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


Kapitel 8. Imperfection and Abuses

Locke puts his comments on the imperfections and abuses of words in the perspective of his epistemological programme to determine the scope of human knowledge. The theory is intended to disclose substantial hindrances for the progress of knowledge and to propose remedies to advance knowledge.<417> The importance which Locke attaches to his comments manifests in his separate discussion of words in an autonomous book which according to him evolved in the course of writing the Essay, apparently due to the findings of the imperfections and abuses.<418> Not unimportant for our topic, apparently, this is particularly emphasized in the context of names of bodies, namely as to the Aristotelians and their doctrines.<419> For Locke, the account unmasks scientific debates and philosophical arguments as being based on the abuses and imperfection of names of bodies. And he intends to pave the way for the progress of knowledge by disenchanting these false theories and fruitless debates, i. e. “[to remove] some of the rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge“.<420> He thereby distinguishes between different causes of the obstructions of knowledge, namely between abuses as avoidable shortcomings and imperfections as natural or hardly evitable deficiencies of language. On this backdrop, Locke then proposes an ideal to use words in scientific discourse to advance human knowledge.

Yet, despite Locke‘s own pronouncement, his discussion of imperfections and abuses is generally underrated in the literature. There is hardly any systematic account of them. By contrast, I will argue that a detailed analysis of the various issues where the theory applies substantiates the prominence which Locke gives to his discussion. As we will see, Locke‘s account of how imperfections and abuses obstruct human knowledge of bodies and of what one can do about it raises substantial claims as to our scientific grasp of bodies.


In section 8.1, I will begin with Locke‘s analysis of what the imperfection and abuses of names of bodies consist in. Then, the obstructions of knowledge will be delineated together with the remedies Locke proposes. The account of the fifth abuse will however remain very general in 8.1, since it will separately be highlighted in 8.2 due to the extensiveness of the discussion. The deeper reason is that the advanced interpretation notably diverges from traditional readings, since Locke‘s comments are again understood in terms of the model of real essences which has been developed in the previous chapter.

8.1 Imperfection and Abuses

a. What the Imperfection and Abuses of Names of Bodies Consist in

Imperfections and abuses arise when speakers deviate from Locke‘s ideal of using words in thought and communication, namely to use words with a clear and unmistakable signification. This means for the imperfection of names of bodies that the words are ambiguous when used in the corpuscularian way and meaningless when used in the Aristotelian way. In both cases, Locke advances a double characterization of the root of the imperfection. Names of bodies are imperfect either if their signification are not the real essences of bodies, or if words are referred to unknown or only partially known standards.<421> Both portrayals boil down to mean the same, since the real essences of bodies serve as the standards of names of bodies. If names signify bodies by their real essences, the standards of the names are known because the standards are the real essences and real essences are known if names signify real essences. And if the standards are known, names signify bodies by their real essences because one intends to signify ideally real essences by


one‘s names. Locke‘s two causes of the imperfection of names of bodies turn thus out to be aquivalent. But why is our ignorance of standards, or real essences respectively, the source for the imperfection of the names of bodies? I will first turn to the corpuscularian use only and later to the Aristotelian use in connection with abuses. This, at first sight, unusual ordering is necessary, however, since Locke does not use his notions of imperfection and abuse fully coherently in connection with bodies so that the borderline between imperfection and abuses blurs.

According to Locke, speakers, who intend to depict corpuscularian archetypes by their ideas, use the same terms to signify similar, but different ideas of bodies to the effect that the terms are used ambiguously, i. e. differently amongst people. Locke‘s example is ’gold‘.<422> Whereas a child‘s idea of gold includes only the colour of a particular type of yellow, other people include more properties in their ideas, e. g. the property of possessing a metallic shine. As a consequence, in the former case ’gold‘ denotes also tails of peacocks besides golden rings, but not in the latter one. And, depending on their experience, chemists add even more features to their idea so that ’gold‘ signifies again different classes of bodies. Locke‘s point is that this kind of imperfection has to evolve if people are ignorant of real essences. For, if one does not know real essences, it is ligitimate for everybody to include in one‘s ideas every set of properties which one finds to coexist on the macrophysical level in the bodies serving as standards when one makes the ideas. The deeper reason for the ligitimaty is that every set of coexisting features may serve as a substitute for the unknown real essences of the standards of our ideas if one is ignorant of their real essences. As Locke puts it, every set of properties has the same right to be included in an idea. Names of bodies therefore are ambiguous because everyone can justify one‘s use of terms by the ideas one has made in the light of one‘s experience of one‘s standards and their properties. Likewise, noone can establish a uniform signification for names of bodies because nobody has the right to reject the ideas of other people by insisting on one‘s own idea as the only true standard for the term everybody uses.<423> In this sense, our ignorance of real essences is the cause of the imperfection: due


to our ignorance, real essences cannot serve as a uniform standard in the light of which speakers could adjust their ideas and names. Instead, speakers have their own standards and ideas which determine the signification of their names.

Like imperfections, abuses exist when speakers use words without a clear and unmistakable signification in thought or communication. Locke distinguishes between six types of abuses of which five are significant for names of bodies. All of these five abuses are notably associated with the technical terms employed by the Aristotelians or by other “Sects of Philosophy and Religion“:<424> if one introduces new terms or uses familiar terms which do not signify a clear and distinct idea (first abuse);<425> if one use words inconsistantly, see below (second abuse); if one employs common words contrary to their common use or introduces new terms with ambiguous signification (third abuse), e. g. the Cartesian notion of body; or if one understands one‘s terms to denote existing entities though they do not, e. g. ’substantial Forms‘ (fourth abuse); if one refers words to entities in the world, namely real essences, which they do not or even cannot denote, see 8.2 (fifth abuse).

