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By John Locke

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Extra info for An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Knowledge and Opinion

Sample text

I won’t here examine the question of how far the idea of a most perfect being that a man may form in his mind does or does not prove the existence of a God,. Because of differences in men’s characters and ways of thinking, some arguments for a given truth carry more weight with one person, some with another.

The idea to which he attaches the name ‘body’ is merely the idea of extension, so he knows quite certainly that space cannot exist without body ·in his sense of ‘body’·. For he knows his own idea of extension clearly and distinctly, and knows that it is what it is and not another idea, though he calls it by the three names ‘extension’, ‘body’, and ‘space’. Because these three words stand for one and the same idea, they can be affirmed of one another with the same self-evidence and certainty as each can be affirmed of itself.

Section 6 insists further on the uninformativeness of these ‘trifling’ propositions, exemplified by Every man is an animal and A palfrey is an ambling horse, each of which Locke takes to be true by definition of its subject term. He concludes with a contrast:] But when someone tells me that Any thing in which sense, motion, reason, and laughter are united has a notion of God, or Any thing in which sense, motion, reason, and laughter are united would be put to sleep by opium, he has indeed made an instructive proposition.

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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Knowledge and Opinion by John Locke


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