On Abstract Ideas
George Berkeley and David Hume are known in the philosophical realm as purveyors of the tradition of empiricism . Both upheld that knowledge is only attainable by experience thus , denying the existence of innate ideas . theless , neither Berkeley nor Hume is solely responsible for that empirical premise . They are indebted to another philosopher whose contribution established empiricism at the forefront . That philosopher is John Locke . It was his philosophy that strongly influenced both Berkeley and Hume It must be noted , however , that the three aforementioned philosophers do not agree on every aspect
It must be noted , however , that the three aforementioned philosophers do not agree on every aspect
of their philosophies . One that caused a yawning gap between them is that of abstract ideas . Locke established this doctrine , but both Berkeley and Hume begged to disagree . This term aims to introduce Locke 's Doctrine of Abstract Ideas and discuss the responses of both Berkeley and Hume
Locke is the first of the great English empiricists (Uzgalis 1 and he pioneered the empiricist tradition with his remarkable book An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , which is considered a classic statement of empiricist epistemology (Kemerling 1 ' The text itself consists of four books his Doctrine of Abstract Ideas is found in the third chapter of the third book , entitled Of General Terms
Locke starts with the declaration that everything in existence is particular , but words are general . For him , this posits a problem since it is impossible for every particular thing to be given a particular name . This belief necessitates that general words fulfill the need to label everything in existence
Locke 's next concern questions how these general words come about . If everything is particular , how do general words express what they are ? He writes , Words become general , by being made the signs of general Ideas : and Ideas become general , by separating from them the circumstances of Time , and Place , and any other Ideas , that may determine them to this or that particular Existence (Locke 410-411 It is in this very statement that Locke introduces the concept of abstract ideas . He adds , By this way of abstraction , they are made capable of representing more Individuals than one each of which , having in it a conformity to that abstract Idea , is (as we call it ) of that sort (Locke 411 ' What Locke wants to convey is this : general words have the capacity to describe many particular things through abstraction . All that has to be done is for the said idea to be separated from other ideas so that its particularity is revealed . From this premise , we can derive the definition of abstract ideas : [they are] the products of the process of abstraction , a process which involves separating what is in real existence inseparable to produce a sketchy indeterminate idea (Noonan 76 ' Therefore , in essence , the notion of an abstract idea is a philosophical attempt to make sense of the generality of thought (Noonan 76
The concept of abstraction would be difficult to elucidate without a clear example , so Locke provides some . One of which is this : Of the...