On this backdrop, the difference between abuses and imperfections becomes obvious. Whereas the imperfection of names of bodies is based on our ignorance of real essences which for Locke is an undisputable, given matter of fact and in this sense unavoidable, an abuse is evitable if speakers would simply take care about their use of words, namely if one makes sure that one‘s words stand each for an unmistakingble, clear and distinct idea. And speakers have to use imperfect terms, namely words which have inevitably an unequivocal meaning, simply because they have to use a common language in communication.<426> If people want to refer to species of bodies even when they are ignorant of their real essences, they have to use imperfect names. This is the punchline that imperfections arise inevitably: they are rooted in the very nature of language, namely to use common signs to express thoughts in communication, e. g. thoughts relating to species of bodies. By contrast, an abuse is an use of words which is avoidable in


communication and with the result that terms have no unmistakable, distinct meaning:

“§1. BESIDES the Imperfection that is naturally in Language, and the obscurity and confusion that is so hard to be avoided in the Use of Words, there are several wilful Faults and Neglects, which Men are guilty of, in this way of Communication, whereby they render these signs less clear and distinct in thei signification, than naturally they need to be.“<427>

To understand the distinction between imperfections and abuses in the suggested way is in line with what has been said so far in connection with names of bodies (and what Locke contends as to the imperfections and abuses concerning other types of words). However, Locke‘s account of the imperfection as to the corpuscularian use of names of bodies substantially undermines this picture. Names of bodies are said to be imperfect when they are referred to (unknown) Aristotelian real essences because they become meaningless and cannot be rectified in the light of (known) Aristotelian real essences. That is, speakers do not use their words to signify unmistakingbly clear and distinct ideas. Thus, on the face of it, this account is parallel to the one of the corpuscularian use, as I will now delineate first.

With respect to Aristotelian real essences, the argument consists of two steps.<428> First, Locke explains the uncertainty of the meaning of words by the inability of speakers to identify members of species that results from their ignorance of the Aristotelian real essences.<429> Locke makes here use of an argument which he develops more in detail at other places.<430> It runs as follows. Given the Aristotelian comprehension of names and ideas, speakers refer them to real essences being shared by every specimen. Only those bodies are conceived as members of a species which have its real essence. Thus, it is the real essence and not the nominal essence which according to this use of words sets the boundary of a sort. But if the real essence determined which body belongs to a species and if the real essence is unknown, no specimen could be identified. Therefore, general terms being used in this way, truly signify nothing, neither an idea nor a species. In this


perspective, one has to read Locke‘s analysis that a word being thus used “must be very uncertain in its application“: our ignorance of real essences implies that one has no criteria to apply names of bodies so that their application has to be uncertain. One has to read likewise the second step of the argument where Locke concludes from what he just said that the signification of names of bodies can never be established by rectifying them in the light of their standards or real essences respectively: if one does not even know how to apply the names of bodies, it is simply impossible that one can adjust their signification by referring them to (unknown) Aristotelian real essences. In a nutshell: we cannot adjust the meaning of our terms, if they do not have one.

In both cases, i. e. in the corpuscularian and the Aristotelian one, we have seen, Locke determines as the root of the imperfection our ignorance of real essences in the sense that their lack of knowledge does not enable speakers to rectify names in the light of the real essences by which they intend to portray bodies ideally. The common line of both arguments is: that people intend to depict ideally bodies by their real essences, that speakers are ignorant of real essences, and that speakers vary in their use of words since they cannot adjust their use in the light of the (unknown) real essences of bodies. Locke takes this as an obvious fact being displayed in everyday communication, e. g. between children and adults, and in scientific discussions, e. g. which substance is truly gold and which creatures are truly humans.<431>

However, to conceive the imperfection of the Aristotelian use as analoguous to the one of the corpuscularian use is only to follow Locke‘s official setting; namely, that, on the one hand, there is the distinction between imperfections and abuses, and that, on the other hand, there are the different kinds of imperfections and abuses. But a closer look reveals that the fifth abuse is identical with the Aristotelian use of names of bodies. In both cases, one refers words to species of entities characterized by (unknown) Aristotelian real essences. Curiosly, this implies, the imperfection relating to the Aristotelian use is an imperfection relating to an abuse. Thus, there is a tension in Locke‘s account since imperfections are officially contrasted as being “inevitable“ with abuses as being “avoidable“. Of course, one may say: once one supposes the fifth abuse, the imperfection


occurs inevitably. But this way of putting it can hardly cover up the fact that this is contrary to the point which Locke intends to make with his two notions, namely to introduce a clear-cut distinction. Thus, as a matter of fact, his characterization of imperfections as inevitable in contrast to abuses as avoidable is in harmony with the imperfection of names of bodies as to the corpuscularian use (and with the imperfections concerning other words), but not with the imperfection as to the Aristotelian use. To be more precise, since the Aristotelian use is identical with the fifth abuse, the Aristotelian use is as avoidable and dispensible as Locke portrays the fifth abuse. And according to Locke, the Aristotelian use should be substituted for the corpuscularian one.

b. The Obstructions of Knowledge and Locke‘s Remedies

In which way do the imperfection and abuses of names of bodies obstruct communication or thought and, as a consequence, knowledge? What kind of remedies does Locke propose? In this context Locke distinguishes between two cases, namely between the civil or common use of words and the philosophical one.<432> The former is the usage of words in everyday‘s conduct, the latter the one in scientific discourse. That is, Locke distinguishes between different contexts in which words are used. Importantly, for Locke the imperfection seriously hamper only scientific discourse, but not everyday conduct.<433> Locke probably beliefs as to the common use that the difference between the ideas of speakers do either not become relevant or are too obvious to cause (serious) confusion and misunderstanding. And he could explain this by his view that speakers have the general inclination to adjust the signification of their names as to the ideas of other people in order to be understood in communication.<434> That is, due to our efforts to use common names as other speakers do, the usage of names does not vary too much to destruct everyday conduct.

Quite the contrary, the philosophical use. Imperfections here introduce ambiguities


leading to fruitless discussions which are in fact only about the meaning of words, e. g. whether a bat is a bird and whether bodies not being malleable are gold.<435> Locke does not become tired to emphasize the hindrance for the progress of knowledge which is caused by misunderstandings due to unclarified ambiguities.<436>

Similarly, abuses. Locke‘s focus is clearly on the philosophical use as his examples show which chiefly relate to technical terms of the Aristotelians or of other “Sects of Philosophy and Religion“.<437> His criticism aims primarily at the Aristotelians which according to him obscure knowledge by a theory of species and essences that is merely based on an abuse of words. Locke recurrently critizes the technical terms of Aristotelian theory as unintelligible and meaningless, e. g. ’form‘, ’species‘ and ’essence‘.<438> He seems to regard these notions as crude conceptions evolving in the aftermath of the fifth abuse, since he conceives the Aristotelian understanding of real essences, i. e. the doctrine of forms, as comprising additional extravagant assumptions and thus as unnecessarily topping the fifth abuse.<439> Below, in 8.2, we will give a full account of the types of false knowledge claims which are raised by the Aristotelians in connection with the fifth abuse.

