘s theory is pressed, the most fundamental epistemic project turns out to be the depiction of natural substances by the similarities they have.

7.2 Further Textual Evidence

The point I have intended to establish so far is that in many of his substantial arguments Locke makes use of a notion of real essence as reconstructed - whether this is in line with characterizations in other parts of his comments or not. But there might be passages in which Locke uses a different notion of real essences. Perhaps, Locke‘s comprehension of real essences is ambiguous or simply confused?

In what follows the advanced interpretation will further be confirmed by two passages showing that real essences are consciously understood here in the proposed way. Subsequently, the most prominent textual evidence is renounced that usually is thought to establish one of the two prevailing models. The conclusion is that the advanced understanding of real essences is more or less uniformly present in Locke‘s explanations. This claim will be further warranted by the next chapter whose discussion on the fifth abuse of words yields the third model to be present there as well.

d. The Experience of Chemists

When arguing in III.vi that one sorts substances as to their nominal and not to their real essences, Locke refers in §8 to the practical experiences of chemists. Expecting to find the same properties when examining different members of the same sort, e. g. of sulphur,


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chemists discover on the contrary that specimens often differ. The features in which members vary are said to depend on their respective internal constitution. And Locke concludes from this that bodies are not commonly classified as to their real essences: for, “if Things were distinguished into Species, according to their real Essences, it would be as impossible to find different Properties in any two individual Substances of the same Species, as it is to find different Properties in two Circles, or two equilateral Triangles“.<392> How are here real essences conceived?


“§8. [...] But if Things were distinguished into Species, according to their real Essences, it would be as impossible to find different Properties in any two individual Substances of the same Species, as it is to find different Properties in two Circles, or two equilateral Triangles.“<393>

First of all, Locke speaks of real essences in the corpuscularian sense, since he relates them to internal constitutions. Furthermore, the internal constitutions in question do not comprise all the microphysical properties a chemical substance has. For, if they did, this would mean that the particular microphysical properties corresponding to the macrophysical bulk and figure of a body were part of its internal constitution. But Locke cannot conceive here internal constitutions as comprising these microphysical features, since any two members of a sort would then obviously have different internal constitutions and no chemist could reasonably expect that specimens are alike as to the properties depending on their internal constitutions. Thus, in this context an internal constitution does not consist of all the microphysical properties a body has. Importantly, this suggests strongly that real essences are not conceived as comprising all the properties a body has as well. For, if Locke understood real essences in the light of the first model, Locke would not need to refer to the frustrated expectations of chemists, to conclude that bodies are not distinguished into species as to their real essences. Locke would only need to point to evidently existing variations amongst chemical substances, e. g. to their bulk and form, to be able to argue: “But if Things were distinguished into Species, according to their real Essences, it would be as impossible to find different Properties in any two


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individual Substances of the same Species, as it is to find different Properties in two Circles, or two equilateral Triangles“. The two occurences of ’real essence‘ cannot therefore be read as denoting the particular set of all the microphysical properties a body has. This is confirmed by Locke‘s understanding of real essences which is present in his analogy as to mathematical objects. The real essence of equilateral triangles or of circles, i. e. their nominal essence, does not determine all their mathematical properties, e. g. their size.

Decisively, a real essence is equally not understood as a microphysical structure which corresponds to the nominal essence of a species. This is indicated by Locke‘s argument, namely to establish that bodies are not classified as to their real essences by pointing out that members of the same sort vary in their properties which depend on their internal constitutions. Locke‘s reasoning implies that in this context internal constitutions are comprehended as consisting of microphysical features which in fact differ from specimen to specimen. The properties in which parcels of sulphur vary are properties which depend on the internal constitutions of the bodies. Thus, referring to experience, i. e. the scientific practice of chemists, Locke claims that members of the same sort often have different internal constitutions. In other words, an internal constitution is grasped as a sub-set of all the microphysical properties a member of a species has and as being prima facie specific for the specimen. On this backdrop, the real essences of specimens are apparently depicted as prima facie specific as well. This shows up when Locke addresses that members of the same sort could not display different properties, if they were sorted in accordance with their real essences. Evidently, Locke regards here the features in which specimens vary as depending on their real essences. For, if the properties were not conceived as depending on their real essences, he could not reasonably claim that specimens would not differ if they were sorted as to their real essences. In other words: if these properties did not depend on the real essences of bodies, the sorting of bodies as to their real essences would not guarantee that members of a species do not vary any longer as to these properties. This implies that a real essence is prima facie specific for a specimen. For, if specimens vary in the properties depending on their real essences, they must have different real essences.

