Hot Best Seller

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Fundamental Theories of Human Reason

Availability: Ready to download

The year is 1690 and the respected philosopher and theologian sets down to deal with the thoughts and conflicts of the day. Those issues are many and the conflict broad and opposing positions are firmly held. Locke sets out to cut through the popular chatter and to think through the volume of consideration in the quest of truth. He is not unsuited to the task, but for one The year is 1690 and the respected philosopher and theologian sets down to deal with the thoughts and conflicts of the day. Those issues are many and the conflict broad and opposing positions are firmly held. Locke sets out to cut through the popular chatter and to think through the volume of consideration in the quest of truth. He is not unsuited to the task, but for one man to make an impact on a generation, on a country and on history is a dubious task for anyone. But as he sets and thinks and writes, somehow the detail and interconnectedness of his reasoning builds a context which will in fact alter history. The year is now 2015 and as I set to reproduce this great work, I am awed by the similarities of our time to the time of this writing. I suppose it is more reasonable to conclude that all times are similar in the confusion of human ideas, of popular trends and of social organizations. What is different is that periodically a Locke or another person of reason is able to articulate it to their generation and it is left to us, generations past, to understand it, apply it and be benefited by it. To this end we attempt to give new birth to these old classical works of the great thinkers. To this end we pray for a continuous expression of truth that challenges the heart and opens the mind. Read on and be blessed. David Fritsche Th. D.

*advertisement

Compare

The year is 1690 and the respected philosopher and theologian sets down to deal with the thoughts and conflicts of the day. Those issues are many and the conflict broad and opposing positions are firmly held. Locke sets out to cut through the popular chatter and to think through the volume of consideration in the quest of truth. He is not unsuited to the task, but for one The year is 1690 and the respected philosopher and theologian sets down to deal with the thoughts and conflicts of the day. Those issues are many and the conflict broad and opposing positions are firmly held. Locke sets out to cut through the popular chatter and to think through the volume of consideration in the quest of truth. He is not unsuited to the task, but for one man to make an impact on a generation, on a country and on history is a dubious task for anyone. But as he sets and thinks and writes, somehow the detail and interconnectedness of his reasoning builds a context which will in fact alter history. The year is now 2015 and as I set to reproduce this great work, I am awed by the similarities of our time to the time of this writing. I suppose it is more reasonable to conclude that all times are similar in the confusion of human ideas, of popular trends and of social organizations. What is different is that periodically a Locke or another person of reason is able to articulate it to their generation and it is left to us, generations past, to understand it, apply it and be benefited by it. To this end we attempt to give new birth to these old classical works of the great thinkers. To this end we pray for a continuous expression of truth that challenges the heart and opens the mind. Read on and be blessed. David Fritsche Th. D.

30 review for An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Fundamental Theories of Human Reason