Of course, other abuses like the ambiguous or inconsistant use of terms occur in the common use and hamper everyday communication to some degree. But Locke does not claim that the abuses make common conduct unintelligible as they do with regard to scientific discourse. This is again best exemplified by the fifth abuse, i. e. the referring of names of bodies to species characterized by unknown real essences. According to him, the fifth abuse is not only practised by Aristotelians, but also by laymen.<440> However, Locke‘s analysis implies that the abuse does not really become relevant in the civil use of the laymen. The reason is obvious. As Locke repeatedly points out, since words are effectively meaningless when abused in this way, speakers could not identify any specimens if they really applied their words as they intend to do. For instance, one could not identify a ring of gold or a piece of fish in the jewellery shop respectively on the market, if one referred


’gold‘ and ’fish‘ to unknown real essences. Communication would be impossible, if the fifth abuse were truly practised in everyday conduct. We will come back to this below.<441> The fifth abuse is therefore effectively confined to scientific debates, e. g. what is the true definition or real essence of humans.<442>

But besides the fifth abuse there is another substantial source of obstruction in the scientific realm of bodies which is chiefly based on the second abuse, i. e. the inconsistant use of terms. This is the topic of maxims. In his discussion of maxims, Locke attacks the Aristotelian belief that the so-called maxims can serve as basic principles from which all other truths are to be deduced.<443> Maxims are very general and intuitively known propositions, e. g. ’Whatsoever is, is‘, which can supposingly serve as axioms to prove other propositions. Contradicting allegations raised against him, Locke agrees with the Aristotelians that knowledge of maxims is genuine knowledge, since they are propositions being intuitively known. Yet, he points out, maxims do not help to enhance knowledge in the sense that they serve as a foundation of our knowledge.<444> For the kind of propositions which maxims are supposed to prove are grasped independently of the maxims because the propositions are intuitively known as well, e. g. ’White is white‘.<445>

Quite the contrary, Locke contends, instead of advancing knowledge, the belief in maxims rather hinders the progress of knowledge. For maxims can easily be mistaken to establish contradictory propositions in the course of an abuse of words, namely of using the same term for different ideas. Locke illustrates this as to ’man‘. Children whose idea of man include the feature of having a white skin can demonstrate that ’black people are not humans‘ is not true. However, people whose ideas incorporate only a human-like shape can reason that the proposition is true. Similarly, the latter speakers can likewise conclude that changelings are humans, whereas changelings are not humans for those subjects whose ideas include rationality and speech as well. And so on. From the modern perspective, this seems to be rather uninteresting. But Locke has disputes of his time in


mind, e. g. whether certain creatures are humans and can therefore be baptized, which were relevant at his time.<446>

In addition, Locke‘s criticism of Aristotelian maxims applies to Descartes‘s notion of body.<447> Given Descartes‘s idea of body that bodies are bare extension, Locke exhibits, one can conclude with the maxim ’Whatsoever is, is‘ that there cannot be a vacuum. However, if ’body‘ signifies an entity comprising not only extension but solidity as well, one can establish with the maxim ’The same thing cannot be, and not be‘ that there might be a vacuum. But the two contradictory claims have only the word ’body‘ in common, i. e. a term which signifies a different idea in each case. And contradictory claims, Locke complains, lead to confusion which hinder us to grasp things correctly.

In fact, the Cartesian example is more complex than it first appears because the third and fourth abuse are involved as well. First, as Locke‘s example of the third abuse shows, the Cartesian idea of body does not comply with the everyday one although this is suggested by signifying the Cartesian idea by the common term ’body‘.<448> Second, the fourth abuse is present because Cartesians imply that their notion of body refers to existent entities, namely the ones which we commonly call body, although we do not know whether Cartesian body exists in the world, since this idea has not been acquired from experience.<449> That is, Cartesians suppose their idea to depict the kind of entities to which one usually refers as body although the idea does not portray the entities in the way we commonly grasp them as bodies. Thus, the name that signifies the idea, i. e. ’body‘, is taken to denote our everyday bodies. This means that, contrary to the Cartesian doctrine, the name ’body‘ is not referred to the Cartesian idea of body, but stands for entities which are not depicted by the idea - when Cartesians relate ’body‘ to our common bodies. In this sense, Locke accuses Cartesians to take words to stand for (commonly known) entities but not for (their offical) ideas:

“But because Men mistake generally, thinking that where the same Terms are preserved, the Propositions are about the same things, though the Ideas they stand


for are in truth different. Therefore these Maxims are made use of to support those, which in sound and appearance are contradictory Propositions; as is clear in the Demonstrations above-mentioned about a Vacuum. So that whilst Men take Words for Things, as usually they do, these Maximes may and do commonly serve to prove contradictory Propositions.“<450>

To “take Words for Things“, is the reason why Cartesians wrongly believe that their propositions and ideas have to apply to the entities to which one usually refers ’body‘ in everyday conduct. But since everyday bodies are differently conceived as being bodies than the Cartesian idea suggests, the common notion of body allows the possibility of a vacuum in contrast to the Cartesian idea. The Cartesian confusion to believe that their conception of bodies is in line with our grasp of the entities commonly understood as bodies leads to the kind of confusion and error in scientific debates and learning Locke persistantly complains about.<451> Locke‘s intriguing analysis of the Cartesian doctrine of bodies and the impossibility of the vacuum well illustrates why he attaches that much importance to our “ill use“ or abuse of words throughout the Essay.

On the backdrop of this account, Locke proposes remedies of the imperfections and abuses. He does this in the light of his ideal that words should have a unmistakable, clear and distinct signification. This means that words like names of bodies have to signify for all speakers the same clear and distinct idea in communication. But since this is difficult to achieve, as the imperfection of the corpuscularian use well exemplifies, it follows that one has to make sure that other speakers grasp the ideas which are signified by one‘s names. Only in this way one can prevent confusion and fruitless debates which are caused by terms that are differently understood by speakers. In other words, to avoid the obstructions of knowledge by imperfections and abuses, one has to use only words with an unequivocal meaning whose signification one can properly convey to other people. For this reason Locke points out that one should make plain one‘s ideas, which are


signified by names of bodies, by partly showing the most distinctive properties to other speakers, e. g. the colour being specific for specimens, and partly by defining their other features.<452> Consequently, Locke demands the composition of a natural history, i. e. a dictionary settling the signification for names of bodies.<453>