This suggests the third model, on the one hand, and contradicts the first model, on the


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other hand. Real essences are not grasped in terms of the first model because if the real essences of specimens were the microphysical properties corresponding to the nominal essence of the sort, every member would have the same real essence and they would be alike as to the properties on the macrophysical level which depend on this common real essence. To put it in different terms, the set of properties which is said to depend on the real essences of specimens exceeds here the set of properties which is determined on the macrophysical level by the set of microphysical features corresponding to the nominal essence of the sort.

Summing up, ’real essence‘ and ’internal constitution‘ are used aquivalently, namely to denote microphysical structures being prima facie specific for the members of a species. Consequently, the point of Locke‘s reasoning is to establish that bodies are commonly not classified as to their real essences since they display different features which depend on their real essences. Members of a species which vary as to the properties depending on their real essences are not sorted as to their real essences, since specimens would otherwise share the same real essence and would display the same features depending on this real essence:


“§8. [...] But if Things were distinguished into Species, according to their real Essences, it would be as impossible to find different Properties in any two individual Substances of the same Species, as it is to find different Properties in two Circles, or two equilateral Triangles.“<394>

More generally speaking, Locke maintains that bodies of the same sort might differ in their real essences because some of them might reveal mutually excluding chemical properties. Thus, there is one nominal essence with which each specimen agrees, but there are in principle many real essences in which specimens differ. This is the point of Locke‘s comparison of bodies with circles and triangles. Contrary to sorts of mathematical objects, bodies of the same species do not necessarily have the same real essence. Of course, if one knew the real essences of bodies, one could form ideas of species whose nominal essences were identical with the real essences of their members as it is the case with sorts of mathematical objects. The punchline of Locke‘s argument therefore is that


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members of the same species of bodies have prima facie specific real essences. In Lockean terms, bodies are not sorted “according to precise, distinct, real Essences“.<395> Thus, given the backdrop of the advanced interpretation, Locke‘s disclaimer that bodies have precise real essences expresses the contention that real essences are prima facie specific.

We have seen, Locke‘s argument in §8 gets off the ground only, if real essences (and internal constitutions) are consciously understood in terms of the proposed third model. Moreover, on this backdrop, the beginning of §9 clearly characterizes real essences as the sets of properties in accordance to which one would ideally sort bodies: “§9. Nor indeed can we rank, and sort Things, and consequently (which is the end of sorting) denominate them by their real Essences, because we know them not.“<396>

e. Human-like Creatures

There is another passage entailing similar results in connection with biological individuals. Locke describes here human-like creatures differing in their outer appearance and then asks which of them should be understood as being of the human species. His answer is the expected one: classifying biological individuals as humans depends on the idea one has. If one‘s idea portrayed human beings as having reason and language, all bodies having reason and language would rightly be called man, whereas substances would not be conceived as humans if they had either no reason or no language even if they have, for example, a human-like shape. Locke subsequently points out that one could not decide with reference to the real essences of the human-like creatures which of them are to be classified as human beings, since our idea of man does not include any features of the real essences of these bodies. And he similarly claims that one could not classify the creatures in virtue of specific differences amongst their internal constitutions because our idea of man does not include any features of these internal constitutions. The point evidently is: only if we knew real essences or internal constitutions, one could take them into our idea of man and thus classify creatures as


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humans in virtue of their real essences or respectively in the light of the differences between their internal constitutions. Moreover, Locke maintains, differences between internal constitutions can only be said to be specific differences in relation to ideas including these internal constitutions. Thus, being in line with his notion of properties being essential for the members of a species, an internal constitution is conceived as being specific for bodies only if the bodies are members of the sort in virtue of possessing the internal constitution, i. e. if the internal constitution is the nominal essence of the species. Locke therefore emphasizes that it is unintelligible to ask which differences amongst the internal constitutions of the human-like creatures are specific as long as we have no ideas which include internal constitutions.

In this discussion, Locke makes the concession that the differences between the creatures on the macrophysical level gives us reason to assume that their are differences between their internal constitutions as well. But, he insists, we cannot sort bodies as to any specific differences amongst their internal constitutions if they are not included in our ideas. Which notions of real essences and internal constitutions are here at work?


