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Why is Locke concerned with the question whether our terms for substances are terms for items with a real essence - Essay Example

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Why is Locke concerned with the question whether our terms for substances are terms for items with a real essence

Subsequently, he pragmatically thought over the concept of knowledge and language formulation, the core of which shall be discussed hereunder.
According to Locke, what we know is always properly understood as the relation between ideas (the learned concepts of experienced reality), and in the said essay, he explained at length the stance that all of our ideation is a consequence of experience. The outcome of this objective method is that the human mind seems to get somewhat undermined in its abilities. While describing the domains of human capabilities in terms of knowledge, ideas and the like, he endeavors to challenge certain basic and traditional norms of communication, language and interaction constructs. Here, the issue of contention is the fact as to how Locke tackles the term of 'substance'.
Locke describes or rather differentiates the qualities of substances into two divisions: primary and secondary. The primary attributes deal with those traits of an entity, which forms its existence - the integral constituents of the object. However, the secondary attributes are those, which are qualified by our perceptual reality and which may be taken in a relative term depending upon the observer. "The primary/secondary quality distinction gets us a certain ways in understanding physical objects, but Locke is puzzled about what underlies or supports the primary qualities themselves. He is also puzzled about what material and immaterial substances might have in common that would lead us to apply the same word to both" (SEP).
Such contemplations gave him the impetus to coin the relative and obscure idea of substance in general. He referred to the ever dynamic use of the word 'substance'. Locke claims that substances support the substances support qualities - these may be as infinite as one can imagine. For understanding of concepts, he believed, simply information about the object was not enough. There had to be some linkages in the information that we receive in clusters. These linkages had to be the essence of understanding the concept to its fullest.
This is a result of the fact that he himself cannot purport a rationale for the existence of tropes (tropes are properties that can exist independently of substances). Hence, he could not use of a concept in lieu of 'substance'. He seems extremely cautious about our limitations of the ideas of substances. He has been understandably criticized for blowing this substance debate out of proportion, yet the importance that he appreciates within this concept is what produces the entire basis for his conviction. It troubled Locke to consider the substance as being something without having any properties - this in effect would be unscientific and hence impossible according to the doctrine presented by him.
On Essences
He attempts to give ideas of substances, simple modes, mixed modes, relations and so on. Here, he intends to clarify the difference between real and nominal essences. Due to his obvious passion with empiricism, his primary interest always seems in defining the attributes of an entity before he can look at its functions. Locke admits that not all words relate to ideas. Though an adamant campaigner against innate experiences, yet he ...Show more


The fundamental principles of Locke's philosophy are presented in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), the result of two decades of contemplation upon human issues and the origin of thought. He was a hardcore empiricist; the notion that human behavior could spring from anything other than innate experiences was the pride of his concept…
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Why is Locke concerned with the question whether our terms for substances are terms for items with a real essence essay example
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