At first thought, this seems to much of a good thing. Do we have to carry a dictionary with us when buying fish or jewellery in order to ensure that we really get what we want? However, Locke‘s concern is here again the philosophical use, not the common one. On the other hand, having said that, the demand of a canonical scientific vocabulary might not sound very revolutionary for a modern reader. Locke‘s backdrop however is not today‘s interconnected scientific community with established nomenclature. The situation of his time is instead represented by the publications of the Royal Society. Experimental findings of both the laymen and scientists were there reported in an effort to make them known.<454> Not surprisingly therefore, at Locke‘s time, the scientific classificatory vocabular was hardly standardized, difficult to survey and thus from his perspective incurably ambiguous. On this backdrop, Locke proposes natural history as a remedy, namely an encyclopaedia compiling the scattered experimental results of scientists in a conceptually unequivocal way. Locke is thereby realistic enough to see that one cannot reform language at the conference table.<455> The proposal of a natural history is thus not leveled at practices of a contemporary scientific community, but serves as an ideal which at his time philosophically conscious researchers should aim at when ever possible in their private research and in discourse with other scientists.<456> At most, Locke aims at establishing a uniform terminology for scientists organized in the Royal Society, since the Society was initially committed to corporate experiments.<457>

Locke‘s demand of a natural history is proposed as a remedy for both the imperfection and the abuses of names of bodies. But one can conceive the proposition as aiming at the imperfection of the corpuscularian use in order to make the use of names as uniform as


possible. For, after all, in the case of abuses the only possible true remedy is the abandonment of them, the respective vocabulary, and the related theories of species, essences, maxims, etc. The kind of obstructions caused by the Aristotelian use or by other abuses can be best avoided by simply abandoning them. In this sense, one can conceive the development of a nomenclature as a “positive“ measure and the abandonment of abuses as “negative“ measures to enhance human knowledge of bodies.

We have seen, Locke‘s criticism as to the imperfection and abuses of names of bodies is primarily leveled at contemporary language use in scientific contexts, namely the kind of scientific vocabularies which existed at Locke‘s time.<458> Moreover, Locke makes the important point that the ambiguity of names of bodies is primarily due to a natural deficiency, or imperfection, which is inherent in our use of these terms and which can only be overcome with an ideal scientific-classificatory vocabulary. His argument is thereby not trivial, but linked to Locke‘s theory of archetypes and real essences. The upshot is that names of bodies “naturally“ obstruct the progress of knowledge because speakers put them in the perspective of their epistemic project to depict bodies by similarities on the explanatory stage (and, ideally, by their real essences). By contrast, abuses are generally conceived as being avoidable and as the result of a rather careless use of words.

But this official setting is substantial undermined by the fifth abuse, as has been maintained above. Locke depicts the fifth abuse also as the imperfection of the Aristotelian use. More importantly, as I will argue next, the fifth abuse is caused by a “natural fallacy“ and is thus similar to the imperfection of the corpuscularian use. And the seemingly clear-cut distinction between imperfections and abuses blurrs furthermore if one takes into account that other abuses of names of bodies, e. g. the introduction of unintelligible technical terms by the Aristotelians, are understood to flow from the fifth abuse.

The analysis which has been so far developed has not yet discussed the fifth abuse in detail. What is still missing, is a precise account of the obstructions caused by the abuse and of the fifth abuse itself. Both issues will be reconstructed hand in hand, since his


examples for the fifth abuse are crucial to understand his explanations.

8.2 The Fifth Abuse in Detail

As already indicated, the fifth abuse exists when one refers words to entities in the world, which they do not or even cannot denote.<459> This effectively means that one abuses words when one refers names to species of bodies which are conceived as being characterized by a real essence (and not by a common nominal essence). To be precise, this kind of referring names to real essences is an abuse only because the speakers are ignorant of real essences, i. e. because the names do not signify an idea of the real essence which the subjects presume. Names being thus used are in fact meaningless, since they do not stand for any idea. One cannot identify any specimen, Locke argues, since one does not have an idea including a nominal essence which comprises the properties determining and specifying kind membership. But if this is so, one might wonder how it is possible for people to believe that their names do have a signification. How is it possible that speakers abuse words in a way in which words truly become meaningless? The question is not unimportant, since an analysis reveals that the fifth abuse leads to substantial false knowledge claims and to misconceptions of species of bodies and their essences. The answer to both issues lies in the reconstruction of the details, namely of Locke‘s examples when explaining the fifth abuse. The contexts with which Locke illustrates the fifth abuse will first be reconstructed, since the roots of the fifth abuse have to be analysed in connection with Locke‘s examples. On the other hand, in the light of the latter interpretation, I will argue that the fifth abuse is present in another prominent context as well.


c. Contexts in which the Fifth Abuse Occurs

Locke first illustrates the abuse as to one‘s understanding of the meaning of universal propositions about the attribution of properties to species. His example is, as so often, ’gold‘.<460> If one claims ’Gold is malleable‘, everyday speakers usually do not understand the proposition as saying: what I call gold, i. e. what is characterized by my idea or nominal essence of gold, is malleable. Instead, they interpret the sentence to express: what has the real essence of gold is malleable, thereby meaning that malleableness depends on the real essence of gold. ’Gold‘ is thus not referred to an idea or nominal essence, but is supposed or intended to stand for a real essence. However, since one does not know real essences - and in particular not unintelligible real essences defining our common species - one‘s general terms are referred to entities which by no means they can signify.

Locke moreover exemplifies the abuse with respect to the discussion of the Aristotelians which is the true definition of a species, e. g. ’man‘.<461> If one believes that one‘s own definition of ’man‘ truly captures the real essence of man, whereas alternative definitions are conceived as failing to do so, ’man‘ is understood to have a meaning which universally applies to all these so-called definitions, namely to stand in each case for the alleged real essence of man which the proponents of each definition believe to have discovered. But since advocats of definitions of species are ignorant of the supposed real essences of species, they refer their general terms like ’man‘ to entities which they cannot signify.