“§22. [...] only we have Reason to think, that where the Faculties, or outward Frame so much differs, the internal Constitution is not exactly the same.“<397>

First of all, since Locke speaks of internal constitutions, real essences are here understood as corpuscularian real essences. Furthermore, Locke apparently wants to argue that creatures are not classified as men in virtue of the differences between their internal constitutions because they are not part of our idea of man although it is true that there certainly are differences amongst their internal constitutions. Importantly, Locke‘s wording indicates that commonly one only presumes - although quite reasonably - that creatures, which vary obviously on the macrophysical level, do have internal constitutions which differ to some degree: “only we have Reason to think, that where the Faculties, or outward Frame so much differs, the internal Constitution is not exactly the same“. Apparently, the difference between biological individuals having reason and language and biological individuals lacking reason and language is that big for Locke that


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for him it is well justified to suppose that their internal constitutions have to vary to some extent as well.

Now, this implies, internal constitutions are not comprehended here as consisting of all the microphysical properties a body has. For, if internal constitutions were understood in terms of the first model, there would be no question whether it is reasonable to assume that internal constitutions of these creatures differ. If a real essence comprised all the microphysical features a body has, bodies would have to have different internal constitutions if they varied in features on the macrophysical level. It would be impossible to doubt whether a creature possessing reason had an internal constitution different from that of a creature not possessing reason.

Similarly, internal constitutions are likewise not grasped as microphysical structures corresponding to the nominal essence of a species. To get the opposite interpretation off the ground that internal constitutions are microphysical properties corresponding to a nominal essence, one would have to read Locke as conceiving the human-like creatures to be members of species, e. g. as changelings or drills, when referring to their internal constitutions. For example, when talking of the internal constitutions of creatures having reason and language, one would have to take Locke to regard the creatures to be of a species having the nominal essence of possessing reason and language. However, if internal constitutions were to be comprehended in this way, namely in the light of the first model, Locke could hardly claim that it were only reasonable to assume that the mentioned creatures have different internal constitutions. For, if the creatures were regarded to have nominal essences consisting of their properties on the macrophysical level, it would not only be highly probable that the creatures have different internal constitutions, but they would have to have different ones. If some internal constitutions corresponded to different nominal essences, there would have to be differences amongst the internal constitutions. In other words, if an internal constitution were the microphysical structure which corresponds to a nominal essence, Locke should rather have said: specimens of the same sort share necessarily the same internal constitution, whereas specimens of different sorts possess necessarily different internal constitutions.

The objections against both models shows that Locke speaks of internal constitutions which do not comprise all the microphysical features a body has and which do not


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necessarily correspond to the nominal essence of a species. Importantly, Locke‘s contentions entail that internal constitutions need not to correspond to the properties of a nominal essence. For, if it is possible for Locke that creatures have the same internal constitution, although they differ in properties mutually excluding each other, e. g. to possess and to lack reason, the internal constitution cannot correspond to both sets of properties characterizing the two types of creatures.

By contrast, Locke‘s explanations become intelligible if one conceives of nominal essences as representing similarities on the macrophysical level and only as approximating microphysical similarities. This means, in this context an internal constitution is grasped in the light of the third model as the microphysical similarities according to which one would ideally sort the body, while maintaining the possibility that the members of both sorts have the same internal constitution. On this backdrop, Locke can reasonably claim that big differences on the macrophysical level between two species are good indications that the members of both sorts differ in their real internal constitutions, i. e. that one would ideally sort specimens of both sorts as to different sets of microphysical properties. On the face of it, in the quoted passage Locke makes use of a notion of internal constitutions which does not correspond to the two traditional models, but to the proposed one. And given Locke‘s usage of ’real essence‘ in this context, the passage suggests likewise on the face of it that real essences are conceived in the way as internal constitutions are, namely to be in accordance with the third model.

f. Alleged Textual Evidence for the Two Prevailing Models

So far I have argued that many of Locke‘s substantial arguments on the real essences of bodies afford and suggest a notion of real essences along the lines of the developed third model and that Locke consciously uses this notion in two passages. The next chapter will add another passage. Moreover, the developed interpretation of ’real essence‘ can easily be squared with Locke‘s usage of the concept in many other parts of his comments. To underpin further the proposed interpretation, I will therefore discuss prominent passages which are usually read to demonstrate one of the two prevailing models. But what ever


187

the comments indicate, given both the textual evidence just presented and Locke‘s use of ’real essence‘ in connection with species, archetypes, and knowledge, other passages could only establish that Locke is ambiguous or terribly confused as to his conception of (corpuscularian) real essences. For to refute the alternative interpretation one would have to say more than simply to insist on the traditional textual evidence for the orthdox view.

