UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Locke on ideas of substances and mixed modes Ogawa, Yoshinori


The object of this thesis is to cast a new light on Locke’s distinction between ideas of mixed modes and those of substances. The particular interest here is in Locke’s frequent remarks about the “arbitrariness” of ideas of mixed modes and the “non—arbitrariness” of ideas of substances. To develop a satisfactory account of the arbitrariness and non—arbitrariness of ideas, I take note of the fact that, in explaining the reality of ideas, Locke utilizes the difference in the manner in which the two types of complex ideas are made. Particularly, his remark that ideas of substances are all made in reference to actual things is considered. It will be seen, then, that to “refer” a complex idea to actual things is to suppose the conformity between the idea and them, and also that the “conformity” in this case is understood as the correspondence between the set of qualities specified by that idea and a set of qualities in nature or as the coexistence of such a set in nature. The arbitrariness and non—arbitrariness of the two types of complex ideas is thus explained in terms of the manners in which these ideas are made: while the formation of ideas of substances is propositional in nature, the formation of those of mixed modes is not. Furthermore, Locke’s distinction between ideas and propositions in terms of truth and falsity implies that the reference to actual things is extrinsic to our ideas. Hence, I shall conclude that, for Locke, the difference between ideas of mixed modes and those of substances is characterized as this: that as a contingent fact, ideas of substances are formed in reference to actual things whereas those of mixed modes are not.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.