Locke mentions a third context where everyday speakers in general and Aristotelians in particular abuse names of bodies in this way. Locke draws a comparison with mixed modes. With respect to names of mixed modes, one conceives correctly that the modification of the idea signified by a word implies a change of the species being signified by the word. The reason is that one alters the nominal essence and thus the set of properties which entities must have to count as a specimen if one includes or excludes properties in an idea. But in the case of bodies one usually does not regard the addition of


further properties to an idea as an alteration of the idea. Rather, speakers usually conceive the modification as making the idea more perfect. If one adds fixedness to one‘s idea of gold, one regards the idea to represent more accurately the species which is generally called gold and which is characterized by a real essence. The name ’gold‘ is again abused to refer to a species that is allegedly defined by a supposed real essence of gold. One assumes that ’gold‘ stands for a species defined by a real essence and that fixedness depends on this real essence so that the new, enriched idea is thought to depict more adequately the alleged species gold which is presumably characterized by the so-called “real essence of gold“. The believe that members of a sort have the same real essence warrants in the eyes of the abuser that further features, which some specimens possess, are likewise shared by all other specimens. For this reason an idea is regarded to portray the same sort more accurately if properties are added. However, Locke insists, since one changes the nominal essence by the addition of further properties, the idea does not represent the same species anymore, but rather a different one. Yet, abusers refer their names of bodies to entities which they do not signify.

As Locke rightly insists in a similar context,<462> this kind of misconception of one‘s ideas and words is an abuse of words, and not of ideas. For it is the role words play in the eye of the abuser: names signify species characterized by alleged real essences which warrants for the abuser to substitute the name of a species for the real essence of a species, i. e. to regard a word to stand for a sort characterized by a real essence.<463> This is the reason why for the abuser the alteration of an idea does not imply a corresponding change of the species denoted by the name. The word ’gold‘ is left unchanged and is regarded to refer constantly to a species characterized by a real essence, whereby the idea is modified. For the same reason Aristotelians believe to be able to substitute a prevailing definition of ’man‘ by a “better“ one. And a universal proposition is likewise presumed to relate to a species defined by a real essence, since the general term is again conceived to signify the real essence of a species. It is therefore natural for Locke to relate the misconception of species to our understanding of the meaning of names.


d. The Roots of the Fifth Abuse

Locke does not only explain how speakers abuse their words in this way, but also why they do it. As we have seen, Locke contends that the archetypes of our ideas of bodies are real essences. In other words, one intends to depict classes of bodies ideally in accordance to the real essences of one‘s standards.<464> On the other hand, we do not know real essences. Now, to remove this imperfection and to achieve one‘s original intention, one conceives words as standing for real essences of species being signified by one‘s general terms.<465> This, of course, does not remove the imperfection, but only adds an abuse of words to our ignorance of real essences. Speakers therefore regard their words as standing for species being characterzied by a real essence due to their original intention to depict bodies by their real essences, i. e. to denote species of bodies possessing the same real essence.

But besides this explicitly given explanation, there are two additional aspects present in Locke‘s comments which elucidate why people abuse words in this way. Crucially, they involve Locke‘s conception of real essences in terms of the third model. This becomes evident in his discussion of modifying ideas by adding further features where he explains the abuse by the speaker‘s belief that the members of a sort have the same internal constitution. But, Locke points out, it is rather evident that contrary to the assumption of the abuser members of our everyday species do not have the same internal constitution:

Ҥ20. 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.“<466>

According to Locke, our everyday experience of the differences amongst the properties of members of the same species shows us that they do not have the same real internal constitution. In other words, specimens have prima facie specific internal constitutions, i. e. their internal constitutions are not necessarily identical. Moreover, Locke apparently expresses the assumption that specimens do have the same internal constitution by qualifying them as precise. Importantly, as the context shows, Locke refers here to real essences, i. e. he uses interchangeably ’real essence‘ and ’internal constitution‘. For the preceding paragraph, to which this argument is explicitly related, concerns real essences with respect to names of bodies, and the last sentence of the quote discusses real essences as well. Locke‘s explanations would become incoherent, if one read a difference into his use of the two concepts, since ’those real essences‘ refers directly to ’precise internal constitution‘. This means, Locke delineates the real essences of the members of a species as being prima facie different to contradict the assumption of the abusers that real essences are precise. No doubt, Locke speaks of real essences as being not precise in the same sense as in the passage on chemists discovering that members of the same sort have different chemical properties, namely that specimens have real essences on which different sets of features depend.<467> The third model is again at work.

The context moreover demonstrates that Locke could hardly have understood real essences in the light of one of the two prevailing models.<468> The first model does not apply. For, if the real essences of specimens were microphysical structures corresponding to the sort‘s nominal essence, it would be impossible that members of the same species could vary in their real essences, as Locke here maintains. And the second model cannot apply either for the following reason. If the real essence of a specimen comprised all its explanatory (i. e. microphysical) properties, specimens would obviously vary as to their real essences since they obviously differ in some of their properties on the macrophysical stage, e. g. specimens vary in size. But a laymen or Aristotelian cannot reasonably


contend, or Locke cannot reasonably have taken them to believe, that specimens of the same sort are identical with respect to all their explanatory features, e. g. as to the (microphysical) properties corresponding to their macrophysical size.

Crucially, if real essences are understood as prima facie specific, Locke contends here that the abuser believes that real essences are precise because of the similarities existing on the macrophysical stage. Thus, Locke explains the wrong assumption of abusers that members of a common sort have the same real essence by a fallacy: one‘s experience of resemblances on the macrophysical level in the light of which one classifies bodies in species leads to the supposition that bodies of the same species have the same real essence, i. e. that the members of a sort have similarities on the microphyiscal stage according to which one would sort them if one knew the microphysical features of bodies.

On this backdrop, it is easier to see that the preceding paragraph on the modification of ideas entails another root for the fifth abuse. It will also become plain that the third model is there present as well:

“For by this tacit reference [...] we are fain to substitute the name for the thing.“<469>

Locke points out that ’gold‘ does not have any signification at all if one refers it to an unknown real essence of a species, since one does not have an idea of this real essence. Decisively, Locke adds another condition. Since we do not have an idea of this real essence, ’gold‘ “can signify nothing at all, when the Body it self is away.“ If one takes Locke seriously, he implicitly maintains: if a particular body is present, one is able to refer to the real essence of a species, namely to the body‘s real essence as the real essence of a species. What kind of conception of real essence is at work here?

The second model cannot reasonably apply, since Locke speaks of the general term ’gold‘ which is related to the real essence. For, if the real essence comprised all the microphysical features of a particular body, the species being characterized by this real essence would have only one member, namely that body, since all other bodies in the world certainly vary from that particular body, e. g. in size. And Locke does not make use of the first model either for the following reason. If the real essence he speaks of were ascribed to the


particular body as what corresponds to a nominal essence, this would imply that the particular body is member of a sort characterized by a nominal essence. But, if this were so, Locke would effectively claim in the quote that real essences can be ascribed to specimens of a sort, being characterized by a nominal essence, only when they are present. However, such a contention is hardly conceivable in the light of Locke‘s comments on real essences and species elsewhere in the Essay, since he evidently gives there the impression that real essences can be ascribed to members (of a sort depicted by a nominal essence) whether a speaker can refer to them demonstratively or not. A different understanding of real essences must therefore apply here. Given the connection with the subsequent paragraph, Locke should speak of non-precise, i. e. of prima facie specific, real essences. Given this result, what does his assertion exactly mean?

