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Abstract Ideas: Locke Vs. Berkeley Essay

954 words - 4 pages

In the following paper I will present and analyze John Locke's position on the nature of general terms. I will do so by breaking down his position and then through the criticisms presented by George Berkeley will unveil more about the nature of general terms.In Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding he discusses the nature of general terms. For this, Locke defines a general term as that which is used as sorter, putting entities into groups or categories such as that which refer to shape, or color. This definition is clearer when it is juxtaposed with a singular term, which is defined as a term that refers to a particular entity such as a proper name. Locke believes that general ...view middle of the document...

Because of this nature of individual existence, general terms do not purport to anything in the world.Understanding of this concept is made clearer once Locke's notion of what an idea is is understood. For Locke, an idea is a notion or term of that which the mind can be employed to think with. Words stand for ideas in the minds of speakers / language users.Although this seems strange because words do not stand for ideas, but rather they stand for things in world, this is the position Locke holds. Further, being an empiricist Locke believes that ideas are copies of sense perceptions, or impressions of a sense experience. This faculty comes in the form of pictures or linguistics. From this definition of ideas coupled with his account of general terms, it seems to show how general terms have come to acquire meaning.Berkeley's criticism of Locke deals with Locke's idea of the abstraction of particular qualities from individuals, which leads to general ideas and ultimately general terms. Berkeley argues that Locke's account of abstract ideas is indeterminate, inconsistent and incoherent. He states that on Locke's picture, when one is sorting individuals into groups, after he has a data set, he looks for similarities and differences and than separates out those non-relevant qualities and what is left is the general idea of 'man'. However, an image of such a 'man' is indeterminate, for it is impossible to form an image of a man that is not determinate. For any man that one can imagine must be black or white, short or tall, young or...

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