Locke's empiricism asserts that we know via the impressions of an exterior object made in the mind through the senses. Does that create an interminable gap between the object and our minds knowledge of it? If so, how would we overcome such a gap?
First, Locke says that "idea" stands for "whatsoever is the object of the understanding when man thinks" (672). This seems to create a problem for Locke since the object of our thought is not the thing itself. This creates a gap between the idea and the external reality. This seems similar to Descartes, in the sense, we know the idea in our head, but how do we know that it matches external reality. Second, Locke says that all our ideas are from "sensation or reflection." He asks where comes our ideas and he answers that they come from "experience". They come either from our observation of external things are "the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves" (674-675). So the question is what does Locke mean by experience? It it a little tricky how he defines these things. He says, "First, our Senses, conversant about sensible objects, do convey in the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do effect them" (675). Locke is saying that our experiences impress upon us certain perceptions based on how we are affected by things. It is from these senses that our ideas originate. This puzzles me. This seems problematic. He seems to be saying that certain impressions are fastened on us through the senses which becomes ideas. It sounds like it is completely passive. It seems more likely that in interacting with external reality our own mind is influencing how we are interpreting external reality. I might not be interpreting Locke correctly. Third, Locke says that our ideas are either from external objects or our reflection on the operation of our mind and that that all our ideas come from these two things. Speaking of sensation, he says "external objects furnish the mind with ideas of sensible qualities" (675). Therefore, our ideas are sensible qualities or copies of impressions from external things and what we know are these sensible qualities and not external thing which seems to create a gap between the mind and external reality. It seems the reflection on the mind's operation is how we reflect on the impressions that created our ideas? If this is true, we have even another gap since we are not reflecting on external things, but on the sensations or impressions from external things, so the mind is not knowing external reality but our ideas. The only way to overcome this is to see that we are not knowing our ideas, but that we are knowing external reality through our ideas.