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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

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❶I found some paragraphs of this essay stunning for their revolutionary nature. Before coming up with his own theory of knowledge, Locke delves into language.

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Writers may also invent such obfuscation to make themselves appear more educated or their ideas more complicated and nuanced or erudite than they actually are.

This book focuses on knowledge in general — that it can be thought of as the sum of ideas and perceptions. Locke discusses the limit of human knowledge, and whether knowledge can be said to be accurate or truthful Thus there is a distinction between what an individual might claim to "know", as part of a system of knowledge, and whether or not that claimed knowledge is actual.

For example, Locke writes at the beginning of Chap. IV Of the Reality of Knowledge: Knowledge, say you, is only the Perception of the Agreement or Disagreement of our own Ideas: But of what use is all this fine Knowledge of Man's own Imaginations, to a Man that enquires after the reality of things? It matters now that Mens Fancies are, 'tis the Knowledge of Things that is only to be priz'd; 'tis this alone gives a Value to our Reasonings, and Preference to one Man's Knowledge over another's, that is of Things as they really are, and of Dreams and Fancies.

In the last chapter of the book, Locke introduces the major classification of sciences into physics , semiotics , and ethics. Many of Locke's views were sharply criticized by rationalists and empiricists alike. In the rationalist Gottfried Leibniz wrote a response to Locke's work in the form of a chapter-by-chapter rebuttal, the Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain "New Essays on Human Understanding".

Leibniz was critical of a number of Locke's views in the Essay , including his rejection of innate ideas, his skepticism about species classification, and the possibility that matter might think, among other things.

Leibniz thought that Locke's commitment to ideas of reflection in the Essay ultimately made him incapable of escaping the nativist position or being consistent in his empiricist doctrines of the mind's passivity.

The empiricist George Berkeley was equally critical of Locke's views in the Essay. Berkeley held that Locke's conception of abstract ideas was incoherent and led to severe contradictions. He also argued that Locke's conception of material substance was unintelligible, a view which he also later advanced in the Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. At the same time, Locke's work provided crucial groundwork for future empiricists such as David Hume.

John Wynne published An Abridgment of Mr. Locke's Essay concerning the Human Understanding , with Locke's approval, in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Some Thoughts Concerning Education. Of the Conduct of the Understanding. An Essay concerning Human Understanding La logique ou l'Art de penser.

Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikisource. If we only know things by experience, and there are no universals, how can Locke argue in Book II that it is a "certain and evident truth" that there is a God? But then even in the dedication and "Epistle" to the reader there seemed to be a nervousness that the entire thrust of his argument is atheist.

Methinks here Locke was not being intellectually honest or at least not intellectually consistent--and given the intolerance of his times I hardly blame him. Moreover I really don't see the usefulness of dividing ideas and things into simple and complex, primary and secondary qualities. But the importance of the ideas in this essay I do not doubt. And despite the difficulties of the subject, I found Locke fairly lucid--it probably helped I was exposed to excerpts from this essay before in school.

I don't know that I'd call it enjoyable reading, and I think this could be more succinct even Locke admits that in his opening remarks. But reading it is useful to know to understand not just the subjects it touches upon, but its influence on history. Nov 20, David Balfour rated it really liked it Shelves: This is very dry and repetitive, but it makes a whole lot more sense than anything by the Rationalists. Locke has an endearing humbleness whereby he genuinely acknowledges that he is liable to error, and that there are certain things we cannot know, or at least be sure we know.

The way he identifies language and inconsistent terminology as the source of so much disagreement and misunderstanding is also a real breakthrough, I think. Occasionally Locke shows a hilariously dry sense of humour, for i This is very dry and repetitive, but it makes a whole lot more sense than anything by the Rationalists. Occasionally Locke shows a hilariously dry sense of humour, for instance in his comments on the maxim "What is, is": It is but like a monkey shifting his oyster from one hand to the other; and had he had but words, might no doubt have said, "Oyster in right hand is subject, and oyster in left hand is predicate;" and so might have made a self-evident proposition of oyster, i.

In the last book, Locke makes many good arguments against unfounded belief but ignores the fact that they could be applied to his own religious beliefs. Either he's exercising some kind of double-think, or he's avoiding political condemnation. The edition I have actually features a number of ancillary discussions between Locke and a Bishop who harangues him about the possible blasphemous implications of his writing. Lastly, I think Locke's conviction in the following statement is pretty funny for such an otherwise sensible guy: What daunts each of us in reading philosophical text could be outlined as follows; its readability and also of its relevance.