I begin with the second model which takes a corpuscularian real essence to be the set of all the microphysical properties a body has.<398> Some commentators<399> interpret Locke‘s official introduction of ’real essence‘ as characterizing real essences in this way by arguing that Locke means the set of all microphysical properties a body has when explaining its real essence as the essentia or being of the body:


First, Essence may be taken for the very being of any thing, whereby it is, what it is. And thus the real internal, but generally in Substances, unknown Constitution of Things, whereon their discoverable Qualities depend, may be called their Essence. This is the proper signification of the Word, as is evident from the formation of it; Essentia, in its primary notation signifying properly Being. And in this sense it is still used, when we speak of the Essence of particular things, without giving them any Name.“<400>

Many advocats of the line of interpretation in question apparently take their reading for granted for the following reason.<401> Locke speaks of real essences as to bodies when they are not conceived as specimens, namely “when we speak of the Essence of particular things, without giving them any Name.“ However, we have seen above that this fits perfectly with the third model as well, especially in connection with Lockean


188

archetypes.<402> Similarly, it is also not obvious that ’essentia‘ and ’being‘ are to be understood in the light of the second model. To talk of the essentia or being of a body is simply too abstract than that it is evident what Locke means. More importantly, there are two objections against this reading.

First objection. Locke‘s use of ’essentia‘ in other contexts suggests a different reading. Shortly after the definition, Locke speaks of the essentia of a triangle.<403> The essentia of triangles is their real essence or nominal essence respectively, i. e. a space being enclosed by three lines. But contrary to the second model, the real essence of triangles cannot naturally be conceived as an aquivalent to the set of all the microphysical features a body has. For this set determines all the body‘s other properties, i. e. fatures on the macrophysical level, whereas Locke‘s real essence of triangles does not determine all their (mathematical) properties, e. g. the size of the triangle. A particular triangle is conceived to possess many other properties which are not solely determined by its real essence. For example, a triangle might have a rect angle. But this property does not depend on the triangle‘s bare triangularity. Likewise, the property expressed by the proposition of Pythagoras depends not only on bare triangularity, but on rectangularity as well. Thus the essentia (or real essence) of triangles, as Locke understands it, is not analogous to the set of all the microphysical properties a body has. Thus, if one does not want to ascribe confusion to Locke, this passage indicates that he does not comprehend the essentia or real essence of a body as comprising all its microphysical properties.

Second objection. In the defining portrayal of ’real essence‘, Locke explains the essentia of a body as “the very being of any thing, whereby it is, what it is“.<404> Crucially, Locke‘s usage of this expression in other passages suggests that ’essentia‘ should not be read in the light of the second model:


First, That there are certain precise Essences, according to which Nature makes all particular Things, and by which they are distinguished into Species. That every Thing has a real Constitution, whereby it i what it is, and on which its sensible Qualities depend, is past doubt: But I think it has been proved, that this makes not

189

the distinction of Species, as we rank them; nor the boundaries of their names.“<405>

On the face of it, in the last quoted sentence Locke speaks in persona propria, since he refers to something what “is past doubt“. But this real constitution can hardly comprise all the microphysical properties a body has, because according to Locke‘s position one would not even envisage to classify bodies as to a set of microphysical features of this kind. The reason is simple. For Locke, ideas depict bodies in virtue of recurrently experienced similarities. Thus, one would not even attempt to sort bodies into species which are characterized by microphysical properties that are specific for only one body. And since the internal constitution is depicted as that “whereby it is, what is“, this suggests that in the defining protrayal Locke does not characterize the real essence of a body as comprising all the microphysical properties the body has.

