Cliffs Notes on Locke's Concerning Human Understanding by Charles H. Patterson

By Charles H. Patterson

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What, according to Locke, are some of the common errors that result from a wrong use of words? How, in his judgment, can these errors be avoided? 21. What does Locke mean by "degrees of our knowledge"? What different degrees does he recognize, and how does he account for the differences? 22. What, according to Locke, are the limitations of human knowledge? In what areas can we have certain knowledge? In what areas can we have only probable knowledge? 23. What is Locke's position concerning the validity of universal propositions in the formal sciences and in the inductive sciences?

The multiplication table, for example, is true for all people and for all time. The reason, of course, is the fact that in mathematics we are dealing with ideas and not with things. Propositions of this kind illustrate what Locke meant when he said that truth is the agreement of ideas with one another. This explanation is sufficient to enable us to understand the validity of universal propositions that occur in the formal sciences such as logic and mathematics or any other area in which the propositions used are of an analytic nature.

Among the things which are known intuitively, nothing can be more certain than the perception of agreement or disagreement of ideas with one another. It is in this way that we know with certainty that one object is not identical with another object. In the same way, we know that the whole of anything is greater than any one of its parts. By the same token, we can be certain of our own existence. What is known intuitively is that of which we are immediately aware without the intervention of any proof or the invoking of any outside authority.

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