Peter R. Anstey

in John Locke and Natural Philosophy

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199589777
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725487 | DOI:

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This chapter argues that Locke's theory of demonstration as the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas, is a pre‐linguistic account of reasoning that does not concern relations between propositions and so lacks a notion of formal validity. Locke applied this conception in an ideal, though unachievable, science of nature, built on a ‘corpuscular metric’. Later, in the 1690s, Locke came to believe that Newton, in his Principia, had deployed demonstrative reasoning based upon principles that he had discovered through observation. Newton's use of principles led Locke to modify his views on their role in natural philosophy, though there is little evidence of this in the Essay.

Keywords: agreement; Aristotle; bottoming; demonstration; geometry; ideas; Newton; principles; proof; reason; Stillingfleet; syllogism

Chapter.  9077 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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