Locke's Theory of Knowledge and Its Historical Relations

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CHAPTER VII
THE KINDS AND LIMITS OF KNOWLEDGE

§ 1. Locke's definition of knowledge as 'nothing but the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of any of our ideas,' is at once followed by a classification of knowledge, based upon the different forms which may be assumed by the agreement or disagreement in question. 'To understand a little more distinctly wherein this agreement or disagreement consists, I think we may reduce it all to these four sorts: (1) Identity or diversity. (2) Relation. (3) Coexistence, or necessary connection. (4) Real existence1.' That a formal objection may be taken to this division, on the ground that the species enumerated are not mutually exclusive, since identity and 'coexistence or necessary connection' are themselves relations, Locke is himself fully aware. These are, however, he maintains, 'so peculiar ways of agreement or disagreement,' and involve 'so different grounds of affirmation and denial' that they 'deserve well to be considered as distinct heads, and not under relation in general2.' We shall find, indeed, that the above classification is little more than a preliminary survey of the ground, serving to set in relief the various topics to which Locke thinks it necessary to call special attention, but which does not adequately represent his final view of the different types of knowledge.

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1
IV. 1. 3.
2
IV. 1. 7.

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