Locke's resemblance theses

Philosophical Review 108 (4):461-496 (1999)
Abstract
Locke asserts that “the Ideas of primary Qualities of Bodies, are Resemblances of them, and their Patterns do really exist in the Bodies themselves; But the Ideas, produced in us by these Secondary Qualities, have no resemblance of them at all.”1 On an unsophisticated way of taking his words, he means that ideas of primary qualities are like the qualities they represent and ideas of secondary qualities are unlike the qualities they represent.2 I will show that if we take his assertions in this unsophisticated way, our reward will be a straightforward and satisfying interpretation of the central arguments of his chapter on primary and secondary qualities. With these arguments, Locke attempts to justify his assertions about resemblance. Some may be skeptical, thinking that the assertions, interpreted literally, are either too absurd or too obvious to have reasons supporting them. I take this skepticism to rest on deep foundations of charity, so half of the paper will be devoted to undermining these foundations by giving a sympathetic and historical exposition of Locke’s positive thesis that primary qualities resemble the ideas that represent them. I criticize rival interpretations of Lockean resemblance, say what it means to believe that ideas resemble qualities, explain the plausibility of the belief in Locke’s environment, and examine his descriptions of how ideas resemble particular primary qualities. Once I establish that we should take Locke’s resemblance theses literally, I can describe their place in his theory of representation. After that, I can describe his reasons for believing the resemblance theses. I will conclude by showing how Locke’s belief that ideas of secondary qualities do not resemble anything in bodies leads him to conclude that secondary qualities are merely powers to produce ideas. Let me begin near the end, however. Before defending a literal interpretation of the resemblance theses, I want to criticize three rival interpretations..
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Citations of this work BETA
Lionel Shapiro (2010). Two Kinds of Intentionality in Locke. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (4):554-586.
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