How do Lockes conceptions differ from Descartes?

Write a paper (double-spaced, one-inch margin) on ONE of the two topics below. Be sure to answer all the questions asked.

5 pages


Deadline: Thursday, March 22


1)    Conception of Substance in Descartes and Locke:

Explain Locke’s conceptions of substance (remember that Locke has two different conceptions).  How do Locke’s conceptions differ from Descartes’?  Why are their conceptions different?  Which of them has a better basis/ground/argument (within their own systems) for his conceptions.  WHY?


2)    Skepticism with regard to external objects:


In Meditation 1, Descartes raises the skeptical doubt regarding our beliefs about the external world.  On the other hand, Locke does not explicitly raise any form of skepticism himself, although his representational theory does lead to skepticism about the external world.  Do Descartes’ skepticism and the form of skepticism entailed by Locke’s representational theory arise for the same reason(s)?  Explain each form of skepticism, and show how they are similar or different.  How would they respond to the problem of skepticism; that is, how would they be able to “solve” the problem of skepticism?  Are they successful?  Why or Why not?



Keep the following points in mind when writing this paper:


  1. a) Your paper is not just a report of your opinions, or of the ideas of the philosophers: you have to offer reasons (either yours or theirs) for them. That is, you must explicitly give reasons for any claim you make, whether it is your own or philosopher’s.
  2. b) Don’t try to accomplish too much in a 5 page paper! It is always better to make modest claims/points that are adequately supported, clearly explained, and fully developed than big assertions that are merely stated without any support.
  3. c) The paper should indicate some independent thinking (although you don’t have to try to break new ground). Merely summarizing what the philosophers said isn’t enough.  Remember “explaining” and “summarizing/paraphrasing” are two different things.
  4. d) Think about the structure of the paper carefully. Make the structure clear so that the reader will know where you are going.  Good philosophical thinking and good organization cannot be separated!
  5. e) These topics ask specific questions. Everything, every sentence you write in the paper, should be relevant to them, and it must be clear how it is relevant and how they are connected so as to advance your arguments or explanations.
  6. f) If you criticize the philosophers’ arguments/ideas, try to anticipate their rebuttals.
  7. g) Do not assume that the reader knows anything that you are writing about.
  8. h) Say exactly what you mean so that the reader doesn’t have to guess……
  9. i) Make sure you understand the philosophers’ views/arguments very well. You shouldn’t attribute wrong views to them!
  10. j) Use direct quotes only to support your interpretations.

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