Both of these main challenges, could more or less, traced back to one problem; limitation on resources whether financial, time to read in the former or the time to digest and apply in the latter. Before we elaborate on those two points, we could take a cursory glance on the main idea that Locke tried to present to us in this essay. Empiricism John Locke is one of the ea What daunts each of us in reading philosophical text could be outlined as follows; its readability and also of its relevance.

Empiricism John Locke is one of the earliest and perhaps, most well-known among British empiricist. An apt example could be taken from a contemporary scientific experiment. A dog that is exposed to a certain hues of colors or patterns of lines since birth could only identify those that it has been exposed, while the brain remained irresponsive towards the colors or lines it never encountered previously.

The man cannot recognize the object from his sight, Locke answers, but if he is allowed to touch the object, he would immediately recall that this object has been acquainted to him before. Readability What is meant as readability is this; am I able to read, complete and digest the content of the book? This of course, depends on the scope and challenges in the book. If the scope exceed our exposure, training or span of attention, the book is not readable. If we can't find solutions to the challenges inherent in us or the book, we can't finish it either.

This book's scope is massive. It is not excessive to say that this book is a world-building book, that it tries to elaborate and include everything within the reach of humankind in it. While Hobbes' Leviathan is a political thought world-building book, Locke's essay is on a journey to dictate the history of the entire human understanding. It starts from what is the material of the mind sensation so it can gain cognition of the world without, to the question of freedom of human will.

So, if we are expecting Locke to elaborate on empiricism alone, it would be a bummer for he elaborated on it most of them, only in Book I and Book II, the rest are the application or how the world fits in Locke's empirical framework.

Notable arguments he presented other than his empiricism is as follows; the question of freedom of the will, language as a tool for communication, scope and extent of our human reasoning etc. But above all is his elaboration on the unity of consciousness, which is superb, a prototype of Humean later doctrine of consciousness and Kant's "transcendental unity of perception".

There are a few of challenges and difficulties that perhaps hamper our progress in completing the book. They are, in my opinion: Sentence structure, punctuation and vocabulary. One example would be abundance of commas in one sentence. Elaboration on subtle arguments. Most of people, including me, perhaps wanted to read Locke for an introduction to his empiricism. As Locke embarked on a project to elaborate on the history of our understanding, from its conception to its modifications and applications, he cannot escape from mentioning and elaborating on many things that perhaps do not interest the modern reason.

Examples would be his defence on the existence of vacuum space, or that solidity and extension is not body etc. The upshots in the text almost, or already excelled its challenges. If we are to be asked why there should not be any innate ideas, we would perhaps, tried to explain in a very academic and dense way.

If we indeed can comprehend something but only to not be conscious of it as in innate ideas , would it not be just a complex way of saying that we do not comprehend anything at all? The tone throughout the book is discursive rather than polemical, so I think it really help us to digest his entire point rather than his version of rebuttal against someone else.

The lingo used in this essay, the archaic vocabulary aside, is pretty much readable, compared to Kant's arsenal s of new terms. Speaking of Kant, people usually either lump him in the rationalist or in a some kind of reconciliatory position, a bridge between empiricism and rationalism. But what Locke has been trying to convey in this book shares a lot with Kant's ideas. So, it really helps to understand Kant even a bit further.

But compared to Kant, Locke's style of prose is much more sprightly that I can't help to admire him more than Kant. To a drowning man, even the sight of a simple plank is much more welcoming than the entire sea, no matter how picturesque the view in the ocean bed at all. Conclusion While the scope of the book is massive, I do think it is very worthwhile to spend our time in reading this book. I made a mistake for reading Kant before Locke, and hey there you go, I think I am able to further understand where Kant's coming from after reading Locke.

As one person commenting on Schopenhauer's style of prose, it is a sign of a great author if he not only make an effort to make the reader to understand his point, but also after reading his work, one become much wiser in other author's ideas, even of his opponents'.

I began reading portions of this scholarly Nidditch edition of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding in and read additional substantial portions in I have not, however, finished it. The work, albeit famous, is quite tedious for the twenty-first-century reader.

