Philosophy 1140: Empiricism

Time: M 5:45 - 8:10pm
Room: CL 130
Instructor: Rick Grush (
Office Hours: M 3:30pm - 5:00pm


[ Schedule ] -- [ Quizzes and Exams ] -- [ Grades ] -- [ Study Questions ]

[ Exam Essay Questions ] -- [ Exam and Quiz Statistics ] -- [ Web Resources ]

[ Email List ] -- [ How to do well in this course ] -- [ Bibliography ]


Short Description:

In this course we will examine the three most prominent British Empiricists, John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume, focusing on their epistemological and metaphysical doctrines. Some topics from Descartes, Reid, and (maybe) Kant will also be raised, but only in brief controlled doses, and only for their utility in illuminating the positions of the Big Three Empiricists. Readings will be from The Empiricists available in the Bookstore, and from secondary literature on reserve in the library and/or available electronically from this website. Specific readings are detailed on the schedule.


(Weeks without lectures due to holiday are in red. Lectures marked with a 'Q' will begin with a quiz.)

Session 01 (01.10.00): Introductory Lecture.

Session -- (01.17.00): No Meeting. MLK.

Session 02 (01.24.00): Q

Descartes Meditation 2.
Locke Essay, Book II. Chs.1-7, 9-11. (Abridged)
[Study Questions]

Session 03 (01.31.00): Q.

Locke Essay Book II. Chs. 8, 23. (Abridged)
Grush "Notes on Substance/property vs. reality/appearance vs.primary/secondary".
Optional: Bennett "Substance and Reality" (Especialy §§11, 12, 15.)
Optional: Bennett "Primary and Secondary Qualities" (Especially §§18, 22)
[Study Questions]

Session 04 (02.07.00): Q. [Quiz #3 answers here]

Locke, Essay, Book II. Ch. 27. (Abridged)
Optional: McCann "Locke on Identity"
[Study Questions]


Session 05 (02.14.00): Exam 1 [Essay Questions Here] [Sample Answers to esssay Questions Here] [Answers to Multiple Choice Questions]; Introduction to Berkeley.


Session 06 (02.21.00): Q. [Quiz #4 answers here]

Berkeley PHK(I):1-12, 16; PHK:1-15, 18-20, 22, 23, 25.
Wilson "Did Berkeley completely misunderstand the basis of the primary-secondary quality distinction in Locke?"
[Study Questions]

Session 07 (02.28.00): Q. [Quiz #5 answers here]

Berkeley PHK:26-76, 101-110, 150-151.
Grush Notes on Berkeley's Idealism
Grush Notes on Phenomenalism
[Study Questions]

Session -- (03.06.00): No Meeting. Spring Break.

Session 08 (03.13.00): Q. [Quiz #6 answers here]

Berkeley PHK:2, 7, 25-30, 88-89, 135-142, 145.
McCracken "Berkeley's Notion of Spirit"
[Study Questions]

Session 09 (03.20.00): Exam 2 [Essay Questions Here]; Introduction to Hume.
[Answers to Exam 2 Multiple Choice Questions]

Session 10 (03.27.00): NO QUIZ.

Hume. Enquiry 1-5
[Study Questions]

Session 11 (04.03.00): Q. [Quiz #8 answers here]

Continuing Discussion of Hume. Enquiry 1-5
Grush Notes on Induction

Session 12 (04.10.00): Q. [Quiz #9 answeers here]

Hume: Selections from the Treatise on Personal Identity.
Biro, "Personal Identity"
[Study Questions]

Session 13 (04.17.00): Exam 3. [Essay Questions Here]
[Answers to Exam 3 Multiple Choice Questions TBA]

Quizzes and Exams:

Quizzes will be administered during the first five minutes of class, so don't be late (timing will be according to my watch, which I synchronize with the Naval Observatory Atomic Clock, in case anyone is curious). There will be no make-ups on the quizzes. If you have a legitimate excuse for missing one, then I will average your other quiz scores as a replacement for the missed quiz score. Each quiz will consist of 10-12 multiple choice questions. About half -- the reading questions -- will be questions designed so that anyone who has done the reading will know the answer immediately, and anyone who has not will be guessing. An example would be: Does the word 'earthenware' appear in the Descartes' Meditation One? (The answer is 'yes'.) The rest of the questions -- comprehension questions -- will be a bit more difficult, testing comprehension of the material. In order to ease student anxiety about these, for each set of readings I will list 10 study questions, and the comprehension questions will be geared to the issues pointed out in these questions.

Exams will consist of 10 multiple choice questions, each worth 4 points, and 2 essay questions, each worth 30 points, for a total of 100 points. The multiple choice questions will be similar to the comprehension questions on the quizzes -- it's a good bet that some will be identical.

The essay questions will work in the following way. A week before the exam, I will hand out in class, and post on this website, a list of 6 essay questions. I will pick three of these questions to put on the exam, and you will choose any two of the three to answer. The topics for the study questions will be drawn from the readings and lectures, but it is a good bet that if you master the study questions for the readings, you will know most of what you need to know for the essay questions.