Since a discussion of Aristotelian real essences is the wider context of the citation, one might claim that Locke really refers to Aristotelian real essences when qualifying real essences as essentia, namely as that whereby a specimen is what it is. According to the Aristotelian doctrine, a real essence comprises properties which are shared by each member of a sort and which thus determine only features on the macrophysical stage being common to every specimen. This implies crucially that Aristotelian real essences are not (aquivalent to) the set of all the microphysical properties a body has. For if the Aristotelian real essence of a body were analogous to the set of all the microphysical properties the body has, the Aristotelian real essence would not only determine properties on the macrophysical level which the body shares with other specimens of its sort, but likewise all its other features just as the set of all the microphysical properties does. Hence, ’whereby it is, what it is‘ does not characterize here the real essences of bodies as that on which all their properties of the macrophysical stage depend. This suggests in turn that ’essentia‘ should likewise not be understood in the light of the second model.

Summing up both objections, there are passages in which Locke apparently does not conceive the essentia of an entity as a set of properties which is (analogous to) the set of all the microphysical properties a body has. Locke calls the real essence of a triangle its essentia, but the real essence of a triangle does not determine all its other mathematical


190

properties. Locke characterizes the Aristotelian real essence of a body as that ’whereby it is, what it is‘, but the Aristotelian real essence does not determine all the body‘s features. This usage of ’essentia‘ and ’whereby it is, what it is‘ contradicts the common view that Locke defines real essences as the second model depicts them. Even worse, I do not see any other passage which on the face of it could serve as textual evidence for the second model. On the other hand, to do justice to this line of reading, it should be added that other alleged textual evidence has been put forward which, however, has above been interpreted differently, namely as incompatible with the second model and in favor with the third one.

By contrast, there are two passages supporting the first model on the face of it. These comments have in particular been advanced as textual evidence for the orthodox reading according to which a real essence is the microphysical structure corresponding to the nominal essence of a species and being common to all members of the sort. However, I will argue, given both the presence of the third model in many of Locke‘s most substantial arguments and the two passages where Locke consciously portrays real essences as being prima-facie specific, one should read the two comment differently. There is no need to certify confusion or ambiguity on Locke‘s side if one highlights one occurrence of ’real essence‘ and one occurrence of ’internal constitution‘ on the backdrop of the third model, i. e. in the light of his other comments. In one famous passage, the real essence of a body is explained as


“that real constitution of any Thing, which is the foundation of all those Properties, that are combined in, and are constantly found to coexist with the nominal essence“.<406>

Does Locke here not depict the real essence of a body as the microphysical structure corresponding to the nominal essence of a species which determines the nominal essence and other properties on the macrophysical level?<407> I do not deny that the real essences of bodies are here depicted in this way. But to read Locke as expounding a coherent position, one should take the quoted comment as not being a comprehensive characterization of


191

the real essences of bodies. For the third model conceives likewise the real essences of specimens to determine both the nominal essence of the sort and other properties coexisting with the nominal essence. The decisive difference between the first and the third model is, however, that according to the latter the real essence of a specimen determines prima facie also other features which do not always go along with the nominal essence. This additional characteristic is not mentioned in the quoted passage, yet it is clearly present or implied by many of his other comments on species, archetypes, or knowledge - as we have seen. Locke does not point out or emphasize the prima-facie specificity of real essences in all contexts, e. g. in the quoted passage, as he does in such where it becomes relevant for the argument. In fact, there are many passages which are in this sense neutral to both, or even to all three, readings.

In the Stillingfleet correspondence, by contrast, Locke clearly appeals to real essences in terms of the first model:


“[...] it is certain that the real essence of all the individuals, comprehended under the specific name man, in your use of it, would be just the same, [...]; because the real essence on which that unaltered complex idea, i. e. those properties depend, must necessarily be concluded to be the same.“<408>
“[...] it is impossible but the real constitution on which that unaltered complex idea, or nominal essence, [of a species] depends, must be the same: i. e. in other words, where we find all the same properties, we have reason to conclude there is the same real, internal constitution, from which those properties flow.“<409>

No doubt, Locke declares that specimens of the same sort have the same internal constitution, i. e., as Locke‘s repreated equation of internal constitutions and real essences makes plain,<410> specimens of the same sort have the same real essence. Does this refute the whole argument now? Hardly. Does this passage shows that Locke is hopelessly confused or that he secretly changed his position in the face of Stillingfleet‘s criticism? Not necessarily.

