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John Locke - An Essay Concerning Human Understanding - Help Needed

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    Hi there,

    There's a part of this text that I'm really confused on - was really hoping someone could try and explain it to me in simpler terms? I just can't figure it out.

    "3. I think, there be two sorts of ideas that we may be assured agree with things.

    4. The first are simple ideas, which since the mind can by no means make to itself, must necessarily be the product of things operating on the mind, in a natural way. From whence it follows, that simple ideas are but the natural and regular productions of things without us. Thus the idea of whiteness, or bitterness, as it is in the mind, exactly answering that power which is in any body to produce it there, is sufficient for real knowledge.

    5. All complex ideas, except ideas of substances, are their own archetypes. Secondly, All our complex ideas, except those of substances, being archetypes of the mind's own making, not intended to be the copies of anything, cannot want any conformity necessary to real knowledge. For that which is not designed to represent anything but itself, can never be capable of a wrong representation."

    I'm especially stuck on Part 5. Anyone studied this? Thanks!
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    Im not sure about what you have posted but when Lock speaks of simple ideas, he means ideas that we recieve from the external world such as a tree. Complex ideas however use simple ideas to create things which are not evident in the real world. For example the simple ideas that it is when it is night it is dark and that a tree is green could lead to the complex idea that when it is dark you cannot know whether the tree is dark or not. The idea is that simple ideas are ones that involve mere perception but complex ideas involve the mind which uses concepts to create compound ideas through the use of reason.


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Updated: April 19, 2012
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