Problems from Locke
Mackie (J.L.)
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Cover Blurb

  1. In this book, J. L. Mackie selects for critical discussion six related topics which are prominent in John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding:
    • the distinction between primary and secondary qualities;
    • representative theories of perception;
    • substance, real essence, and nominal essence;
    • abstract ideas, universals1, and the meaning of general terms;
    • identity, especially personal identity; and
    • the conflict between empiricism and the doctrine of innate ideas.
    He examines Locke's arguments carefully, but his chief interest is in the problems themselves, which are important for our attempt to decide what sort of world we live in and how we can defend our claim to know about it.
  2. The book shows that on most of these topics, views close to Locke's are more defensible than has commonly been supposed, but that there is nonetheless a tension in Locke's thought between extreme empiricism and common-sense or scientific realism. Whereas Locke's immediate successors, Berkeley and Hume, and many later thinkers, have stressed the empiricism at the expense of the realism, this book argues against the more extreme empiricist doctrines but supports the more moderate ones, especially the claims that innate ideas cannot be a source of necessary truth and that authoritative, autonomous knowledge of synthetic truths requires empirical support. The position J. L. Mackie advocates thus reconciles realism with moderate empiricism.
  3. There is a growing tendency of philosophers to pay closer attention to Locke’s work and, as a result, to treat his views with greater respect. This book will support and encourage this tendency. It also provides some epistemological backing for the logical and metaphysical views presented in J. L. Mackie’s two earlier books:-


Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976. Background reading for Seminar (on McDowell's 'Values and Secondary Qualities'; also Identity, Mind, etc.)

"Mackie (J.L.) - Problems from Locke: Introduction"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke

"Mackie (J.L.) - Primary and Secondary Qualities"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 1

  1. Locke's distinction and the representative theory of perception – 7
  2. Arguments for the distinction – 17
  3. Arguments against the distinction – 24
  4. Aristotle's distinction and Molyneux's problem – common and special sensibles – 28
  5. Bennett's distinction – 33

COMMENT: Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Ethics Boxes: Vol 2 (G-N)".

"Mackie (J.L.) - Representative Theories of Perception"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 2

  1. Did Locke hold a representative theory? – 37
  2. Picture-original theory: (i) physically real intermediates – 41
  3. Picture-original theory: (ii) intentional objects – 47
  4. The veil-of-perception problem, and a Berkeleian argument – 51
  5. Verification and constructive theories of meaning – 56
  6. Solution of the problem of meaning – 60
  7. The problem of justification – 62
  8. Is naivety indispensable? – 67
  9. Conclusions – 70

"Mackie (J.L.) - Substance and Essence"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 3

  1. Berkeley's criticism of 'material substance' – 72
  2. Locke's account of substance – 73
  3. Substance and real essence – 76
  4. Material substance and reality – 83
  5. Real essence and nominal essence – 85
  6. Essences of non-substances – 88
  7. Locke's anticipation of Kripke – 93
  8. The possibility of explanatory science – 100
  9. The essentiality of essences – 104
  10. Conclusion – 105

"Mackie (J.L.) - Abstract Ideas and Universals"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 4

  1. Locke's basic account of abstraction – 107
  2. Complex abstract ideas – 112
  3. Berkeley's theory of generalization – 118
  4. Abstract ideas of numbers – 121
  5. The indeterminacy of images – 123
  6. Realism about universals1 – 125
  7. Conceptualism and nominalism – 130
  8. The resemblance theory – 134
  9. Universals2 and the work of the mind – 136

"Mackie (J.L.) - Identity and Diversity"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 5

Philosopher’s Index Abstract
  1. Mackie sets out Locke's general theory of identity and raises some difficulties with the account.
  2. Hume's claim that the notion of identity is a fiction is critically assessed.
  3. Mackie argues that there is a relation between Locke's notion of identity and the notion that individuals can have essences. He presents an argument for what he calls Locke's thesis about the relativity of identity.
  4. The relevance of Kripke's discussion of identity and named individuals is examined. It is argued that Locke's thesis about the relativity of identity can provide a means of understanding some problems concerning identity through time.

  1. Locke's general theory of identity – 140
  2. Hume's account of identity – 145
  3. Essences of individuals – 150
  4. The relativity of identity – 160
  5. Identity across kinds – 161
  6. Answers and decisions – 169

"Mackie (J.L.) - Personal Identity"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 6

Philosopher’s Index Abstract
  1. Mackie attempts to revise Locke's theory of the identity of persons.
  2. Locke's equation of personal identity with the unity of consciousness is set out. Mackie examines various objections to Locke's theory and his use of puzzle cases is highlighted.
  3. Recent theories of personal identity, such as Parfit1's, are critically discussed.
  4. Mackie suggests that the equation of personal identity with the continuity of neurophysiological structure would resolve some of the difficulties associated with an account of personal identity.

  1. Locke and the unity of consciousness – 173
  2. Objections and difficulties – 177
  3. Conceptual analysis and evidence – 189
  4. Factual analysis and reinterpretations – 195

"Mackie (J.L.) - Empiricism and Innate Notions"

Source: Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 7

  1. Realism versus empiricism – 204
  2. The case against innate notions – 205
  3. The established opinion that there are innate principles – 206
  4. Interpretations of the empiricist programme – 209
  5. Leibniz’s reply to Locke – 212
  6. The possibility of innate knowledge – 215
  7. Actual innate knowledge – 222
  8. Innateness and necessity – 223

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