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Empiricist Theories of SpaceLocke on Space and Substance

Empiricist Theories of Space: Locke on Space and Substance [Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding defends the anti-Cartesian doctrine that infinite space independent of corporeal substance is real and penetrated by bodies, i.e. a body always occupies a commensurate part of space. But whereas Gassendi, Newton, and others who hold this sort of doctrine find reasons to say that space is neither a substance nor an accident, Locke entertains the question and declines to answer it on the grounds that our idea of substance is too obscure. In this connection, Locke mounts a vigorous attack on the utility of the idea of substance, urging that use of it has potentially atheistic materialistic consequences. Although scholars usually take this to be nothing more than an occasion to rehearse the contention that substance is something-I-know-not-what, this article argues that the response is directly relevant to his doctrine of space. This is supported in part by tracing the development of this doctrine through the early drafts and travel journals. They argue that space consists of distance relations that must be terminated in the boundaries of bodies. The Essay replaces this with the doctrine that assimilates infinite space with God who must then be somehow extended and penetrable. If space consists of relations terminated in substances, it plainly is not a substance, but if space is constituted by penetrable extension somehow pertaining to God, its substantially is a more complicated question.] http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png

Empiricist Theories of SpaceLocke on Space and Substance

Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Book Series (volume 54)
Editors: Berchielli, Laura

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Publisher
Springer International Publishing
Copyright
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
ISBN
978-3-030-57619-6
Pages
79 –93
DOI
10.1007/978-3-030-57620-2_3
Publisher site
See Chapter on Publisher Site

Abstract

[Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding defends the anti-Cartesian doctrine that infinite space independent of corporeal substance is real and penetrated by bodies, i.e. a body always occupies a commensurate part of space. But whereas Gassendi, Newton, and others who hold this sort of doctrine find reasons to say that space is neither a substance nor an accident, Locke entertains the question and declines to answer it on the grounds that our idea of substance is too obscure. In this connection, Locke mounts a vigorous attack on the utility of the idea of substance, urging that use of it has potentially atheistic materialistic consequences. Although scholars usually take this to be nothing more than an occasion to rehearse the contention that substance is something-I-know-not-what, this article argues that the response is directly relevant to his doctrine of space. This is supported in part by tracing the development of this doctrine through the early drafts and travel journals. They argue that space consists of distance relations that must be terminated in the boundaries of bodies. The Essay replaces this with the doctrine that assimilates infinite space with God who must then be somehow extended and penetrable. If space consists of relations terminated in substances, it plainly is not a substance, but if space is constituted by penetrable extension somehow pertaining to God, its substantially is a more complicated question.]

Published: Nov 4, 2020

Keywords: Locke; Substance; Space

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