Final Grades will be based exclusively on the exams and the quizzes. The three exams are each worth 100 points, and the nine quizzes are each worth 10-12 points, for a total of 400 points for the semester. I will not assign letter grades until all the points are in. Then I will do a histogram and some statistics, and decide where to place the letter grade boundaries. But as a matter of historical record, the boundaries in the past have not been too far from a standard 10% per letter-grade scale. I will post score statistics and answers to multiple choice questions on this website after the quizzes and exams.

Study Questions:

Each entry below lists all required readings for each session. For each reading, a number of questions are listed to help you focus your attention on what is important in each reading. You should be able to answer the questions, or at least most of them. Items on the quizzes will be drawn in large part from these questions. The study questions for each week will be up at least a week before the date on which their associated lecture will occur.

Session 02 (01.24.00)

-- Descartes. Meditation 2.
-- Locke. Essay, Book II. Chs.1-7, 9-11. (Abridged)

1. What is the first item of knowledge that Descartes claims that he cannot doubt, and what are his reasons for thinking he cannot doubt this?

2. Descartes distinguishes two sets of features that he formerly thought himself to have, roughly mind-like or thinking features, and body-like or extended features. Provide examples of each kind of feature. Which features can he be certain of the existence of, and which remain in doubt, and why?

3. What is the immediate point of Descartes wax example? How does he use this point to support his contention that one can know one's own mind better than body?

4. Descartes draws a distinction between i) substance and ii) properties or attributes that a substance might have. Explain this distinction, and how this distinction applies to a) physical things, and b) mental things.

5. Explain, and give examples, of the difference between qualitative identity and numerical identity. (From lecture.)

6. What are the two "fountains of knowledge" for Locke? What do they have in common? In what ways do they differ? (Give several differences.) Give examples of the deliverances of each fountain.

7. Which of the following ideas are admitted through only one sense and which are admitted through two senses: whiteness, solidity, heat, extension or size, figure or shape, sound. (Discussion is in Chapters 3 and 5). Compare this to what is said at Chapter 9, section 8. Do you see any conflict?

8. What are the "two great and principal actions of the mind"? How do our ideas of these fit into Locke's taxonomy of ideas?

9. What does Locke means when he claims that sensation can be changed by judgement? Do you think there is any tension between this claim, and his earlier insistence that "Only the qualities that affect the senses are imaginable".

10. Locke describes the memory as a "storehouse of ideas". He also describes ideas as "being nothing but actual perceptions of the mind, which cease to be anything when there is no perception of them..." There seems to be a problem here. What is it, and how does Locke try to solve it? Do you think he is successful?

11. Explain Locke's treatment of abstract ideas. Are abstract ideas different kinds of ideas from 'particular' ideas, or are they the same kind of idea, but put to a different use?

Session 03 (01.31.00)

-- Locke Essay, Book II. Chs. 8, 23. (Abridged)
-- Grush "Notes on Substance/property vs. reality/appearance vs.primary/secondary".

12. Locke distinguishes between ideas and qualities. Explain this distinction using as an example the redness of a perceived apple. When I look at an apple, what and where is the idea of redness, and what and where is the quality of redness? What kind of quality is the quality of redness (primary or secondary)?

13. According to Locke, primary qualities and secondary qualities cause ideas in us (2:8:12 and 2:8:13 respectively). If this is the case, then what is the difference between them? What is the difference between secondary qualities and the 'third kind of power' (2:8:23) that bodies can have?

14. Explain the manna example (2:8:18). What is the point, and how does it make this point?

15. Be able to explain the hot/cold water example of 2:8:21. What is the problem that Locke thinks his theory solves? How exactly does he claim to solve it?

16. Compare the first sentence (and the first half of sentence 2) of 2:23:2 -- Locke's account of what is meant by 'pure substance in general' -- with Locke's own account of the relationship between primary and secondary qualities from 2:8. What comparisons can be made?

17. In 2:23:6 Locke discusses particular substances, and explains what we can and do know about particular substances, and what we think we know, but really only posit. Explain in your own words what Locke is trying to say in this passage. What you say here should also be compatible with what Locke says in 2:23:7.

18. In 2:23:8 Locke gives some hint as to what it is that we cannot know, and which accounts for, or supports, the qualities that we take to characterize particular substances. What is this unknown support, and why is it unknown? Does what you think about this question make sense of what is said at 2:23:11?

19. How does Grush explain the relationship, according to Locke, between particular substances and substance in general?

20. What is the 'veil of perception' doctrine? Is it in tension with Locke's causal theory of perception? If so, how?

21. Grush claims that even if on Locke's view there can be an identification of primary qualities and reality, one still cannot identify secondary qualities with appearance. What relationship between secondary qualities and appearance might make this identification seem natural, and why is the identification nevertheless not licensed?