Locke argues against the common opinion that the addition of further properties to an idea is a perfection of the idea. He does this by rejecting one‘s referring to real essences of species. At the end of the paragraph, he justifies this dismissal by our ignorance of real essences, yet conceding that this kind of reference is possible with respect to the real essence of a particular body. He thus maintains that the word ’gold‘ has a signification if referred to the real essence of a body being present. In other words, Locke speaks of a species called gold which is characterized by a real essence, namely by the real essence of a particular body being present. The punchline of Locke‘s insistence that a body has to be present seems to be that a speaker has to be able to refer demonstratively to its real essence, since only in this way he can individuate or specify an unknown real essence, namely by referring to it as the real essence of that body. Locke therefore acknowledges the possibility to refer to a real essence which characterizes a species while maintaining that one does not have an idea of it. Given Locke‘s view of the subsequent paragraph that members of the same species do not have the same real essence, it becomes evident that referring demonstratively to a real essence is referring to a prima facie specific real essence. Locke thus concedes the possibility to refer demonstratively (with a general term) to a species being characterized by a real essence.

This kind of real essence characterizing a sort should not to be confused with the precise real essences of species which the laymen and Aristotelians presume. Their real essences are real essences being ascribed to common species, i. e. sorts being characterized by an


(everyday) idea or nominal essence. By contrast, the real essence of a species Locke mentions is the real essence of a species which is not characterized by an idea or nominal essence, but solely by the unknown real essence of a particular body. In this case, no everyday species, i. e. sorts being signified by our common terms, are misconceived as being characterized by a real essence.

But why are Locke‘s sorts, that are characterized by the real essence of a particular body, species which are not denoted by our common names of bodies? From his perspective, the reason is obvious. According to Locke, general terms are introduced for the purpose that one can speak of entities to other people even if they are not acquainted with them.<470> But if a sort were characterized as to the unknown real essence of a particular body, one could hardly convey such a species to another speaker if the body were away. The introduction of names would be fruitless. This is the reason why our everyday terms do not stand for species being depicted by the real essences of a particular body to which one commonly refers demonstratively.

It now becomes plain that for Locke there is a third root for the fifth abuse: laymen and Aristotelians confuse the two ways in which, according to Locke, one can refer to species. This is indicated when he insists on a difference between “Gold in name“ and “a parcel of the Body it self, v. g. a piece of Leaf-Gold laid before us“.<471> For, on the backdrop of the subsequent assertion that an abuser substitutes names for the real essences of species, Locke seems to maintain here: there is a substantial difference between employing the conception of a real essence being specific for a species as to our common species signified by our names and employing this conception as to a particular member of a common species. Given what has been said before, this means: the conception of real essences being specific for everyday species is unintelligible whereas the conception of real essences being specific for species being individuated by the real essence of a particular body lying in front of us is intelligible because one can refer demonstratively to the real essence of a particular body.

In turn, this sheds light on the abuse of words in the context of the alleged perfection of


ideas. When adding another property to their idea of gold, laymen and Aristotelians refer to the real essence of a particular member of their everyday species gold as if that real essence were a real essence specific for that everyday species. That is, abuser refer demonstratively to the real essence of a particular body as to the real essence of a species, but not in the way Locke would allow: the abuser does not refer demonstratively to the real essence of a particular body as the real essence of a species which is individuated by this real essence, but as the real essence which supposingly characterizes the common species of which the particular body is a member, e. g. gold. To rephrase the quote: although it is usually thought to be the same, it is a fundamental difference whether real essences are discussed with reference to our everyday species or to individual members of such a species - even though one commonly treats the real essence of a particular member of a sort to be the (precise) real essence of the species. From Locke‘s view, laymen and Aristoteleans pick out arbitrarily one specimen and refer to its prima facie specific real essence as a real essence being shared by all other members. However, if one contends, as Locke does, that real essences prima facie vary, one cannot arbitrarily pick out the real essence of a particular member and treat that specific real essence as a real essence being shared by all specimens.

For instance, the situation is as follows. One has an idea of gold and discovers in a particular piece of gold, i. e. a particular substance having the nominal essence as entailed in one‘s idea, another property which goes together with the properties of the nominal essence. The speaker then refers (demonstratively) to the real essence of that particular body as if it were a (precise) real essence characterizing the species the subject had represented by his or her idea of gold. This belief justifies the speaker to regard the inclusion of the further property as a perfection, since he or she conceives all these properties to depend on the presumed real essence which is supposingly shared by all members of the species he or she had always called gold. And since all members are assumed to have the same real essence, the speaker may conclude that they also have the new property he or she had discovered to depend on the real essence of that particular specimen. For the speaker, only another property is added to the features of the nominal essence or respectively idea which he or she had before. Thus, to include the newly discovered feature is for the speaker to come closer to an adequate idea of the alleged


species, namely to have an idea comprising more properties depending on the presumed real essence than there were inlcuded in the previous idea.

This treatment of the real essence of a particular member as if it were the (precise) real essence of its species is explicitly said to be at work when a speaker believes to make more perfect his ideas. But it seems to me that from Locke’s viewpoint this confusion is lurking in the background when names of bodies are abused in other contexts as well. For the confusion lends plausibility to the abuse from the abuser’s perspective in the sense that the in fact incomprehensible reference to the alleged real essence of a species is confounded with the intelligible reference to the real essence of a particular member of a sort.

