Locke allowed that some ideas are in the mind from an early age, but argued that such ideas are furnished by the senses starting in the womb: for john locke blank slate pdf, differences between colours or tastes. If we have a universal understanding of a concept like sweetness, it is not because this is an innate idea, but because we are all exposed to sweet tastes at an early age. One of Locke’s fundamental arguments against innate ideas is the very fact that there is no truth to which all people attest.
Book 3 focuses on words. Locke connects words to the ideas they signify, claiming that man is unique in being able to frame sounds into distinct words and to signify ideas by those words, and then that these words are built into language. Chapter ten in this book focuses on “Abuse of Words. Here, Locke criticizes metaphysicians for making up new words that have no clear meaning. He also criticizes the use of words which are not linked to clear ideas, and to those who change the criteria or meaning underlying a term. Thus he uses a discussion of language to demonstrate sloppy thinking.
Locke complains that such obscurity is caused by, for example, philosophers who, to confuse their readers, invoke old terms and give them unexpected meanings or who construct new terms without clearly defining their intent. Writers may also invent such obfuscation to make themselves appear more educated or their ideas more complicated and nuanced or erudite than they actually are. Locke discusses the limit of human knowledge, and whether knowledge can be said to be accurate or truthful. Thus there is a distinction between what an individual might claim to “know”, as part of a system of knowledge, and whether or not that claimed knowledge is actual. For example, Locke writes at the beginning of Chap.
To what purpose all of this stir? Knowledge, say you, is only the Perception of the Agreement or Disagreement of our own Ideas: but who knows what those Ideas may be? But of what use is all this fine Knowledge of Man’s own Imaginations, to a Man that enquires after the reality of things? Value to our Reasonings, and Preference to one Man’s Knowledge over another’s, that is of Things as they really are, and of Dreams and Fancies. Many of Locke’s views were sharply criticized by rationalists and empiricists alike. Berkeley held that Locke’s conception of abstract ideas was incoherent and led to severe contradictions.