Session 04 (02.07.00)

-- Locke Essay, Book II. Ch. 27. (Abridged)

24. In 2:27:4 Locke says that what we want for questions of identity is a 'principium individuationis' -- a principle of individuation. A principle of individuation is supposed to help us answer the following sort of question: given two identifications of a thing of type A, do we have ONE such thing, or TWO such things. For example, Descartes sees some wax at 10am, and he sees some wax as 11am. We might ask, are we dealing with ONE instance of wax, one piece of wax, or TWO. A principle that allows us to answer this question is a principle of individuation. Locke provides such a principle in 2:27:2 that he applies to both 'finite intelligences' as well 'bodies' (aka chunks of extension). What is this principle, and how does it tell us to answer the 'how many' question?

25. In 2:27:4 Locke gives a principle of individuation for a mass (consisting of a bunch of 'atoms'). What is this principle of individuation? Locke says that this principle does not apply to living creatures. Why does he say this?

26. In 2:27:5, Locke says that an oak continues to be the same plant so long as is partakes of the same life. What does he mean by this? Someone might argue that using this as a principle of individuation for plants, even if it works, cannot be the final word. Why not? That is, what else would we have to be able to determine in order to use this principle of individuation for plants?

27. In 2:27:7 Locke argues that one cannot appeal to the 'soul' to provide identity conditions for a 'man' (and by 'man' he means something like a member of the species homo sapiens', the same primate). What is his argument here, and what is Locke's alternative account?

28. Sections 2:27:11-14 (the first 11, on page 67) discuss the relationship between a) the person, or self, on Locke's view, and b) the substance (either material or spiritual) that the self might be realized in. E.g. can you have more than one self in the same substance? Can you have the same self move to a different substance? Etc. Be able to summarize this relationship.

29. Section 2:27:13 brings up a potential problem for Locke's theory that personal identity is based on consciousness (and in particular memory). What is the problem? What is Locke's answer to this problem?

[Note: Forget about section 15: is just muddies the waters]

30. Section 2:27:18 claims that it is the person and not the substance that is the object of reward and punishment. He brings up again his example of consciousness going off with the little severed finger. What is the connection between these two points? How can Locke use the little finger example to bolster his theory of personal identity, given his appeal to reward and punishment? (Hint: Imagine that on Monday I rob a bank, and on Tuesday my finger gets accidentally cut off. What consequences would my consciousness going with my little finger have for how to carry out my punishment?)

31. What is the problem that Locke presents for himself in section 20, and how does he solve it?

Session 06 (02.21.00)

Berkeley PHK(I):1-12, 16; PHK:1-15, 18-20, 22, 23, 25.
-- Wilson "Did Berkeley completely misunderstand ..."

32. In PHK(I):6-10 Berkeley considers and attacks the notion of abstract ideas. In section 10, he distinguishes three senses of 'abstraction' and says that in one sense it is a legitimate ability, but in another two senses it is not. Explain and give examples of all three senses. Compare what Berkeley says here about the OK and not-OK senses of abstraction with what Locke says about abstraction at 2:11:9. Is Locke's sense of 'abstraction' the OK sense, or one of the not-OK senses? (Berkeley gives more examples of OK and not-OK abstraction in PHK:5.)

33. In PHK(I):11-12 Berkeley develops a theory of 'general ideas'. Why does he do this? What is the relation between 'general' and 'abstract' ideas? What, in brief, is his theory of 'general' ideas? (He gives another illustration in section PHK(I):16.)

34. PHK:1 Berkeley gives an inventory of the objects of human knowledge. What are the items in this inventory? How does it compare to the inventory Locke describes in Book II, Chapter 1 of the Essay?

35. In PHK:3 Berkeley says of ideas (which includes thoughts, etc) that their esse is percipi (their existence consists in being perceived). In PHK:1 He has already claimed that objects are no more than collections of ideas that go together. What surprising conclusion about objects immediately follows? How does your answer to this compare to what he says in PHK:4, 6?

36. In PHK:8-15 Berkeley attacks the Lockean view to the effect that there exist corporeal substances that have a mind-independent existence on the 'reality' side of the veil of appearance. There are two kinds of argument. First, arguments to the effect that a Lockean notion of corporeal substance is internally incoherent. What is the incoherence that Berkeley sees? Second, two different arguments to the effect that considerations that show that ideas of 'secondary qualities' cannot resemble mind-independent entities equally show that ideas of 'primary qualities' cannot resemble mind-independent entities. Try to discern these three types of argument.

37. In PHK:18-20 and PHK:25 Berkeley, highlighting the epistemological predicament that the veil of appearance doctrine creates, makes the point that even if there were such a thing as mind-independent corporeal substance, we could never know this, or even have any evidence for this. What are his arguments?

38. In PHK:22-23 Berkeley takes on the claim that we can surely conceive of things existing unperceived. What is Berkeley's argument against this claim? Do you think it works? If not, why not?

