Quaestio 12:101-122 (2012)

Martin Lenz
University of Groningen
In the wake of Wilfrid Sellars’ philosophy, John Locke’s theory of ideas is often taken to fall prey to the so-called Myth of the Given. The main charge is that Locke appeals to passively received sense impressions to justify knowledge claims and ultimately confuses natural processes with normative conceptual activity. In this paper, I will argue that the accusations are founded on a faulty reading and that Locke’s account does indeed circumvent Givenism without having to abandon the foundationalist ambitions that drive his theory of ideas. I will begin by exploring the attractions and pitfalls of the Myth. Secondly, I will show how the Sellarsian objections can be launched against Locke’s theory of ideas. Thirdly, I will present my interpretation of Locke’s take on ideas and show how they fare in relation to the crucial features involved in the discussion of the Myth. By way of conclusion, I will discuss whether Locke’s way of avoiding the Myth limits his foundationalist approach
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DOI 10.1484/J.QUAESTIO.1.103612
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