Not unimportantly for the advanced interpretation, the same conception of the relationship between names, species and real essences is entailed at another place in the Essay as well. In the chapter on the names of substances Locke criticizes the Aristotelian notion of substantial forms on five grounds. The fourth objection implies our ignorance of Aristotelian real essences and the conclusion that one cannot therefore have classified bodies in the light of their assumed real essences. The fifth objection discusses whether bodies are commonly sorted in species in accordance to the alleged real essences of species on the basis of indirect knowledge of the real essences.<472> Locke imagines the possibility to know all the properties which (would) depend on the supposed real essence of a species. If it were possible to acquire knowledge of all these properties, one could, theoretically speaking, identify specimens in virtue of their possession of all the features which depend on the presumed real essence of the sort. In this way one could determine a species and its members without knowing their Aristotelian real essence. Locke, however, rejects this scenario due to the impossibility for us to know all properties - which (would) depend on such a real essence -, if one does not know the real essence. For, according to him, one has to know a real essence in the first place to be able to deduce and to know all the features depending on a real essence. Thus there is no chance to classify bodies in species as to their alleged real essences by sorting them by the set of properties depending on these real essences, if one does not know them. And since Locke has already concluded our


ignorance of Aristotelian real essences from the first three objections, his fifth argument is intended to shut for ever the door for the Aristotelian attempt to sort bodies as to their real essences.

Now, Locke remarks in the last two sentences of his fifth objection that this argument, exemplified again by ’gold‘, is only intelligible if ’gold‘ is understood to refer to a particular body, namely to a particular member of the species gold. This implies, one cannot understand the key notion used in his argument, i. e. ’the real essence of gold‘, as being particularly Aristotelian. For, if Locke‘s conception of the real essence of gold were Aristotelian in this context, all members of the species gold would (have to) have the same real essence and Locke‘s insistance would therefore be superfluous that his argument works only if one relates it to a particular specimen. Given an Aristotelian understanding of species and essences, there would be no need to refer to a particular body. One could refer to many specimens at once, since they would be taken to have the same real essence. Locke‘s insistance implies that his argument does not operate with an Aristotelian notion of real essence, but with one according to which a real essence is in some sense specific for a body.

The specificity excludes for the same reason also the possibility to interpret Locke‘s key term in the light of the first model for real essences. For, if the real essence of gold, which here Locke speaks of, corresponded to a nominal essence, his reference to a particular substance would become pointless, since all members of a species would have the same real essence. Moreover, the second model cannot apply either. Locke discusses species being characterized by a real essence and being determined by properties depending on this real essence. If the real essence comprised all the microphysical features a particular body has, Locke would let Aristotelians discuss species having in fact only one member. But since Locke critizes here the Aristotelian theory of species relating to our everyday concepts, he could not reasonably take Aristotelians to believe that these sorts consist of only one member. Thus, to highlight Locke‘s fifth objection, one needs an understanding of real essences different from the Aristotelian one and the comprehensions commonly ascribed to him.

Furthermore, in the last sentence Locke explicitly denies that in his argument ’gold‘ is used in its ordinary meaning, i. e. to signify an idea. Thus, if one takes Locke seriously,


this means that the sort gold he speaks of in this context is not a class of bodies being characterized by a set of properties on the macrophyiscal stage. One rather has to understand the species gold in a different way, namely in one which affords the reference to a particular body. On this backdrop, his argument then suggests that ’gold‘ denotes a species conceived of being characterized by a real essence, since he discusses the possibility of determining a species being defined by a real essence. More precisely, gold has to be understood as a species whose members have the same real essence which the particular specimen has to which one has to refer ’gold‘ to get the argument off the ground according to Locke:

“By the Word Gold here, I must be understood to design a particular piece of Matter; v.g. the last Guinea that was coin‘d. For if it should stand here in its ordinary signification for that complex Idea, which I, or any one else calls Gold; i. e. for the nominal Essence of Gold, it would be Jargon: [...].“<473>

This line of interpretation fits with the fact that the fifth objection does not make use of any specific features of Aristotelian real essences. Locke does not argue against this conception by pointing out absurdities. He rather assumes the possibility of it being true for the sake of the argument and shows then that our species cannot possibly be based on them - not even indirectly. His argument operates solely on our ignorance of these real essences and with the contention that one has first to know real essences in order to deduce the set of features depending on them. This suggests that Locke makes use only of notions, e. g. ’gold‘, ’real essence‘ and ’real essence of gold‘, which are intelligible to him. This means, Locke insists that his talk of the real essence of a species being called gold and of gold as a species being characterized by a real essence is only comprehensible with reference to the real essence of a particular body. One can intelligibly refer to a species being defined by an unknown real essence only if the species is portrayed by the real essence which a particular body has - because one can then refer (demonstratively) to such a real essence without knowing it.

Locke claims in two passages, I argued, that one can refer to a sort being characterized by an unknown real essence, if the species is defined by the real essence of a particular body.


In this sense, names of bodies can be used not only to denote our everyday species characterized by the nominal essences of our ideas, but also to signify species which are characterized by the real essence a particular body has. Yet, although this second conception of species and general terms are in line with the role real essences play in substantial parts of Locke‘s comments, as will be indicated next, it is not systematically developed and presented in his accounts of words. The reason is that, as a matter of fact, the introduction of names for species of the latter kind is pointless. Only if a name signifies an idea, communication about the represented species is effectively possible. This is the reason why our everyday species are sorts of the first type. To distinguish therefore the second use of names from the first one, is rather unusual and difficult to convey, as Locke complains at the end of his fifth objection: “so hard is it, to shew the various meaning and imperfection of Words, when we have nothing else but Words to do it by.“<474>

Locke‘s talk of unknown real essences to which we can refer (demonstratively) is not strange to his position. First of all, the reference to unknown properties that are solely functionally depicted is familiar to Locke‘s theory since according to him one rightly refers to the unknown substratum of bodies which also is functionally defined, namely as what explains the union of an experienced set of properties.<475> More important, an intelligible comprehension of unknown real essences of bodies to which speakers can refer is indispensable for Locke‘s account, since it is presupposed by his theory of the formation of ideas. As argued,<476> the genesis of an idea of bodies affords a conception of real essences being logically prior to the one of nominal essences. Properties of the macrophysical stage are justified as depending on the real essence of the examined standard before they are united into one idea. If one does not regard a certain feature of the examined body as depending on its real essence, one does not include it in an idea representing the body. This means, if we decide which features of the macrophysical level are to be taken into an idea, we refer to the unknown real essence of the standard that we examine. Locke‘s sporadic talk of being able to refer demonstratively with one‘s names to the unknown real


essence of a particular body and thus to denote a species depicted by this real essence therefore not only mirrows his conception of real essences being prima facie specific, but also that they are involved in the formation process of our ideas.

This nexus to other comments implies that one has to take Locke‘s core conception of real essences into account, if one asks “Well, which microphysical features does the real essence of that substance in front of me comprise?“. The body‘s real essence is, one replies, the set of microphysical properties according to which it would be sorted in an ideal classification scheme - a vague answer, but precise enough for Locke to make his various points.

