Problems in Locke’s Theory of Knowledge

  • Francis Israel Minimah


As a solution to the epistemological problem of inquiring into what the human mind is capable of knowing, John Locke, founder of British empiricism rejects the rationalist assumption that the human mind does have a privileged access to reality. He is especially critical of the Cartesian notion of innate ideas as an explanation of how knowledge is acquired. Locke insists that the senses are the final arbiter of truth. He believes that as our mental powers develop from childhood; we tend to learn things about external objects primarily through our interactions with the world and in adult age puzzle over the meaning, reliability and limits of our acquired knowledge and beliefs. His notable theses include the concepts of sensation and reflection, simple and complex ideas, primary and secondary qualities, substance and the degrees of knowledge. Given this background, this paper, from two spectra, attempted a rigorous exposition of the major issues in Locke’s theory of knowledge. By showing the essential details of his position and arguments on these issues, the author raised several possible objections or problems as well as critical assessment of some of his reasoning and conclusions. One important contribution of this work is that Locke, far from being an empiricist deviated and turned towards the rationalistic philosophy that he sets out to criticized - a view that would inevitably be dissatisfying to those who are drawn to Locke’s theory of perception as a reaction to the traditional conception of reason; the faculty that governs the whole of one’s cognitive life in the pursuit of truth.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2227-5452
print ISSN: 2225-8590