40. On page 108, Wilson lays out the groundwork for her article. According to this groundwork, there are two sorts of reason that Locke gives for the primary secondary quality distinction -- a central kind of reason, allegedly ignored by Berkeley (call this the 'scientific explanation' argument), and a peripheral one which Berkeley allegedly mistook to be Locke's only sort of reason (call this the 'relativity' argument). (Wilson of course will argue that Berkeley was in fact aware of, and had arguments against, both sorts of reason.) What are these two kinds of consideration? Can you identify sections assigned for this week in PHK that deal with each sort of consideration?

41. Section II of Wilson's essay explains how Berkeley deals with the second kind of argument, the 'relativity' argument. Be able to summarize (Wilson's take on) Berkeley's treatment of this.

42. In section III of Wilson's essay she shows how Berkeley deals with the first sort of reason, the 'scientific explanation' argument. Be able to summarize (Wilson's take on) Berkeley's treatment of this.

Session 07 (02.28.00)


-- Berkeley PHK:26-76, 101-110, 150-151
-- Locke 4:2:14, 4:4:1-5
-- Grush: Notes on Berkeley's Idealism
-- Grush: Notes on Phenomenalism

43. PHK:29 ends with the statement that there exists some other Will or Spirit -- this will turn out to be God. What is Berkeley's argument for this? (Hint: It starts in PHK:25 with the claim that ideas are completely passive.)

44. Compare this argument (PHK:25-29) of Berkeley's with what Locke says at 4:2:14 (we did not read this section when we were doing Locke, but we can read it now). What are the similarities and differences?

45. In PHK:30-32 Berkeley gives us an account of the laws of Nature. These include, for instance, Newton's and Boyle's laws of how objects in the world behave. What is Berkeley's account? Be sure you understand how it is that Berkeley, who things that there is no material substance, can give an account of the 'laws of physics'. (See also PHK:50.)

46. PHK:33 is addressed to the following objection: "Look Berkeley, You think everything is just a bunch of ideas. But clearly ideas are one thing, and real things are another." What is Berkeley's response? (PHK:34-42 expand on this response.)

47. In PHK:45-48 Berkeley responds to the objection that on his view, things pop into and out of existence as they are, and then are not, perceived. He gives three different kinds of response, in 46, 47 and 48. Be sure you understand each response.

48. Grush distinguished between two positions, the 'bundle theory' and 'phenomenalism'. Be able to explain the difference between these two theories, and why Berkeley, because of the details of his metaphysics, is not forced to choose between them.

49. Grush has claimed that Berkeley's idealism is very similar to Locke's theory in certain ways. In what ways are Berkeley and Locke similar? What accounts for their differences? Compare Berkeley's Idealism with what Locke says at 4:4:1-5. How would/does Berkeley reply to Locke?

Session 08 (03.13.00)

-- Berkeley PHK:2, 7, 25-30, 88-89, 135-142, 145.
-- McCracken "Berkeley's notion of Spirit"

50. How does Berkeley characterize the mind (aka soul, spirit, self) in PHK:2? What does he add to this characterization in PHK:7?

51. What are the two aspects of the mind enumerated in PHK:27? What interesting claim (made in PHK:27) follows from the fact that mind is active and ideas are passive? Does anything strike you as odd about he last sentence of PHK:27?

52. PHK:89 is about as much detail as there is in PHK concerning our knowledge of mind (our own or otherwise). Why does Berkley have a prima facie problem with our knowledge of our own minds? He addresses this problem by making an analogy between our knowledge of our own minds and our knowledge of something else. What is this something else, and how does the analogy work?

53. Berkeley often hammers defenders of matter, claiming that the notion is either a contradiction, or meaningless. It is a contradiction if it (material substance) is supposed to actually have sensible qualities -- even primary qualities -- in it. If not, then it is meaningless, because we have no idea of it (any ideas we have will not be characteristic of it at all). One could object that Mind is in the same boat: since we have no idea of it, the term is meaningless. But Berkeley tries to avoid this by allowing 'notions' (see the previous study question). Compare what Berkeley says at PHK:16-17, in which he says that in order for matter to be meaningful, we must either have an idea of it (which we don't), or have something else. What is this something else? Do you think that Berkeley has managed to show that the cases of matter and mind are not in fact the same?

54. On the first page (p. 145) of McCracken's article, he says that Berkeley's initial concept of Mind was Cartesian. How does McCracken characterize this conception? Given what you have read of Berkeley about mind in PHK, does the PHK represent this early, Cartesian view, or not? (Hint: compare this characterization to what Berkeley says in PHK:27. You should be able to spot both a similarity and a glaring difference between the 'Cartesian' characterization offered by McCracken and what Berkeley says here. The difference concerns how many kinds of things are recognized in the ontology.)

55. On page 146, McCracken suggests that Berkeley employed the term 'mind' in such a way as to mean something other than 'spirit'. Explain what, according to McCracken, 'mind' meant for Berkeley at this stage.