Moreover, given this line of interpretation, one naturally reads Locke‘s definition of real essences in the same light. There, Locke points out that we speak of real essences only in relation to particular entities and without using names: “And in this sense, it [scil. ’essentia‘] is still used, when we speak of the Essence of particular things, without giving them any Name.“<477> On the background what has been said before, Locke apparently contends here that we usually speak of real essences only in relation to particular bodies when we do not employ general terms, i. e. names for species.<478> But, as the foregoing discussion of the two passages has revealed, Locke maintains as well that one could use general terms to denote species defined by the real essence of a particular body.

Summing up, Locke‘s comments entail three aspects explaining how speakers come to abuse their names of bodies and refer them to real essences of which they have no idea so that the terms become effectively meaningless. Firstly, due to the similarities bodies display on the macrophysical level, one tends to take these classes to be species of bodies which are likewise similar with respect to their explanatory basic properties. That is, one assumes the members of a sort to share a common, but unknown real essence. This real essence is presumably specific for all specimens of a sort and distinguishes the species from all other sorts. Secondly, since we intend to represent bodies ideally in terms of their real essences, speakers tend to assume that they do so, even if truly they do not have ideas of the real essences of bodies. Taking the first and the second belief together, one usually


supposes according to Locke that the members of a species, which one signifies by a name, share the same real essence and that therefore one‘s everyday species classify bodies in accordance to their real essences. As a consequence, one abuses names of bodies by taking them not to stand for one‘s ideas of bodies, but for species being characterized by the presumed, unknown real essence. One thereby confuses, thirdly, two ways in which one can intelligibly refer to bodies as members of species, namely by grasping a body as the specimen of a sort depicted by an idea and by conceiving a body as the member of a sort characterized by the real essence of that particular body. This is the cocktail of reasons why speakers abuse names of bodies by referring them to unknown real essences.

Once the abuse is established, speakers believe to be able to discuss which set of features is the true real essence of a species, conceive the joining of further properties to an idea as making the ideas more complete or perfect, and interpret universal propositions as ascriptions of properties to species being characterized by presumed real essences, e. g. ’Gold is malleable‘ is understood to express that bodies possessing the real essence of gold are malleable. Importantly, this conception of names, species and universal propositions leads to abusing words in this way in another context as well. As will be delineated in the next part, on the backdrop of the advanced interpretation the fifth abuse apparently is also present in Locke‘s analysis of the typical belief that all members of a species have properties in common, which are not included in the nominal essence, but which were found in several specimens.<479> Given for example that gold is not defined as being malleable, the observation of some specimens being malleable usually makes people to contend that all gold is malleable since they presume that all members of a sort possess the same real essence and thus the same set of properties depending on this alleged real essence.

According to Locke, this is the understanding the layman has of species of bodies, of the signification of their names and of universal propositions conversant about bodies. Aristotelians go even further in their confused conception of species and bodies with their theory of forms and their debates what is the true definition of a sort.<480> In this


sense, the fifth abuse is the source of a false comprehension of the species and essences of bodies and of fruitless debates which both hinder the progress of knowledge. Locke‘s language critic thus adds up to a thoroughly dismissal of the Aristotelian conception of what an intelligible science of bodies consists in. It likewise becomes evident in which way a correct comprehension of language advances knowledge. For, if one recognizes that words signify ideas, one needs only to becomes aware that one‘s ideas do not inlcude the supposed real essences of species to realize one‘s abuse and the false knowledge claims connected to it what subsequently opens the path to true knowledge. The following chapter assesses what according to Locke this knowledge as part and parcel of a comprehensible science of bodies consists in.



Cp. Epistle, 10 and 13f; 507-12, IV.xi.3-8.


Cp.Epistle, 10 and 13f; 401, II.xxxiii.19.


Epistle, 10.


Epistle, 10.


477, III.ix.5.


485f, III.ix.17.


482f, III.ix.13.


491, IV.x.2.


491, IV.x.2: Locke does not give any examples of technical terms abused in this way because, as he declares, they are obvious for everyone who encounters them in conversations or writings.


475f, III.ix.1ff.


490, III.x.1.


482, III.ix.12.


482, III.ix.12.


470,; 580ff,


Cp. 454f,; 458,; 461f,


476, III.ix.3.


509f, III.xi.3ff.


Cp. 386, II.xxxii.8; 406f, III.ii.4; 407, III.ii.6.


511f, III.xi.7; 461,


Epistle, 13f; 523f, III.xi.26f; 642, IV.xii.6.


491, IV.x.2.


380, II.xxxi.6; 445,; 448,; 571ff, IV.iv.16f.


502f, III.x.20f. Cp. 8.2.


Cp. 8.2.


Cp. 8c.


499f, IV.x.17.


595, IV.vii.8; 596f, IV.vii.10.


605, IV.vii.14. Cp. 493f, III.x.6.


592, IV.vii.4.




603ff, IV.vii.12f.


493, III.x.6.


604f, IV.vii.12ff.


606, IV.vii.15.


In a similar context, Locke appears to present additional linguistic arguments against the Cartesian notion of body as well as against an Aristotelian conception of matter. Cp. 450,; 493f, III.x.6; 498f, III.x.15; and Puster (1997), 187-95. However, as Ayers has indicated, one should rather conceive these remarks as polemic. Presupposing our common notions of body and matter, Locke intends to show the absurdity of the claims that (the substratum of) body is identical with extension and that matter is identical with body. Cp. Ayers (1991), II, 52-55.


518ff, III.xi.19-22.


520ff, III.xi.24f.


Hunter (1981), 37.


520ff, III.xi.24f.


Cp. 509, III.xi.3.


Hunter (1981), 37f.


Cp. 484f, III.ix.15f; 488f, III.ix.20f; 520f, III.xi.24.


499, III.x.17.


499f, III.x.17.


500, III.x.17.


488, III.ix.21.


501, III.x.19.


Cp. 1b.


500, III.x.18.


501f, III.x.20.


Cp. 7d.


Cp. 7c.


501, IV.x.19.


409f, III.iii.3.


501, III.x.19.


Cp. Yolton (1970), 32.






Cp. 2a.


Cp. 7a.


417, III.iii.15.


Similarly, Locke uses the phrase ’whereby it is Gold‘ to signify the real essence of a particular specimen of gold (379, II.xxxi.6) and explicitly refers to real essences where names are in use (380, II.xxxi.7).


582f, Cp. 10a-b.


502f, III.x.20ff.

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