Locke, Berkeley, and Hume

  • Richard A. Watson
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 250)


Suppose we set aside the Cartesian view that mind and matter are two essentially distinct substances. We need not deny that they appear to have contrary natures, mind as active unextended thinking, and matter as passive unthinking extension. As such, matter is said not to be capable of being modified by perceptions, either sensible or cognitive, and mind is said not to be capable of being modified by size, shape, position, and motion or rest. John Locke, examining this tradition, suggests that thinking and extension are merely the nominal essences of mind and matter, and that in fact we may not know their real essences.1 For all we know, mind could have a place and matter could think.2 The modes, ways of being, or properties we call ideas might as well be modifications of real matter as much as of real mind. Perhaps there are not even two substances but only one that manifests both thinking and extension, as Spinoza’s God expresses Himself through the attributes both of thinking and of extension.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Watson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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