The Pure Self

  • Hywel D. Lewis
Part of the Philosophy of Religion Series book series (PHRES)


The first point to be noted at this stage is that, soon after Descartes and his followers set out to establish what must be true about ourselves and the world around us by just thinking out hard what must in fact be the case, taking mathematics, understandably but foolishly, as the only model for the proper way to arrive at the truth, a group of British thinkers, starting mainly with Locke, took almost the opposite course, in this case also taking their cue from science, and insisted that, if we wish to get at the truth, we must rely solely on what the brute facts of our actual experience force upon us; we must have recourse to experiment and observation, in short to looking. This meant that the immediate items of any knowledge that we have of the world around us must be the colours, smells, sounds, etc. that we strictly experience. These come to us through our five senses, but this adds nothing beyond the fact that we do have these distinctive experiences under certain bodily conditions, with our eyes open in a certain direction, etc. But all the same they do seem to ‘come’ in some way — they are ‘presented’; and Locke concluded that they came or emanated from entities which had some of the properties of sounds and sights, such as shape and location, but of which we could form no other notion beyond the fact that they must have the properties which cause us, in certain conditions, to have the experiences themselves. He did add, however, that the properties of which we learn in this indirect way must belong to or ‘inhere’ in distinct things or ‘substances’. But as the thing and its properties are not directly inspectible, but rather quite behind the scenes as it were, we can know nothing properly about it beyond the fact that it must somehow be as the thing to which particular properties belong — ‘a something we know not what’.


Moral Experience Moot Point Distinct Thing Kantian Philosophy Transcendental Unity 
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Copyright information

© Hywel D. Lewis 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hywel D. Lewis
    • 1
  1. 1.King’s CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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