Locke's Theory of Knowledge and Its Historical Relations

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CHAPTER VI
THE GENERAL NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE

§1. We have arrived at last at the main problem of the Essay, to the solution of which the whole content of the work is regarded by its author as subordinate and contributory. Having completed his survey of our ideas, and discussed their representation by words, and the misapprehensions to which this often gives rise, he considers himself to be in a position to attack the question of the nature and possible extent of the knowledge of which ideas are but the 'materials' or 'instruments.' In our exposition of his treatment of the subject, it will be convenient to consider, first, his view of the general characteristics of knowledge, and certain general distinctions which he makes in relation to it; leaving his account of the different kinds of knowledge, and of the limitations which he discovers in its extent, to be dealt with subsequently. Accordingly, in the present chapter, the questions with which we shall be concerned are (1) Locke's identification of knowledge with objective certainty, and the sharp line which he consequently draws between knowledge and everything of the nature of probable conjecture or opinion; (2) his account of what constitutes what he calls the 'reality' of knowledge, in virtue of which its validity transcends the ideas of the individual mind, with which it is immediately concerned; (3) the synthetic or instructive quality,

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