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complex ideas

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


E pistemology Locke distinguished between simple and complex ideas. While simple ideas come directly from sensation or reflection , complex ideas are compounded by the mind from simple ideas and can also be decomposed into them. Complex ideas are the results of mental operation on simple ideas, and their existence indicates that we are not entirely passive in experience. In the first edition of his Essay , Locke divided complex ideas into modes , substances (ideas), and relations . Modes, such as triangle or gratitude, are said not to contain the supposition of subsisting by themselves, but are dependent on substances. Substances, ideas such as man or sheep, are taken to represent distinct particular things subsisting by themselves. Relations consist in the consideration and comparison of one idea with another. However, in the fourth edition of the Essay , relations became products of the mind's power of comparing both simple and complex ideas with one another. In that edition Locke added a new category, that is, general ideas or universals , which are the results of abstraction in which the mind separates ideas from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence. “When the understanding is once stored with these simple ideas , it has the power to repeat, compare, and unite them, even to an almost infinite variety, and so can make at pleasure new complex ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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