56. Through page 147 and the top of 148, McCracken argues that Berkeley's initial Cartesian conception of Mind (as consisting of two aspects) gave way finally to a dualism. What are the two sides of this dualism? Be able to characterize both sides.

57. On page 148, McCracken discusses considerations that made this dualism untenable. What are they?

58. On page 148 and 149, McCracken characterizes a stage at which Berkeley was no longer a dualist. The understanding and will were really the same thing, just considered as directed at different objects. (I.e., when directed at my idea of a triangle when considering a proof, it is understanding; when directed at an idea representing something I desire, or that I intend to bring about, it is will.) What problem, discussed on p. 149, confronts this view of things?

59. In the first full paragraph on page 150, McCracken characterizes Berkeley's 'final view of spirit'. What is the difference between this view and the view mentioned on page 148-9 (the stage discussed in the previous study question)?

Session 10 (03.27.00)


-- Hume Enquiry 1 - 5

60. In §§11, 12 (p. 316-317t) Hume provides a taxonomy of ideas. Compare this to the taxonomy provided by Locke at the beginning of Book II, and Berkeley at the beginning of the main text of PHK. What obvious similarity is there between Berkeley and Locke that Hume does not share? What terminology does Hume adopt and how does he use it? [Note: The § numbering is from an electronic version of the text, and is unfortunately not reproduced in the text we are using in class. I will provide page numbers, too; t, m and b will mean 'top', 'middle' and 'bottom', so e.g. 316 - 317t means page 316 and the top part of page 317.]

61. In §16 (318b-319m) Hume discusses an example, the 'missing shade of blue'. Be sure you understand the point of the example -- why it is important at all -- and also the details of how the example works.

62. In §19 (321m-322t) Hume discusses the mechanisms by which Ideas are related. Be sure you understand all of them, and can provide examples.

63. In §§20, 21 (322-323t) Hume distinguishes two different types of things that are the objects of knowledge. First, what is this distinction, and what terms does he use to mark it? Be sure you can give examples of both. Second, What is the difference between this distinction, and the distinction drawn in §§11-12 (see study question 60).

64. Hume then goes on in §§22-23 (p323m-324m) to discuss 'Cause and Effect'. Why? Where do we get knowledge of C&E, and what good does it do us if we have it?

65. In §§24-25 (p. 324m-326m) Hume examines our knowledge of C&E. What conclusion does he draw? Be sure you understand the reasoning and examples of this section.

66. In §29 (p329t) Hume says "As to past experience, it can be" What is the point of this sentence, that is, what is he saying here about our knowledge of C&E? And if this is right, then what implications will this have for our knowledge of matters of fact in general?

67. The remainder of Section 4 is a big argument against there being any justification for the reliability of induction. Induction is the following sort of process: We observe a given set of examples of some phenomena, and we notice that they all have features A, B and C. We also observe that all of these examples also have feature D. We then infer (this is an inductive inference) that any other things or phenomena that have features A, B and C will also have feature D. A special case of induction is inferring causal relationships: I observe 100 cases of fire, and see that in each case there is heat. I then infer, via inductive inference, that in some new case of fire, heat will be present as well -- that the fire will cause heat. Try to understand the arguments of these paragraphs.

68. In §38 (p.339m) Hume says "What, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter?" And proceeds to sum up the discussion to this point of Section 5. This material contains Hume's account of what accounts for our 'knowledge' (though it isn't strictly knowledge) of matters of fact. What is this foundational principle that takes the place of C&E?


Session 12 (04.10.00)


-- Hume 'On Personal Identity'
-- Biro "Personal Identity"

69. At the beginning of the seccond paragraph, Hume says that we have no idea of the self. Would Locke agree? Would Berkeley?

70. In this second paragraph, Hume gives two different 'proofs' for why we have no idea of the self. The first ends with " are suppos'd to have a reference." The second takes up the remainder of the paragraph. Try to understand both arguments.

71. So Hume has argued that there is no idea of the self. But what is there? (This is spelled out in the third and forth paragraphs.) What problem does this present?

72. Hume's account of our idea of the self starts in paragraph six. According to this account, we are in the habit of confusing two different things. What are these two things? Be sure you understand both of them, and are able to give examples. (Use as an example the ideas that are in your mind when you are looking at a table, in constant light, and not moving at all, and the ideas in your mind when you are looking at the table, but walking around it, in variable light.) Paragraphs 7 - 14 provide more examples and details of this.

73. Compare what Hume says in paragraph 12 with Locke's theory of the identity of plants and animals. Are they different (if so, in what way)? Compatible? The same? [Note: In paragraph 13, Hume uses 'specific' identity to mean what we discussed as 'qualitative' identity -- meaning 'the same species or type'.]

74. Hume's positive account of personal identity really gets off the ground in paragraph 16. Be able to state it concisely. That is, be sure you understand how we get from what Hume says in 1-4 the real nature of what we have when we introspect, to how we come to have an idea of personal identity.