As a result of its classic status in the history of modern philosophy and its importance for understanding Locke's other writings, I will have to finish reading and analyzing it at some point. For the time being, howeve I began reading portions of this scholarly Nidditch edition of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding in and read additional substantial portions in For the time being, however, I am procrastinating in exactly the same manner I procrastinate going to the dentist.

Apr 24, Nathaniel rated it it was amazing. I only read the part of this that deal with moral law and morality. The most famous part of this book are those that deal with epistemology so I will have to pick this book up again. Nontheless the sections that I did read were pretty exceptional. Locke's understanding of human understanding accounts for much of what is wrong with our society today. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , the English philosopher John Locke tried to come up with a theory of knowledge, that would do away with all earlier attempts of philosophers from the time of Plato onwards to Descartes.

This book is a long and dense one, but it is well-structured and written relatively approachable for the general public. This review is based on my reading of this book two years ago, so I will only give the broad outlines. I was planning to read the Essay for In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , the English philosopher John Locke tried to come up with a theory of knowledge, that would do away with all earlier attempts of philosophers from the time of Plato onwards to Descartes.

I was planning to read the Essay for a second time, but I have so much else to do, that this will be not worth my time - maybe some time in the future. In book 1, Locke destroys the Cartesian idea of innate knowledge.

Descartes claimed and he was the only real alternative to Aristotelean, Christian philosophy that we have immortal souls - at our conception these souls are temporarily bound to flesh our bodies are machines, according to Descartes - and that therefore we come equipped with clear and distinct knowledge i.

For Descartes, this was his building block for the rest of his epistemology. But back to Locke: But are these ideas reliable knowledge? Before answering this highly important question, Locke sets out to look closer at the concept of our ideas in book 2. According to Locke, there are two ways for ideas to originate: So now we know the origin of our ideas, what are these ideas?

Locke answers this question by distinguishing between simple ideas and complex ideas. Simple ideas are ideas that are of one uniform conception and cannot be created or destroyed - they just are there for us to perceive them.

Complex ideas are collections of two or more simple ideas, formed by one of three processes: Locke further distinguishes between different types of simple ideas and between complex ideas of different objects - topics I will skip over for my own head's sake. An important point to make about book 2 is Locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities and the consequences for us knowing the world around us.

Primary qualities are things like shape and size of objects; secondary qualities are things like colors and smells. Why is this important? Well, according to Locke when we perceive the primary qualities of objects in our world, the relationship that forms between those qualities and our ideas is one of resemblance.

Our ideas resemble the existing qualities more or less accurately. The relationship that forms between our ideas and secondary qualities of objects around us, is more problematic though: It follows from this, that our ideas are reliable in so far as they concern primary qualities, when our ideas concern secondary qualities, we should be careful not to trust our senses too much or at all?

In essence, Locke says there's an objective reality for us to grasp, but not all of this reality is 'reliably graspable'. Before coming up with his own theory of knowledge, Locke delves into language. This might seem as a diversion, but as Locke himself states: Therefore, we should study language as a part of knowledge.

Locke claims that our language derives its meaning from our ideas, not from the world around us. We use words to describe ideas in us, not to describe the objects we perceive. But this brings Locke to two important and obscure problems: And 2 are generalizations and abstractions existing objects? These two questions I cannot answer with the current recollection the book - this will be one of the interesting parts for my future re-read of the Essay.

Now, the last part of the Essay, book 4, wherein Locke offers his own theory of knowledge. I remember that this part amazed me the most. Locke distinguishes between different type of 'knowledge' and uses degrees of assent to signify how much we should rely on each type of knowledge. For Locke, the reliability of our knowledge derives from the relationship between the different ideas making up this part of knowledge; therefore Locke makes a subtle distinction between four types of relationships between ideas: These relations signify knowledge.

Locke's defintion of knowledge is [broadly speaking] strong internal relationships between all the ideas making up the respective part of knowledge Now that we have the tool to make judgements about what is knowledge and what not, let's proceed to the final step.

Based on the internal relationships between ideas, Locke sees three types of knowledge. The first is intuitive knowledge: In other words, these are self-evident truths, or better the undisputed axioms in a deductive logical system. The second type of knowledge is what Locke calls 'demonstrative knowledge' - knowledge that can be gained from applying our reason scrupulously in order to derive new truths from intuitive knowledge.

