Locke's Theory of Knowledge and Its Historical Relations

By James Gibson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
LOCKE AND SCHOLASTICISM

§ 1 . The question of the historical setting of the Essay is admittedly in an unsatisfactory position, and for this more than one circumstance must be held responsible. The fact that it constitutes the starting-point of the classical development of philosophy in England has led to a concentration of attention upon its influence, to the comparative neglect of the sources from which it is derived. Nor, it must be admitted, does Locke himself, in the course of that work, give much assistance to the enquirer into the historical antecedents and relations of its doctrine. So little store does he set upon a knowledge of other men's opinions, on matters concerning which reason should be the judge, that it is only on the rarest occasions that he refers to the views of other writers in a manner sufficiently definite to enable them to be identified. When he would cite a supposed matter of fact, such as the virtues which were cultivated by the people of Peru, the capacity of a parrot for rational conversation, or the non-existence of the idea of God among the Carribee Islanders, he is ready with his references, including chapter and page. But in matters of speculation, where the appeal is made to the reader's own intelligence, he prefers to set forth his view of what he conceives to be the truth, contrasting it when necessary with opposing principles, but without encumbering it with references and quotations. Hence, as we have found, even the bearing of the directly controversial parts of the

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