75. In paragraphs 18 and 19, Hume discusses two relations between ideas that contribute to our attribution of personal identity. Paragraph 18 focuses on memory, which was central to Locke's account of personal identity. Compare what Hume says here to what Locke says about the role of memory in personal identity. How similar are the views? Paragraph 19 focuses on cause and effect, which as we have seen is important for Berkeley's notion of 'Spirit'. Compare what Hume says here to Berkeley's account. How similar are they?

76. Paragraph 20 is remarkable, especially in comparison to Locke. First, Hume's account of causation is that it is really no more than a confused idea we impute to things when we see them in constant conjunction. Given this, what role does memory play for Hume's account of personal identity. Would, or could, Hume give different answers to questions of personal identity than does Locke? What is his complaint with Locke, and how might a defender of Locke respond?

Exam Essay Questions:

Exam 1.

Essay Questions:

1. What does Locke mean when he claims that sensation can be "changed" by judgement? What is his example, and how does he use it to try to make his point? Do you think there is any tension between this claim, and his earlier insistence that "Only the qualities that affect the senses are imaginable".

2. Explain the hot/cold water example of 2:8:21. What is the problem that Locke thinks his theory solves? How exactly does he claim to solve it? Your explanation should show how primary qualities, secondary qualities, and ideas are interrelated on Locke's view.

3. Explain Locke's theory of abstract ideas. Specifically, what they are, and how the mind comes by them. Grush has claimed that Locke's account of abstract ideas also requires two other faculties, the memory and the faculty of comparison/discernment. Why does Grush think this, and how does this account go according to Grush? Do you agree?

4. Grush has claimed that one can interpret Locke's position as one which maintains that the 'substance' of particular substances is extension, motion, rest, and all other features that Locke calls 'primary qualities' -- that is, primary qualities are the 'substance' of particular substances. Explain in some detail Grush's reasons for thinking this. Do you think this is a seamless reading of Locke, or are there any reasons why you think it might not be a perfect interpretation of Locke's views?

5. Consider the following example: In the year 1680, February 2, at 10am Eastern time, a certain collection of atoms (supposing all the atoms in the universe are numbered, this collection might contain atom number 1, atom number 2,134, atom number 234, 563, etc.) makes up John Locke's body. At this time, John Locke also has a certain collection of memories: he remembers entering Westminster School in 1646, going to Oxford in 1652, etc. As a matter of striking coincidence, exactly 320 years later, all the same atoms make up the body of your philosophy professor Rick Grush (the same set of atoms). Also, it turns out that meddling neurosurgeons have messed with Rick's hippocampus in such a way as to erase all his memories and give him false memories of entering Westminster School in 1646, going to Oxford in 1652, etc. Now , how would Locke's theory handle the following questions: Is Locke's body in 02.02.1680, and Grush's body in 02.02.2000 the same mass? Are Locke in 02.02.1680 and Grush in 02.02.2000 the same man? Are Locke in 02.02.1680 and Grush in 02.02.2000 the same person? Be sure you explain WHY Locke's theory provides the answers you say it does.

6. According to Descartes, each of our minds is a mental substance that underlies changes of particular mental properties, such as thoughts, images, desires, etc., in the way analogous to the way that the substance of the wax underlies all of its changes of properties. Descartes' position thus seems to allow for the possibility that all mental properties might change, but the same mind -- the same person -- remain, because it is the same mental substance. Locke would disagree. Explain Locke's view on personal identity, and explain how it is at odds with Descartes' (i.e., provide examples of cases where Descartes' theory and Locke's theory would give different answers to the question whether A and B are the same person).

Exam 2.

Essay Questions:

1. In the introduction to PHK, Berkeley attacks abstract ideas, and gives a positive account of the phenomena that abstract ideas were supposed to explain. What is his gripe with abstract ideas? What 3 senses of abstraction does he discern, and why is the OK sense OK, and the two not-OK senses not OK? What is his positive replacement account, and how does it work? Explain his example

2. In PHK:7 Berkeley claims that there can be no unperceiving substratum for the objects of perception. But he has not yet shown why there cannot be an unthinking substratum at all, one that (a) merely resembles the objects in some sense, or perhaps one that (b) has no resemblance to any ideas, but still exists. Berkeley takes these possibilities on in PHK:8-17, where he attacks the Lockean view to the effect that there exist corporeal substances that have a mind-independent existence on the 'reality' side of the veil of appearance. There are two kinds of argument. First, (against a) he argues that in fact there can't be a substance that resembles our ideas. What are his arguments (he has two kinds)? How are they both directed at Locke specifically? Second (against b) he argues that the claim that there does exist material substance that does not resemble any of our ideas, is meaningless. What is this argument?

3. Making use of PHK:30, 32, 50, explain Berkeley's account of the laws of nature. Why does he need to give such an account (what are the objections to his own position that he is answering)? What specifically is the account he gives? Be specific and give examples.

