Explanation of Psychological Phenomena

Attention was explained by the fact that as long as sense organs retain the motion caused by certain external objects, they cannot respond to others. The availability of mental imagery, for Hobbes imagina- tion, was explained by the fact that sense impressions decay over time, as did memory; “So … imagination and memory are but one thing which for divers considerations hath divers names” (1651/1962). Dreams then have this same origin: “The imag- inations of them that sleep are those we call dreams. And these also, as all other imaginations, have been before, either totally or by parcels, in the sense” (Hobbes, 1651/1962). The reason that dreams are typically so vivid is because during sleep there are no new sensory impressions to compete with the imagination.

Hobbes argued that external objects not only produce sense impressions but also influence the vital functions of the body. Those incoming impressions medicine in 1674. It was through his medical studies that Locke met Robert Boyle (1627–1691), who influenced him greatly. Boyle was one of the found- ers of the Royal Society and of modern chemistry. Locke became Boyle’s friend, student, and research assistant. From Boyle, Locke learned that physical objects were composed of “minute corpuscles” that have just a few intrinsic qualities. These corpuscles can be experienced in many different arrangements. Some arrangements result in the experience of pri- mary qualities and some in the experience of sec- ondary qualities. We will see shortly that Boyle’s “corpuscular hypothesis” strongly influenced Locke’s philosophy. Locke became a member of the Royal Society, and as a member performed some studies and demonstrations in chemistry and meteorology. Newton was only 10 years old when Locke arrived at Oxford, but in 1689 the two men met and Locke referred to him as the “incomparable Mr. Newton.” Locke corresponded with Newton for the rest of his life, primarily on theological matters.

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