But, as Locke whittly remarks, the longer the chain of reasoning, the less reliable the knowledge becomes. The third type of knowledge is what's left, namely most of our 'everyday knowledge' - sensitive knowledge.

Everyday we perceive the world around us via our senses and our reflections on these perceptions. Even though this is, from the human standpoint, the most important part of knowledge, Locke claims that sensitive knowledge is the least reliable form of knowledge. Of course, that leaves the matter of opinion and belief.

Well, according to Locke, these ideas are defintely not knowledge, so in the words of the physicist Wolfgang Pauli: Should we become sceptics and live our life as if nothing can be certain? Locke was an empiricist and a rationalist, but he certainly was no sceptic. Locke moved in the English scientific circles himself and was highly interested in the medical sciences of his time.

He claims that science is important in and of itself - it is the only and closest way we can come to pure knowledge. We should just accept that even though science progresses, we will never reach the point where we have true knowledge of the world. It is interesting to note that this is contra Plato, who claimed that true knowledge lies in the fact of us understanding the world mathematically as it were we should de-sensitize ourselves from this world ; it is also contra modern day physicists, like Max Tegmark, who claim that a theory of everything - the ultimate foundation for all of physics, therefore science warning: A second interesting point about Locke's Essay is the fact that Locke claims morality to be a type of demonstrative and even intuitive knowledge.

So for Locke, ture moral ideas lie closer to true knowledge, and are easier to attain for us mere mortals, than scientific understanding of our world. This is strange, indeed. I always wonder, when reading these old books, about the reason for such arcane and out-of-place statements.

Did Locke truly believe this to be true? Did he, in some way or other, think it necessary to make this addition to his Essay? Or social or political reasons? We might never know As I said in the beginning of this review, this is a long and dense book, abstract at many points, but interesting as a foundation for later theories of knowledge.

Locke was the first to analyze the way in which we form ideas and to think about the psychology of knowledge. Later thinkers like Hume and Kant and all the great minds after them , owe a large debt to Locke. For this reason alone, this book is worth the effort - even though it is outdated by now and even by 18th century standards.

I do not much care for John Locke. I will not take the argument that some people have taken and argue that all of the contemporary world's problems are the result of his work. That said, John Locke's opinions and ideas have heavily disseminated into the culture and are largely unignorable. Many people, through a sort of cultural osmosis, have probably actually read this book.

I got to about the last pages and started skimming huge sections. Still, I feel completely comfortab I do not much care for John Locke. Still, I feel completely comfortable saying that I have actually read this book, have not skipped any of it. My knowledge of the book is probably about the same as someone who read it two or three months ago, and I believe I will retain that which I have studied.

Aside from the sort of platitudes that Locke is known in contemporary society for spouting, there are some interesting sections on semiotics and knowledge that I think many people would be surprised were the subject of some of Locke's inquiry and were very much not unique to "post modern" thinkers. Few really need to wade through pages and pages of unnecessary documentation of more or less commonplace observations contained here.

Much contained in this book had been rewritten by the time Locke wrote it. Even what I consider his more interesting arguments can be found in Aristotle. It is important to note that this is a large book by an influential thinker regarded as a wise person at the time of his writing it. The novelty of that which is contained in the book is of less significance than the social position of John Locke.

John Locke said very little people would find disgusting, although much of it can be critiqued from different angles. It is important to note, though, that much of what John Locke said that was not disgusting which is to say most of what John Locke here wrote was not unique to John Locke. It was written before him and after him. Someone new to philosophy and looking for a large book to read will probably get more out of this than someone who has studied philosophy for a long time.

Many contemporary appeals to John Locke have more to do with how easy Locke is to read than the real significance of what he did. Locke was an aggregator. He was someone who aggregated different opinions that were fairly common place.

That is a different type of philosopher than someone like Hume, for instance. Hume, as regards something like epistemology, shares some similarity with Locke, but he was primarily someone who would take a position and turn it over in multiple ways and really inquire about it. This book should be regarded more as almost a philosophy text book, I think, than as a really significant new line of argumentation.

Jul 21, Ken Ryu rated it really liked it. Locke is accessible yet profound, which is rare for philosophers. His assertion is that human knowledge is learned and not innate. His common example of this is that a man born blind has no concept of the colors red or blue. If this man were to gain the power of sight, then, and only then, would he comprehend the meaning of these colors.

