Michael Jacovides For Locke, the first step in inquiring into perception should be reflection: “What Perception is, every one will know better by reflecting on what he does himself, when he sees, hears, feels, etc. or thinks, than by any discourse of mine” (2.9.2). As a second step, I say, we may learn from reading him. Locke’s use of the term ‘perception’ is somewhat broad. At one point, he tells us that “having Ideas and Perception” are “the same thing” (2.1.9). (...) Elsewhere, he includes the perceiving the agreement of ideas and perceiving the meaning of signs among the varieties of perception (2.21.5). What I have to say will be about perception as psychologists classify it nowadays. I will first discuss sensation in general and then elucidate some of the subtleties of Locke’s account of the visual perception of shape. I’ll close with some remarks on Locke account of time perception. (shrink)
Much recent philosophy of perception is preoccupied with finding a place for phenomenal character in a physical world. By contrast, Locke’s philosophy of sensory perception is an episode in his ‘Historical, plain method’ and seeks to map out the processes by which we experience ordinary objects. On Locke’s account, our ideas of primary and secondary qualities enter the mind ‘simple and unmixed’; having an idea of a colour, for example, is not necessary for the visual experience of a shape. An (...) analysis of the Molyneux problem reveals that, for Locke, judgment corrects the initial two-dimensional idea vision presents us with. Nevertheless, Locke’s position is problematic: he has no account of how we pair ideas of primary and secondary qualities, nor of how we could experience a colourless visual idea of shape. (shrink)
How much is given in perceptual experience, and how much must be constructed? John Locke's answer to this question contains two prima facie incompatible strands. On the one hand, he claims that ideas of primary qualities come to us passively, through multiple senses: the idea of a sphere can be received either by sight or touch. On the other hand, Locke seemingly thinks that a faculty he calls “judgment” is needed to create visual ideas of three‐dimensional shapes. How can these (...) accounts be made consistent? The problem comes to a head in the discussion of Molyneux's problem: can a person born blind and then made to see identify a sphere and a cube, when he had only touched them in the past? Locke's answer is no, but, as George Berkeley points out, it is hard to see why: if the ideas of shapes come to us through sight as well as touch, nothing should stop Molyneux man from instantly recognizing sphere and cube. Pace much of the existing literature, I argue that although Locke does think we receive visual ideas of primary qualities, the faculty of judgment is required to “inflate” those ideas into three dimensions and to correct for other perspectival distortions. I then show how this answer is consistent with the rest of his theory of perception. (shrink)
Che natura ha l'oggetto della percezione? E come dobbiamo pensare le proprietà che lo caratterizzano percettivamente? Sono questi i temi che vengono discussi in queste pagine che cercano di far luce sul concetto di percezione, riflettendo sulla filosofia di Locke, Berkeley, Reid e sulle diverse forme del realismo diretto.
Molyneux’s question asks whether someone born blind, who could distinguish cubes from spheres using his tactile sensation, could recognize those objects if he received his sight. Locke says no: the newly sighted person would fail to point to the cube and call it a cube. Locke never provided a complete explanation for his negative response, and there are concerns of inconsistency with other important aspects of his theory of ideas. These charges of inconsistency rest upon an unrecognized and unfounded assumption (...) that seeing entails recognition. Locke’s negative answer to Molyneux’s question is consistent with his other philosophical commitments. (shrink)
Locke's account of the idea of power is thought to be seriously problematic. Commentators allege that the idea of power causes problems for Locke's taxonomy of ideas, that it is defined circularly, and that, contrary to Locke's claims, it cannot be acquired in experience. This paper defends Locke's account. Previous commentators have assumed that there is only one idea of power. But close attention to Locke's text, combined with background features of his theory of ideas, supports the drawing of a (...) distinction between four different ideas of power. The paper describes each idea and its role in the Essay. It then argues that this distinction can help Locke to avoid the traditional criticisms. (shrink)