4. Explain the difference between phenomenalism and the bundle theory. Be sure to make use of passages from Berkeley that suggest both. Why is it the case that Berkeley does not have to choose between them? Specifically, what additional feature of his metaphysics renders them practically equivalent?

5. Wilson claims that there are two kinds of argument that Locke gives for the primary/secondary quality distinction. Focus on the arguments based on Boylean atomism, scientific explanations of perception, etc. What are these arguments, and how does Berkeley address them? Your answer should display familiarity with what Wilson says, as well as those sections of PHK in which Berkeley addresses this argument.

6. 'Matter' and 'spirit/mind' are two things of which we have no idea, according to Berkeley. However, Berkley is keen to insist that 'spirit' is not meaningless, while 'matter' (if it is taken to be unlike any idea) is meaningless. Your answer should make clear the relevance of 'notions' and 'relative ideas'.

Exam 3.

Essay Questions.

1. Parts 2 - 5 of the Enquiry contain an extended argument to the effect that we have no justification for most of our beliefs of matters of fact (beliefs about the way the world is). Explain the structure of the argument and exhibit your understanding of the main points. (These will include, the contents of the mind, the types of knowledge, the nature of causal reasoning, the role of induction, etc.)

2. Two sorts of response might be made in reaction to Hume's claim that there is no justification for induction. First, one might claim that it can be justified on the basis that it has always worked. Second, one might provide a sort of practical justification, claiming that even if there is no philosophical justification for induction itself, we should act as though it were justified, because if we do not, then we will be screwed. Explain exactly why both of these responses are circular, that is, clearly explain why the reasoning only holds if in fact one assumes in advance that induction works. Provide examples of your own.

3. Hume claims that all of our knowledge of matters of fact depend on 'cause and effect' (henceforth C&E). First (though Hume is not completely clear about this) not ALL of our knowledge of matters of fact depends on C&E. Which does and which does not? Second, the dependence of our knowledge of matters of fact on C&E applies in both of the following two cases: a) knowledge of what is happening, even in our immediate vicinity in the real world, on the basis of our ideas and impressions; and b) knowledge of anything in the world outside of our immediate spatiotemporal vicinity (past, future, or things temporally present but spatially absent). Explain both of these, and especially how the first relates to Locke's theory of perception.

4. The 'bundle theory' is central to Hume's treatment of personal identity. First, Hume claims that contra what some philosophers think we have, the 'bundle' is all we have. Second, Hume's positive account of personal identity takes the 'bundle' as its starting point. Explain the following. a) What does Hume claim that some philosophers believe we know about our 'selves'? b) What are Hume's arguments to the effect that this is wrong? c) What does Hume claim that we actually have? d) What problem is there that Hume then needs to solve? Specifically, we seem to have a certain kind of idea of the self, one which is not immediately explainable on the basis of what Hume claims that, strictly speaking, we have. How does Hume explain how we get from the 'bundle' to the idea of self we actually take ourselves to have?

5. Hume and Locke both treat memory as absolutely central to personal identity. But it's not clear to what extent their accounts of why it is central are at all similar. Explore the similarities and differences by explaining what answer Locke and Hume would give to the following personal identity question: If pesky neurosurgeons messed with my hippocampus so as to erase all 'my' memories, and install the same set of memories Locke had when he was 35 years, 2 months and 15 days old, would I be Locke (at that age)? What importance does Hume's treatment of causation have for this question?


Exam and Quiz Statistics:


 Quiz 1 Quiz 2 Quiz 3 Quiz 4 Quiz 5 Quiz 6 Quiz 7 Quiz 8 Quiz 9
 6.76  6.06 7.05 5.71 7.27  6.77  10  7.20  

First Exam:
 Multiple Choice  First Essay Second Essay Total
 31.88/40  26.38/30  26.72/30  84.98/100

Second Exam:
 Multiple Choice  First Essay Second Essay Total
33.42/40 25.19/30 24.40/30 83.02/100

Third Exam:
 Multiple Choice  First Essay Second Essay Total
/30 /35 /35 /100

Average Score for Course:

Grade Breakdowns (the number in parentheses indicates how many of that grade were given):

: A+ ()
: A ()
: A- ()
: B+ ()
: B ()
: B- ()
: C+ ()
: C ()
: C- ()
: D+ ()
: D ()
: D- ()
: F ()

Web Resources:

1. Encyclopedia of Philosophy entries that may be of use:

Empiricism -- Locke -- Berkeley -- Hume

2. John Locke:

John Locke Bibliography Home Page (John C. Attig, Penn State) -- Impressive and extensive bibliography of secondary works on Locke.

Bjorn's Guide to Philosophy -- Links to etexts.

3. George Berkeley:

George Berkeley (1685-1753) (David R. Wilkins, Trinity College Dublin) -- Biography, bibliography, original essays, etexts, and links on Berkeley.