To assess the significance of Locke‘s assertions in his reply to Stillingfleet, one has to keep


192

in mind that Locke does not need to refer to real essences being prima-facie specific to refute Stillingfleet‘s objections. There are two topics at issue, at least from Locke‘s perspective. The first one is Stillingfleet‘s insistance that kind-membership is determined by real essences and not merely by Lockean nominal essences.<411> Stillingfleet‘s starting point is that there must be a real essence that underlies the similarities of a species, which are included in its nominal essence. Locke grants this last claim, and in granting it he introduces the notion of real essence as quoted above. Locke rejoins however not only that there certainly is an underlying resemblance which accounts for the observed similarities on the macrophysical stage, but that this real essence cannot determine our species because we do not know them. In this context, all what Locke needs is one‘s ignorance of explanatory basic features to reject Stillingfleet‘s contention. Locke‘s argument holds whether real essences are precise or prima-facie specific.

The second aspect of the controversy relates to the question whether species are made by nature or by men.<412> This becomes plain in the light of their respective contentions. Stillingfleet argues for real essences that are in some sense not made by man, but by God (and which therefore determine kind-membership independently from any man-made nominal essences). In Locke‘s terms of the Essay, as we have seen in the foregoing chapter, Stillingfleet claims that species are made by nature, not by man. Consequently, Locke re-insists both that nominal essences are collections of experienced similarities amongst bodies and that it is unintelligible for him to conceive of real essences that exist in nature in Stillingfleet‘s strong sense. Correspondingly, Locke concedes only that there are real essences matching man-made nominal essences. Again, Locke does need for his refutation that real essences are prima-facie specific.

The reconstruction of the debate made plain that, from Locke‘s standpoint, he and Stillingfleet agree in a common notion of real essence, but not on further characterizations of real essences. Both understand a real essence as comprising the features on which the nominal essence of a species depends. For Locke, this conception of real essences is both: one which is accepted by Stillingfleet and which allows him to refute


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Stillingfleet. Given Stillingfleet‘s orthodox view of real essences, he would hardly have granted real essences being prima-facie specific. But to have a common ground is a presupposition to convince another person. In the light of what has been shown above, I therefore read Locke‘s portrayal of real essences in terms of the first model as a tactical concession to win the argument against Stillingfleet on issues which are not confined to the supposition that real essences are prima-facie specific.

Another possibility is of course to take Locke as being confused. In this case, however, he has to be really deeply confused. A direct comparison between a passage of the Essay and of the correspondence illustrates this well:


“[...] it is certain that the real essence of all the individuals, comprehended under the specific name man, in your use of it, would be just the same, [...]; because the real essence on which that unaltered complex idea, i. e. those properties depend, must necessarily be concluded to be the same.“<413>
“§20. That which, I think, very much disposes Men to substitute their names for the real Essences of Species, is the supposition before mentioned, that Nature works regularly in the Production of Things, and sets Boundaries to each of those Species, by giving exactly the same real internal Constitution to each individual, which we rank under one general name. Whereas any one who observes their different Qualities can hardly doubt, that many of the Individuals, called by the same name, are, in their internal Constitution, as different one from another, as several of those which are ranked under different specifick Names. This supposition, however that the same precise internal Constitution goes always with the same specifick name, makes Men forward to take those names for the Representatives of those real Essences, though indeed they signify nothing but the complex Ideas they have in their Minds when they use them.“<414>

I will come back to the last quoted passage in the next chapter and analyse it in detail. But the contradiction to the preceding citation is apparent. On the one hand, members of the same sort are said to have the same real essence, or internal constitution respectively, namely that “the real essence of all the individuals, comprehended under the specific name man [...] must necessarily be concluded to be the same.“ On the other hand, experience is said to show that members of the same sort do not have the same internal constitution, or real essence respectively, namely that “any one who observes their


194

different Qualities can hardly doubt, that many of the Individuals, called by the same name, are, in their internal Constitution, as different one from another, as several of those which are ranked under different specifick Names.“