According to the snapshot view of temporal experience, instances of movement and change cannot, strictly speaking, be objects of sensory perception. Perceptual consciousness instead consists of a succession of individual momentary experiences, none of which is itself an experience of movement or change. The snapshot view is often presented as an intuitively appealing view of the nature of temporal experience, even by philosophers who ultimately reject it. Yet, it is puzzling how this can be so, given that its central claim (...) – that we can never just perceive things moving or changing – clearly flies in the face of our common sense view of the phenomenology of experience. In this paper, I offer a diagnosis of how it is possible that the deep conflict between the snapshot view and our phenomenological intuitions can sometimes go unnoticed. The materials for this diagnosis can, I think, be found in some passages in Thomas Reid’s Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, in which he criticises John Locke’s account of the origins of the idea of succession, as presented in chapter 14 of book II of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. As I argue, a crucial aspect of Reid’s criticisms can be seen to turn on the idea that Locke fails to distinguish between two quite different variants of the snapshot view, which I call the memory theory and the mirroring theory of temporal experience, respectively. It is the failure to distinguish between these two different variants of the snapshot view, I suggest, that can also make the snapshot view appear more compatible with our phenomenological intuitions than it in fact is. (shrink)
Michael Jacovides provides an engaging account of how the scientific revolution influenced one of the foremost figures of early modern philosophy, John Locke. By placing Locke's thought in its scientific, religious, and anti-scholastic contexts, Jacovides explains not only what Locke believes but also why he believes it.
This paper offers an epistemic defense of empathy, drawing on John Locke's theory of ideas. Locke held that ideas of shape, unlike ideas of color, had a distinctive value: resembling qualities in their objects. I argue that the same is true of empathy, as when someone is pained by someone's pain. This means that empathy has the same epistemic value or objectivity that Locke and other early modern philosophers assigned to veridical perceptions of shape. For this to hold, pain and (...) pleasure must be a primary quality of the mind, just as shape is a primary quality of bodies. Though Locke did not make that claim, I argue that pain and pleasure satisfy his criteria for primary qualities. I consider several objections to the analogy between empathy and shape-perception and show how Locke's theory has resources for answering them. In addition, the claim that empathetic ideas are object-matching sidesteps Berkeley's influential objection to Locke's theory of resemblance. I conclude by briefly considering the prospects for a similar defense of empathy in contemporary terms. (shrink)
William Alston once argued that justification is not necessary for knowledge. He was convinced of this because he thought that, in cases of clear perception, one could come to know that P even if one’s justification for believing P was defeated. The idea is that the epistemic strength of clear perception is sufficient to provide knowledge even where justification is lacking; perceiving (and believing) that P is sufficient for knowing that P. In this paper, I explore a claim about knowledge (...) that is the opposite side of the coin from Alston’s position: clear perception (with belief) that P is necessary for knowledge. Taking my cue from John Locke, I examine the plausibility of a theory of knowledge that distinguishes justified true unGettiered belief that P from knowing that P. Although I don’t fully advocate this position, I argue that it has significant plausibility, and that the initially troubling consequences of the account are not as problematic as one might have suspected. (shrink)
This paper is about our experience of change and movement, and thus about our experience of time – at least under the reasonable assumption that we (can only) experience time by having experiences of change. This assumption is shared by Locke, whose view on temporal experience, expounded in Book II, Chap.14 of his Essay, will be the main focal point of my paper. Some of the most influential accounts of temporal experience embrace the notion of a "specious present" as an (...) explanatory tool in order to account for the continuous and unfolding aspect of our experiences. In this article, I will raise some points of dissatisfaction with the very notion of the specious present, and while I shall not reject the specious present theories, I will argue that more is needed in order to have a proper understanding and explanation of our temporal experience. I will then discuss and defend a view of temporal experience whose basis can be found in Locke's Essay, and which, given some amendments and further development within a contemporary framework, provides us with a very good analysis of our experience of movement, change, and time – a view that helps us to avoid some burdensome commitments incurred by specious present theories and that can be fruitfully combined with these theories in order to yield a complete and more informative picture of the phenomenon of temporal experience. (shrink)
