Chapter 6. The “Sensible Object” and the “Uncertain Philosophical Cause”

In Béatrice Longuenesse & Daniel Garber (eds.), Kant and the Early Moderns. Princeton University Press. pp. 100-116 (2008)
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Both Immanuel Kant and Paul Guyer have raised important concerns about the limitations of Lockean thought. Following Guyer, I will focus my attention on questions about the proper ambitions and likely achievements of inquiry into the natural/physical world. I will argue that there are at least two important respects, not discussed by Guyer, in which Locke’s account of natural philosophy is much more flexible and accommodating than may be immediately apparent. On my interpretation, however, one crucial source of a too-limited vision of natural philosophy remains in Locke, where he is appropriately criticized by both Kant and Guyer. My method will be to begin with a distinction that Locke draws in the very first draft of the Essay, between what he calls “the sensible object” and, on the other hand, “the uncertain philosophical cause.” I believe that Locke’s notion of “sensible object,” as opposed to uncertain philosophical cause, retains a central place in his thought in the published Essay, despite the fact thateven though this contrast is never made explicitly there. Tracing the evolution of these two concepts in his thought will allow us to track and better understand his developing views about the relation between the project of the.
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