4. David Hume:

The Hume Archives (Jim Fieser, Univ. of Tennessee at Martin) -- Includes HTML and RTF versions of a lot of Hume's writings.

Ty's David Hume Homepage (D. Tycerium Lightner) -- Excellent resource for etexts, journals, bibliographies, images, etc.


Email List:

There is an email distribution list for this course -- -- and subscribing to it is required. The two purposes of the list are i) to allow me to distribute information regarding changes of schedule, etc., and ii) to provide a means for students to ask questions and continue discussion outside of class time. The list is set up so that all and only people subscribed to it can post to the list.

To subscribe: send an email to The subject line should be blank, and the body of the message should contain one line of the following form:


Where the "FIRSTNAME" and "LASTNAME" are placeholders for your actual name. For example:

SUBSCRIBE 1140 William Molynuex

You will receive automatic confirmation that your subscription was processed, or an error message if there was some problem. [NOTE: Some email programs, notably MS Outlook Express, add formatting characters to the beginning of outgoing messages (MIME coding) that screws up the listserv program. If you receive a 'syntax error' message, but are sure you did everything correctly, this is probably the problem. To get around it, send the email from a bare bones program, like PINE or UNIX Mail.]

To post: send the message you wish to post to

[Note that the address via which one subscribes is different than the one to which one posts messages. Subscription requests are sent to and posts are sent to]


How to do well in this course:

1. Be sure to read the assigned material before class. This will help to ensure that our class time is quality time, and not wasted with me and some of the students reiterating the material to those who haven't read it. Reading the material before class will also help you get some points on the quizzes, and that is a good thing.

2. Use the study questions to help you focus on the important topics in the readings, and also to help you determine if there is some topic you don't understand. Try to get to the point where you would feel comfortable answering all the study questions before class meets. But if there are a few that you are still finding difficult, don't panic.

3. Bring specific questions with you to lecture. Even if there are aspects of the readings or study questions you didn't fully grasp, the fact that you tried should help you to narrow down what it is that you don't get.

4. See me in office hours, or email me, if there are still questions you are unclear about. That's what office hours are for. Don't be shy.

5. After class, re-read the material for the session, paying special attention to the questions that you had before. Hopefully the material will make much more sense to you now.

6. Manage your time well. Many students are lazy, and wait until a few days before exams to start studying. That is bad time management. The same number of hours devoted to the material BEFORE lectures can lead to a much more efficient use of your time, better understanding, and higher grades.


Full Bibliographic References:

Margaret Atherton, ed, (1999). The Empiricists: Critical Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. (This book will be on reserve in Hillman Library.)

Austin, Jean (1961, ed). The Empiricists. New York: Anchor Books.

Bennett, Jonathan (1971). Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes. New York: Oxford University Press. (This book will be on reserve in Hillman Library.)

Bennett, Jonathan. Substance and Reality. [Chapter 3 of Bennett (1971).]

Bennett, Jonathan. Primary and Secondary Qualities. [Chapter 4 of Bennett (1971).]

Bennett, Jonathan. Hume on Causation. [Sections 54-56 of Bennett (1971).]

Berkeley, George. Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. In Austin, Jean (1961, ed). The Empiricists. New York: Anchor Books.

Biro, John (1993). An anatomy of the mind. [Section 3 of "Hume's new science of the mind"] In David Fate Norton, ed. (1993). The Cambridge Companion to Hume. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (Reserve)

Biro, John (1993). Personal Identity. [Section 4 of "Hume's new science of the mind"] In David Fate Norton, ed. (1993). The Cambridge Companion to Hume. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (Reserve)

Cummins, Phillip (1999). Berkeley's Ideas of Sense. In Margaret Atherton, ed, (1999). The Empiricists: Critical Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Descartes, Rene. Meditation 2. In Haldane and Ross (1911) The philosophical works of Descartes. Cambridge: cambridge University Press. (Available electronically here.)

Hume, David. Of Personal Identity. A Treatise of Human Nature Book I, Part IV, Section VI. L.A. Selby-Bigge and P.H. Nidditch eds. (1975) Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (Available electronically here.)

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. In Austin, Jean (1961, ed). The Empiricists. New York: Anchor Books.

Locke Essay, Book II. Chs.1-23, 27. (Abridged). In Austin, Jean (1961, ed). The Empiricists. New York: Anchor Books.

McCann, Edwin (1999). Locke on Identity. In Margaret Atherton, ed, (1999). The Empiricists: Critical Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. (Reserve)

McCracken, C (1999). Berkeley's Notion of Spirit. In Margaret Atherton, ed, (1999). The Empiricists: Critical Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. (Reserve)

Reid, Thomas (1969). Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man. B. Brody, ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Reserve)

Wilson, Margaret (1999). Did Berkeley completely misunderstand the basis of the primary-secondary quality distinction in Locke? In Margaret Atherton, ed, (1999). The Empiricists: Critical Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. (Reserve)