A.D. Smith opens his excellent paper, “Space and Sight,” by remarking, One of the most notable features of both philosophy and psychology throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the almost universal denial that we are immediately aware through sight of objects arrayed in three-dimensional space. This was not merely a denial of Direct Realism, but a denial that truly visual objects are even phenomenally presented in depth (481). Times have changed. As Smith writes, “It is hard to think of (...) a more radical reversal in thinking than the one that separates such an outlook from that which prevails today; for this erstwhile orthodoxy is hardly given even serious consideration in our own times, at least among philosophers” (482). Even so, how could this doctrine come and go? How can there be fashion in phenomenology?1 Let me answer the question indirectly, by considering Locke’s reasons for advancing the doctrine. He writes, “When we set before our Eyes a round Globe, of any uniform colour, v.g. Gold, Alabaster, or Jet, ‘tis certain, that the Idea thereby imprinted in our Mind, is of a flat Circle variously shadow’d, with several degrees of Light and Brightness coming to our Eyes” (2.9.8).2 Adults have acquired ideas of three-dimensional objects (presumably by.. (shrink)
How are we to understand philosophical claims about sense perception being direct versus indirect? There are multiple relevant notions of perceptual directness, so I argue. Perception of external objects may be direct on some notions, while indirect on others. My interest is with the sense in which ideas count as perceptual mediators in the philosophy of Descartes and Locke. This paper has two broader aims. The first is to clarify four main notions of perceptual directness. The second is to support (...) my contention that in the texts characterizing ideas as immediate objects of perception, Descartes and Locke are invoking the notion of directness I call 'objectual'. This notion is modeled on the way a picture mediates perception of the pictured object. The upshot of my account is that – with respect to the objectual notion of directness – Descartes and Locke each hold an indirect theory of perception. (shrink)
Those concerned with Locke’s Essay have largely ignored his account of reflection. I present and defend an interpretation of Locke’s theory of reflection on which reflection is not a variety of introspection; rather, for Locke, we acquire ideas of our mental operations indirectly. Furthermore, reflection is involuntary and distinct from consciousness. The interpretation I present also explains reflection’s role in the acquisition of non-sensory ideas (e.g., ideas of pleasure, existence, succession, etc.). I situate this reading within the secondary literature on (...) reflection and discuss its consequences for interpretations of Locke’s views on empiricism, knowledge, and personal identity. -/- -/- . (shrink)
Locke has been accused of failing to have a coherent understanding of consciousness, since it can be identical neither to reflection nor to ordinary perception without contradicting other important commitments. I argue that the account of consciousness is coherent once we see that, for Locke, perceptions of ideas are complex mental acts and that consciousness can be seen as a special kind of self-referential mental state internal to any perception of an idea.
It is common to assume that if Locke is to be regarded as a consistent epistemologist he must be read as holding that either ideas are the objects of perception or that (physical) objects are. He must either be a direct realist or a representationalist. But perhaps, paradoxical as it at first sounds, there is no reason to suppose that he could not hold both to be true. We see physical objects and when we do so we have ideas. We (...) see or hear birds and bells but we also have visual and auditory ideas of birds and bells. This suggestion is explored through examination of what Locke says about perception in his Elements of Natural Philosophy and the accounts offered both by Locke in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and by some of Locke's successors. (shrink)
Laura Berchielli - Color, Space and Figure in Locke: An Interpretation of the Molyneux Problem - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:1 Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.1 47-65 Color, Space, and Figure in Locke: An Interpretation of the Molyneux Problem Laura Berchielli THIS IS HOW LOCKE, in the second edition of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding , introduces a question that had been suggested to him in a letter from William Molyneux: . . . I shall here (...) insert a Problem of that very Ingenious and Studious promoter of Knowledge, the Learned and Worthy Mr. Molineux, which he was pleased to send me in a Letter some Months since; and it is this: Suppose a Man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a Cube, and a Sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and t'other, which is the Cube, which the Sphere. Suppose then the Cube and Sphere placed on a Table, and the Blind Man to be made to see. Quaere, Whether by his Sight, before he touch'd them, he could now distinguish, and tell, which is the Globe, which the Cube. In the standard interpretation of the Molyneux problem as presented in Locke, the question is always linked to the general issue of differences in the ideas of figure received by the various senses. This interpretation -- put forward by Berkeley --says that for Locke, the ideas of figure produced by sight are specifically different from.. (shrink)
