I. As Professor O’Connor points out in his John Locke, ‘idea’ is undoubtedly the key-word in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Nevertheless Locke himself says very little about the idea of an idea itself, at least directly. That perhaps is not surprising in view of his remark that ‘whoever reflects on what passes in his own mind cannot miss it. And if he does not reflect, all the words in the world cannot make him have any notion of it’.1 This suggests that the idea of an idea is a simple idea of reflection, in which case a formal definition is neither necessary nor possible. However, Locke does provide a definition of a kind, saying that the idea of an idea is the idea of ‘whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks’;2 and, later, of ‘whatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate object of thought, perception, or understanding’.3 Notwithstanding, therefore, I will refer to this as his official definition of an idea.
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