Locke on Knowledge of Existence

Locke Studies 16:41-68 (2016)
Nathan Rockwood
Brigham Young University
The standard objection to Locke’s epistemology is that his conception of knowledge inevitably leads to skepticism about external objects. One reason for this complaint is that Locke defines knowledge as the perception of a relation between ideas, but perceiving relations between ideas does not seem like the kind of thing that can give us knowledge that tables and chairs exist. Thus Locke’s general definition of knowledge seems to be woefully inadequate for explaining knowledge of external objects. However, this interpretation and subsequent criticism ignore a special category of knowledge Locke calls “real knowledge”, which is Locke’s own account of how we can have knowledge of the real world. In in this paper I argue that real knowledge of substances requires that, in addition to the perception of a relation between ideas, there be a necessary connection between our ideas and the external objects they represent. It is because Locke thinks there is a necessary connection between these ideas and reality that he thinks the perception of ideas can give us knowledge of the actual world.
Keywords Locke  knowledge  ideas  external objects  sensitive knowledge
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

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

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Locke's Externalism About 'Sensitive Knowledge'.Aaron Bruce Wilson - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (3):425-445.
Sensitive Knowledge: Locke on Sensation and Skepticism.Jennifer Nagel - 2016 - In Matthew Stuart (ed.), Blackwell Companion to Locke. Malden, MA, USA: Wiley Blackwell. pp. 313-333.
Reconciling Locke's Definition of Knowledge with Knowing Reality.Benjamin Hill - 2006 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (1):91-105.
Locke's Problem Concerning Perceptual Error.Antonia Lolordo - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (3):705-724.
Locke and Sensitive Knowledge.Keith Allen - 2013 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 51 (2):249-266.
Locke's Reply to the Skeptic.Shelley Weinberg - 2013 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94 (3):389-420.
Locke on Knowledge and the Cognitive Act.Maria Van Der Schaar - 2009 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 78 (1):1-15.
Locke on Human Understanding: Selected Essays.I. C. Tipton (ed.) - 1977 - Oxford University Press.
John Locke and the Problems of Moral Knowledge.Mark D. Mathewson - 2006 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (4):509–526.
An Essay concerning human understanding.Alexander Campbell Fraser & John Locke - 1895 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 39 (2):335-339.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
71 ( #90,883 of 2,287,871 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
15 ( #29,815 of 2,287,871 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature