Summary Of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding

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In John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke addresses a wide variety of topics such as the concept of ideas and knowledge within his essays. In the second book of his essays (chapter eight), Locke discusses the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. The passage selected will examine the distinction behind the primary and secondary qualities as well as provide a clear example on how these qualities work and their distinctions.
In the second book of his essays, Locke begins to discuss the concept of simple and complex ideas. These ideas allow for us to easily understand our environment because we acquire our knowledge through the experiences we gain from the world. John Locke, has an empiricist view on knowledge
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He defends the distinction by using an example of manna. Manna is a laxative that can cause an individual to become nauseous and vomit. Manna is usually baked into cakes for easy digestion. In his example Locke, categorizes the properties of manna and the effects it has on the body. The shape, sweetness and whiteness that the manna holds are primary qualities while the sickness is a secondary quality. The sickness is a quality because of the feeling of pain it could have on the body. The pain and sickness does not directly make the manna what it is because it does not hold a measurable shape within the manna. The argument works by explaining that the secondary qualities are produced depending on the primary qualities and from our bodies are affected by the secondary quality because of the explanation of how the manna can cause sickness through having contact with our sense organs. “Beside manna, by the bulk, figure, texture, and motion of its part, has a power to produce the sensations of sickness, and sometimes of acute pains or griping in us. That these ideas of sickness and pain are not in the manna, but effects of its operations on us, and are nowhere when we feel them not…” (Locke, np.139dp.176) As mentioned before the primary qualities are measurable properties that are within or outside of the matter itself. The effects of sickness cannot be measured because it effects our sense organs, it …show more content…
Can an object have the ability to be both a primary and secondary quality? Since manna’s secondary quality is the fact that it makes the body produce a certain sensation which is sickness, would the sickness that is a part of the manna be a primary quality as well because its purpose is to make someone feel sick after eating the manna. The manna’s main purpose is to make an individual feel sick, even though you cannot measure the sensation of sickness it is still able to give the manna a purpose. As mentioned before a primary quality is defined as a quality that has a present property in it which makes it what it is. The property is measurable and brings certainty to the object itself. It is certain that the purpose of the manna is to bring sickness and pain on to an individual eating the manna. From this it is certain that the manna’s purpose is to cause an individual sickness. “Why those produced by the eyes and palate should rather be thought to be really in the manna, than those produced by the stomach and guts; or why the pain and sickness, ideas that are the effect of the manna, should be thought to be no-where when they are not felt; and yet the sweetness and whiteness, effects of the same manna on other parts of the body, by ways equally as unknown, should be thought to exist in the manna, when they are not seen or tasted, would need some reason to explain.” (Locke, np.139

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