In any case, whether Locke makes a tactical concession or whether he is confused when replying to Stillingfleet, the two occurrences of ’real essence‘ and ’internal constitution‘ respectively can scarcely establish that Locke has no clear conception of the kind of corpuscularian real essences which he proposes as an alternative to Aristotelian real essences. For, as we have seen above in connection with Locke‘s account of the experience of chemists and as will be reconfirmed in the next chapter,<415> Locke consciously contrasts Aristotelian real essences as being precise with his corpuscularian real essences as not being precise. That is, the former ones are depicted as being necessarily common to all members of a species in contrast to the latter ones as being prima facie specific for specimens. Moreover, the discussed passages on chemists and human-like creatures cannot be read coherently unless one understands a real essence and an internal constitution respectively to be a microphysical structure in the advanced sense. In addition, as delineated in 7.1, one does not find arbitrarily this conception of real essences in these two passages; rather, it is present in Locke‘s arguments on bodies throughout the Essay. And having established that, one naturally reads passages on this background where Locke consciously refers to real essences as real essences belonging to a particular body, namely to a particular member of a sort. These comments do not demonstrate that Locke conceives real essences as the third model depicts them. Yet, given the advanced interpretation, he seems to account for the prima-facie specificality of real essences when he speaks of them by referring to them as real essences belonging to a particular specimen of a sort. For instance, Locke says that “[t]he particular parcel of Matter which makes the Ring I have on my Finger, is forwardly, by most Men, supposed to have a real Essence.“<416>

Thus, even though Locke differently uses his terminology in his reply to Stillingfleet and although he might be even confused there, his conception of real essences as depicted by


195

the third model is dominant, consciously put forward, and crucial for many of his arguments on bodies. Given the connection to Boyle, Locke seems to spell out Boyle‘s intuition of classifying bodies “as they deserve“ in terms of his conception of real essences.

Fußnoten:

<332>

Cp. 7c.

<333>

Cp. 7c.

<334>

Cp. 7c.

<335>

Below, I will interpret Locke‘s definition of real essences in detail. Cp. 7c

<336>

440, III.vi.3.

<337>

463f, IV.vi.39; 586f, IV.vi.11.

<338>

464, III.vi.40.

<339>

Woolhouse (1971), 111f, 118, and 126; Woolhouse (1983), 99-103.

<340>

Cp. Ayers (1991), II, 67f; Mackie (1975), 78; Yolton (1970), 33.

<341>

464, III.vi.40.

<342>

According to Woolhouse, the notion of real essence applies only to modes and substances, but not to simple ideas. Cp. Woolhouse (1971), 19 and 118. However, this contradicts Locke‘s ascription of real essences to simple ideas. Cp. 421, III.iv.3. The root of Woolhouse‘s view is that he takes Locke‘s concept of real essence to be an explanatory one which genuinely concerns only substances. Cp. Woolhouse (1971), 111ff, 118, 125ff. As a further consequence, Woolhouse allegedly detects several fundamental incoherences because he cannot square the assumed conception of real essences to modes. For him, the conception of modes excludes the possibility that they possess real essences, and Locke adheres to a (false) quasi-geometrical model of apriori knowledge as to bodies because he conflates mathematics with natural sciences due to his ascription of real essences to modes. Cp. Woolhouse (1971), 125ff. According to the here proposed reading, there is no need to ascribe these incoherences to Locke‘s theory. The real essences of bodies are only Locke‘s paradigm.

<343>

Mackie (1975), 88f.

<344>

382, II.xxxi.11; 418, III.iii.18.

<345>

Cp. 9d and 10c.

<346>

Cp. 544ff, IV.iii.10-14. Locke speaks here of necessary connections holding between two ideas expressing the coexistence of a property, represented by one idea, with the defining properties of a species, represented by another idea. This case corresponds to Locke‘s examples in passages where he discusses propositions like ’All gold is yellow‘. Cp. 582-85, IV.vi.6-10.

<347>

585, IV.vi.10.

<348>

532, IV.ii.3f. In this context, Locke speaks of proofs in terms of intermediate ideas. But since necessary connections hold between two ideas if and only if there are intermediate ideas, the comprehension of a proof is the grasp of the holding of a necessary connection. Cp. 9c.

<349>

583ff, IV.vi.8ff; 589f, IV.vi15.

<350>

Cp. 545, IV.iii.12; 546, IV.iii.14; 582, IV.vi.5ff; 584f, IV.vi.10; 589f, IV.vi15.

<351>

II.iv.1+5; IV.iii.13.

<352>

Cp. 1b.

<353>

417f, III.iii.17.

<354>

Cp. 1b.

<355>

Cp. 1b.

<356>

381, II.xxxi.9.

<357>

375, II.xxxi.2; 383, II.xxxi.12.

<358>

376f, II.xxxi.3; 383, II.xxxi.14.

<359>

378, II.xxxi.5.

<360>

386f, II.xxxii.9ff.