One might think that a healthy respect for the deliverances of experience would require us to give up any claim to nontrivial a priori knowledge. One way it might not would be if the very admission of something as an episode of experience required the use of substantive a priori knowledge -- if there were certain a priori standards that a representation had to meet in order to count as an experience, rather than as, say, a memory or daydream. This (...) paper argues that, surprisingly enough, we can find elements of this essentially Kantian line about experience even in the work of empiricists, such as John Locke and Bas van Fraassen. (shrink)
Positivism and, especially, Max Weber's vision of the modern disen chantment of the world are incoherent because they separate human culture from the environment in which human agents pursue their life- projects. The same problem is manifested, more blatantly, in current social studies of science, which take the project of disenchantment further by disenchanting science itself. A different image of science is traced to classical empiricism, whose paradigm of learning is belief and, more specifically, the practical nature of the believer's (...) experience of the environment of his or her actions. The believer's ecological imagery of the world, as it was elaborated by classical empiricism, provides the means to transcend the disenchanted image of the world and its prob lems. (shrink)
The paper argues against the claim held, e.g., by Leibniz, that Locke employs a double standard for determining whether an object before the mind (i.e., an idea) is real. Using Locke's ectype-archetype distinction it is shown that this charge is the result of confusing Locke's criterion of reality with its application. Depending on whether it applies to a simple, substance or mode idea, the criterion works out differently. Next it is argued that although Locke maintains only a single criterion, this (...) criterion is untenable, since it fails to properly distinguish real from fantastical ideas. (shrink)
The paper aims to provide an account of the phenomenological differences between perception, recognition and recall. In the first section, recall is distinguished from non-experiential forms of memory. In the second section, it is argued that we can't distinguish perceptual experience from the experience of recall by means of perception's present tense content because it is possible to perceive as well as to recall the past. The Lockean theory of recall as a revival of previous perceptual experience is then introduced, (...) applied and defended against objections. Next, recall is distinguish from memory recognition. Finally, some relevant psychological data is described. (shrink)
The author takes empiricism to be "accused of privileging the visual over the discursive, the literal over the rhetorical, the static over the temporal, and totalizing explanations over dialectical processes." It is, he says, his "goal to unsettle these binary oppositions and to argue that at the heart of empiricism lies a sophisticated, dynamic, and dialectical account of the relationship between language and visual perceptions that [is] fruitful for literary study".
Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding has generally been read as primarily concerned with epistemology. In particular, it has been claimed that the Essay attempts to defeat epistemological skepticism, but fails in this enterprise because of the veiling character of Locke's ideas. By way of reexamination of the texts in question I show that epistemological skepticism is not the topic of the Essay, and that there is not sufficient reason to claim that Locke's account of knowledge leads to epistemological skepticism. I (...) argue, moreover, that the motivating topic of the Essay is moral skepticism, and I explain the central role of ch. 8, book 2 in Locke's argumentation for the claim that we may achieve a science of morality. I conclude with an account of some of practical consequences of a science of morality, as conceived by Locke. (shrink)
This paper is a defense of the “representative theory of perception” in general, and Locke's views about perception in particular. It is intended only as a limited defense, but one against those objections which recently have been taken thoroughly to discredit both the general theory and Locke's particular position. The chief of these objections is that the representative theory leads inevitably to skepticism about the existence of objective material things. George Pitcher finds this objection to the representative theory completely persuasive (...) and so well established that it scarcely requires discussion:It is just here [in the area of justifying perceptual knowledge of the world] that the most serious and notorious deficiencies of sense-datum theories are encountered. If the sense-datum theorist maintains the existence of physical objects, … as ordinarily conceived, then his claim that sense-data are metaphysically distinct from anything in the physical world commits him to a version of representative realism. The enormous epistemological difficulties [due to their skeptical consequences] faced by theories of this kind are well known, and I shall not say anything about them, except that I regard them as insuperable …. (shrink)