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Locke, John | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
In Book I Locke says little about who holds the doctrine of innateprinciples that he is attacking. For this reason he has sometimes beenaccused of attacking straw men. John Yolton has persuasively argued(Yolton, 1956) that the view that innate ideas and principles werenecessary for the stability of religion, morality and natural law waswidespread in England in the seventeenth century, and that inattacking both the naive and the dispositional account of innate ideasand innate principles, Locke is attacking positions which were widelyheld and continued to be held after the publication of theEssay. Thus, the charge that Locke’s account of innateprinciples is made of straw, is not a just criticism. But there arealso some important connections with particular philosophers andschools that are worth noting and some points about innate ideas andinquiry.
Locke devotes Book III of An Essay Concerning HumanUnderstanding to language. This is a strong indication that Lockethinks issues about language were of considerable importance inattaining knowledge. At the beginning of the Book he notes theimportance of abstract general ideas to knowledge. These serve assorts under which we rank all the vast multitude of particularexistences. Thus, abstract ideas and classification are of centralimportance in Locke’s discussion of language.