<361>

Cp. 10c.

<362>

Cp. 10c.

<363>

417, III.iii.15.

<364>

Cp. 8d.

<365>

Mackie (1975), 78; Woolhouse (1983), 101.

<366>

Ayers (1991), II, 67f and 73. Phemister (1990), 27f.

<367>

Guyer (1994), 133. Cp. also Goodin (1998), 150f.

<368>

It seems to me, Yolton and Alexander waver between the two models in their comments. On the one hand, a real essence appears to be the microphysical (sub-)structure for Yolton which corresponds to a nominal essence, since he speaks of kinds of real essences. Cp. Yolton (1970), 33. On the other hand, a real essence seems to be the set of all microphysical properties a particular natural substance has, since according to him a real essence is the causal basis that gives rise to all the features an individual has. Cp. Yolton (1970), 31. Similarly, Alexander calls a real essence the structure being common to specimens at some places, whereas at other places he conceives the real essence of a body as the set of all the properties a particular has. Cp. Alexander (1985), 264 respectively 272.

<369>

456, III.vi.29.

<370>

381, II.xxxi.8.

<371>

647, IV.xii.12.

<372>

Cp. 1b.

<373>

410, III.iii.4; 647, IV.xii.12.

<374>

Phemister argues that, according to Locke, there is the possibility of “real species“ characterized by all the microphysical features a body has. This effectively means that every particular were a real species. See for a discussion of this view Phemister (1990), Goodin (1997), and Phemister (1997).

<375>

Cp. 1b.

<376>

448, III.vi.16; 451, III.vi.23; 453ff, III.vi.26f.

<377>

Ayers (1991), II, 81: “To talk of relevant resemblance would be to beg the question, leaving it unexplained what principle of relevance to species-membership there is other than an arbitrary definition.“

<378>

447f, III.vi.13; 463f, III.vi.39.

<379>

Cp. 6c.

<380>

Cp. 6a.

<381>

459, III.vi.32.

<382>

459, III.vi.32.

<383>

520, III.xi.22.

<384>

Ayers (1991), II, 76.

<385>

Cp. Yolton (1970), 33.

<386>

Boyle (1772), III, 27.

<387>

Boyle (1772), III, 34f.

<388>

Boa (1958), 144.

<389>

444, III.vi.9.

<390>

442, III.vi.6.

<391>

379, II.xxxi.6.

<392>

443, III.vi.8.

<393>

443, III.vi.8.

<394>

443, III.vi.8.

<395>

443, III.vi.8. Cp. 502, III.x.20.

<396>

444, III.vi.9.

<397>

450f, III.vi.22.

<398>

Phemister argues forcefully that there are several passages in which ’real essence‘ has to be read as signifying all the microphysical properties a body has. Two of her passages were differently interpreted above, namely as textual evidence for the third model. The other comments quoted by her do not allow to establish either the first model or the third one, however. Cp. Macke (1976), 97.

<399>

Cp. Ayers (1991), II, 73. Yolton (1970) seems to understand this passage alike, 30.

<400>

417, III.iii.15.

<401>

Perhaps, commentators believe that this is evident from the Stillingfleet correspondence where Stillingfleet reconstructs Locke‘s essence distinction as follows: “Essence may be taken two ways: 1. For the real, internal, unknown constitutions of things; and in this sense it is understood as to particular things. 2. For the abstract idea; and one is said to be the nominal, the other real essence.“ What this means is not clear, given the alternative between the second and the third model. Maybe more importantly, Locke is apparently dissatisfied with the bishop‘s summary: “Here too, I think, there are some words left out, which are necessary to make my meaning clearly understood; [...]“. Cp. Works, IV, 79.

<402>

Cp. 7c.

<403>

418, III.iii.18.

<404>

417, III.iii.15.

<405>

502, III.x.21.

<406>

442, III.vi.6.

<407>

Ayers interprets this passage as demonstrating the common reading. Cp. Ayers (1991), II, 74.

<408>

Works, IV, 89.

<409>

Works, IV, 91.

<410>

Works, IV, 82, 85, 87, 88, and 90.

<411>

Cp. Works, IV, 87-91.

<412>

Cp.Works, IV, 83-91.

<413>

Works, IV, 89.

<414>

501f, III.x.20.

<415>

Cp. 7d and 8d.

<416>

379, II.xxxi.6.


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