Locke’s ‘Sensitive Knowledge’

Samuel C. Rickless

in Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Volume VII

Published in print November 2015 | ISBN: 9780198748717
Published online November 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191814112 | DOI:
Locke’s ‘Sensitive Knowledge’

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In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke distinguishes between knowledge (which he defines as the perception of agreement or disagreement between two ideas) and assurance (a kind of judgment grounded on the highest degree of probability, where judgment is the presumption, rather than the perception, of ideational agreement or disagreement). There is controversy regarding whether Locke takes our epistemic relation to the external world (what he calls ‘sensitive knowledge’) to be one of assurance or knowledge. This chapter defends the assurance interpretation of sensitive knowledge, originally proposed in his article ‘Is Locke’s Theory of Knowledge Inconsistent?’ (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 2008), against criticisms of it offered by David Owen, Jennifer Nagel, and Keith Allen.

Keywords: John Locke; knowledge; assurance; sensitive knowledge; external world

Chapter.  15792 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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