Reconciling Locke’s Definition of Knowledge with Knowing Reality

Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (1):91-105 (2006)

Abstract

A common criticism of Locke’s ideational definition of knowledge is that it contradicts his accounts of knowledge’s reality and sensitive knowledge. Here it is argued that the ideational definiton of knowledge is compatible with knowledge of idea-independent reality. The key is Locke’s notion of the signification. Nominal agreements obtain if and only if the ideas’ descriptive contents are the ground for truth; real agreements obtain only if their total denotation are the grounds for truth. The signification of the ideas determine whether they denote real or fantastical objects. Three types of ideas, simple quality-ideas, modal ideas, and relational ideas, necessarily signify real objects. The fourth type, the ideas of substances, are real only if those particular combinations of qualitites have been perceived to co-exist. Locke’s ideas are intrinsically either real or fantastical and thus, it is argued, his models of truth and knowledge’s reality are far from typical correspondence theories

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Benjamin Hill
University of Western Ontario

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Citations of this work

Locke's Externalism About 'Sensitive Knowledge'.Aaron Bruce Wilson - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (3):425-445.

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