It is a logical argument, but obviously one that is oversimplified. He discusses how humans are uniquely capable of going beyond simple concepts and can underst Locke is accessible yet profound, which is rare for philosophers. He discusses how humans are uniquely capable of going beyond simple concepts and can understand complex ideals. An example is that humans look at gold and can make simple sensory attributes to the substance such as its yellow color, its heavy weight and its luminescence.

These simple observations are extended to its rarity and its unique malleability, thus leading to its high value associated with this appealing and rare material.

He goes on to show that words and definitions are tools that humans use to classify and remember objects and situations. He cautions that words are powerful and can be used to provide clarity, but when misused can create confusion and misunderstanding.

He discussed maxims and known truths, as well as provable theorems that pervade mathematics and geometry.

He states that provable theories are easier to grasp than probabilities. He concludes by stating that there is a higher power. He argues that god exists, and our existence and the complexity of the universe and all its inherent interworkings is sufficient proof. The book has an interesting appendix where Locke is engaged in a philosophical debate with the Bishop of Worcester. In the debate, the Bishop worries that Locke's methods are at odds with the bible's teachings including Jesus' Easter resurrection.

Locke defends his stands and considers his theories on human knowledge as compatible with Christianity and the bible. In all, Locke is rightfully placed as a key thought leader in modern philosophy. His distillation of how humans learn, think and interpret are logical and well defended. His explanation how our senses provide the stimulus to interpret our world are sound. His explanation of our understanding of maxims, proofs and probabilities help to show how humans build up our world views and knowledge.

His nod to faith and enthusiasm to fathom ideals such as god and the mysteries of the universe that cannot be proven provides a completion to his thesis. An excellent book that provides a basis from which many modern philosophers have built from. The text is too long as Locke is overly verbose and repetitive, but despite this shortcomings, an excellent book. Locke clearly attempts to explain his philosophy clearly, but it is unfortunately bogged down by too many examples as well as long and winding prose that does not seem particularly important.

Locke even admits that his work may be too long in places, but he writes it as such anyway as he needs to explain everything he has in mind. I, however, found many of the tangents unproductive and boring, putting a real drag on the book that I could not even get pass 'On Ideas'.

I guess I'll have to find wh Locke clearly attempts to explain his philosophy clearly, but it is unfortunately bogged down by too many examples as well as long and winding prose that does not seem particularly important. I guess I'll have to find what Locke is attempting to say elsewhere Jul 09, Eric rated it really liked it. The tabula rasa upon which all modern empiricism has been scribed.

Nov 20, Morris Yen rated it it was amazing. Dec 22, Paul Gaschen rated it it was amazing Shelves: This vast and detailed work is foundational to building a philosophical repertoire, and I find that, despite its "relative newness," it has shaped much of the philosophical discussion today.

Mar 03, Jessica rated it liked it. Interesting treatise exploring how we learn something. He opposed rationalist theory, that our learning is innate. Instead, everything we know and understand comes through our senses. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

John Locke was an English philosopher. Locke is considered the first of the British Empiricists, but is equally important to social contract theory. His ideas had enormous influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenmen Librarian Note: His ideas had enormous influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and contributors to liberal theory.

His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. This influence is reflected in the American Declaration of Independence. Locke's theory of mind is often cited as the origin for modern conceptions of identity and "the self", figuring prominently in the later works of philosophers such as David Hume , Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant.

Locke was the first Western philosopher to define the self through a continuity of "consciousness. Books by John Locke. See All Goodreads Deals…. Trivia About An Essay Concerni


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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a work by John Locke concerning the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. It first appeared in (although dated ) with the printed title An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate.

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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Penguin Classics) [John Locke, Roger Woolhouse] on bisnesila.tk *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, first published in , John Locke () provides a complete account of how we acquire everyday/5(39).

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Essay I John Locke i: Introduction Perhaps then we shall stop pretending that we know every-thing, and shall be less bold in raising questions and getting. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding has 12, ratings and reviews. Rowland said: The Essay Concerning Human Understanding is sectioned into four /5.

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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a work by John Locke concerning the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. It first appeared in (although dated ) with the printed title An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. He /5(6). work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia. HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading.