Locke grab bag 
I am teaching our undergraduate Descartes-to-Kant course this term. Rather than sprinting through seven thinkers, I just do five. And I don't even do that much Locke. Since we only have a week and a half on Locke - and since Locke's Essay is such a wide-ranging book - I target three topics: innate ideas, personal identity, and abstract ideas.

These three topics can seem unrelated. I tell students that they can think of them as a grab bag: the first as an answer to Descartes, the second as a fun diversion, and the third as an anticipation of Berkeley. They show the class the broad features of Locke's picture of the mind and language, but not in a systematic way.

1. Locke's arguments that there are no innate ideas provide a contrast with Descartes, who the class has just discussed. Without the concept of God as innate, the causal argument of Meditation 3 collapses. Berkeley, who we read next, thinks that Locke is so convincing on this point that there is no need to say anything further about the matter.

2. The concept of personal identity does not arise for Descartes or for Berkeley, but it is fun. The issue basically begins with Locke, and it's a antidote to the idea that philosophical topics are all timeless.

3. Berkeley spends the entire introduction to the Principles arguing that there are no abstract ideas. We get to that next week, and Locke's arguments for the existence of abstract ideas give some context.

Yesterday, the last day on Locke covered his distinction between nominal and real essences. I noticed two ways in which the topics integrate which I hadn't noticed when I taught this last time.

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