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rowland Pasaribu

    The Essay Concerning Human Understanding is sectioned into four books. Taken together, they comprise an extremely long and detailed theory of knowledge starting from the very basics and building up. Book I, "Of Innate Ideas," is an attack on the Cartesian view of knowledge, which holds that human beings are born with certain ideas already in their mind. "Of Innate Ideas" begins with an argument against the possibility of innate propositional knowledge (that is, innate knowledge of fact, such as The Essay Concerning Human Understanding is sectioned into four books. Taken together, they comprise an extremely long and detailed theory of knowledge starting from the very basics and building up. Book I, "Of Innate Ideas," is an attack on the Cartesian view of knowledge, which holds that human beings are born with certain ideas already in their mind. "Of Innate Ideas" begins with an argument against the possibility of innate propositional knowledge (that is, innate knowledge of fact, such as the fact that whatever is, is), and then moves on to an argument against the possibility of innate ideas (such as the idea of God). Once he feels secure that he has sufficiently argued the Cartesian position, Locke begins to construct his own theory of the origins of knowledge. The short answer is: from experience. The long answer is Book II. Book II lays out Locke's theory of ideas. He argues that everything in our mind is an idea, and that all ideas take one of two routes to arrive in our mind: either they come in through the senses, or else they come in through the mind's reflection on its own operation. He also classifies our ideas into two basic types, simple and complex (with simple ideas being the building blocks of complex ideas), and then further classifies these basic types into more specific subcategories. The vast majority of this book is spent analyzing the specific subcategories of our ideas. Though Book II is primarily an attempt to account for the origin of all our ideas, it also includes two other very important discussions, only tangentially related to the subject of the origin of ideas. Chapter VIII contains Locke's argument for a distinction between primary and secondary qualities. He attempts to show that there are two very different sorts of relations that can hold between the qualities of the outside world and our ideas about those qualities. The relation between primary qualities (e.g. size and shape) and our ideas of them is one of resemblance; what we sense is roughly what is out there. In contrast, the relation between secondary qualities (e.g. color and odor) and our ideas of them is one of mismatch; there is nothing out in the world that resembles our sensations. In chapter XXIII, Locke tries to give an account of substance that allows most of our intuitions without conceding anything objectionable. In "Of Words," Locke turns from philosophy of mind to philosophy of language. Ideas, however, are still an important part of the picture. According to the theory of meaning that Locke presents, words do not refer to things in the external world but to the ideas in our heads. Locke, relying heavily on his theory of ideas, attempts to give an account of how we form general terms from a world of particular objects, which leads him into a lengthy discussion of the ontology of types (that is, the question of whether there are any natural kinds out in the world or whether all classifications are purely conventional). "Of Knowledge and Opinion," finally gives us the long awaited theory of knowledge. Locke begins with a strict definition of knowledge, one which renders most sciences (all but mathematics and morality) ineligible. Knowledge, according to Locke, is the perception of strong internal relations that hold among the ideas themselves, without any reference to the external world. He lists four sorts of relations between ideas that would count as knowledge (identity/diversity, relation, coexistence, actual existence), and then distinguishes between three grades of knowledge (intuition as the highest, demonstration as a middling level, and sensitive knowledge as a sort of pseudo- knowledge). The remainder of the book is spent discussing opinion or belief, which is the best we can hope for from nearly all our intellectual endeavors. Locke is very careful to refrain from speaking as if opinion is "mere opinion;" he is not a skeptic and does not believe that science is futile. On the contrary, he is very eager to claim in the last chapters of the Essay, that we should be satisfied with this level of certitude and that we should continue collecting scientific data with gusto. Gaining a better and better opinion of the world is a worthy goal, and one that he shares. He does ask, however, that we be aware that as good as our opinions become, they are never going to reach the level of knowledge.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    An Essay concerning Human Understanding By John Locke (1632-1704) It was published in 1689. Book I - sets out to argue against all “Innate Notions” in the human being. According to the author, the mind at our birth is a blank white page upon which ideas are registered as the senses encounter the surrounding world. The term ‘Idea’ as defined by Locke does not have its usual sense. We think of Ideas as very close to ‘concept’. Locke, however, defined Idea as whatever is the object of understanding wh An Essay concerning Human Understanding By John Locke (1632-1704) It was published in 1689. Book I - sets out to argue against all “Innate Notions” in the human being. According to the author, the mind at our birth is a blank white page upon which ideas are registered as the senses encounter the surrounding world. The term ‘Idea’ as defined by Locke does not have its usual sense. We think of Ideas as very close to ‘concept’. Locke, however, defined Idea as whatever is the object of understanding when a man thinks. Ideas are treated as sensory images. Locke pursues to demonstrate that all human knowledge is based on experience. This position is in sharp contrast to religious beliefs and also with other major philosophers of his time, namely René Descartes, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Henry More and Leibniz. If Locke does not deny that humans are born with innate faculties or natural tendencies, such as perception and reason; however, he denies that God imprinted specific ideas and principals in our mind at birth. Arguing from the base of his own experience Locke challenges religious and political standards with his everyday language, illustrated with classic and biblical allusions easy to read and understand. In Book II - Locke turns to the issue of the source of the mind’s ideas and principles and qualities. For him, experience alone imprints ideas upon the mind. With simple ideas, the mind can form new and complex ideas. These ideas can be either transparent or obscure, distinct or confused, real or fantastic and so on. Qualities are the powers that bring about certain ideas in the mind and belong to these ideas. Further considerations go on about Perception, about Retention of Discerning and other operations of the mind like Duration: Some quotes: “If Adam and Eve (when they were alone in the World) instead of their ordinary Night’s sleep, had passed 24 hours in continued sleep, the Duration of that 24 hours had been irrevocably lost to them and had been forever left out of their Account of time.” “For as in the History of Creation delivered by Moses, I can imagine that Light existed three days before the Sun was, or had any motion, barely by thinking, that the duration of Light before the sun was created, was so long as (if the Sun had moved then, as it doth now,) Would have been equal to three of his diurnal revolutions;” “So by the same way, I can have an Idea of the Chaos, or Angels, being created before there was any Light, etc.” Of Numbers: “Numbers are therefore the most universal Idea we have. For Number applies itself to Man, Angels, Actions, Thoughts, everything that either doth exist or can be imagined.” Of Infinity: “For when we call them Infinite, we have no other Idea of this Infinity, but what carries with it some reflection on, and intimation of that number or Extent of the Acts or Objects of God’s Power, Wisdom and Goodness.” Book III - Language and abstraction or the use of words as signs of our ideas. Locke insists that it is the role of the philosopher to clarify words and ideas and the removal of confusion. The chapters continue in a dictionary style, word after word explaining primary and whatever other meanings. The writing style is increasingly heavy with long and overly wordy phrases. Book IV – Knowledge in General, Of Truth in General, of Maxims, of Probability, of Reason, Of our Knowledge of Existence, Of our Knowledge of the Existence of GOD. Of the Division of Sciences. In summary, Locke’s work seems of philosophical, metaphysical nature rather than scientific. However, in the world as it is was in the 17th century, Locke represented a trend of scientific realism, also called New Philosophy. He was deeply religious and saw origin and progress limited to the Will of God. The book is primarily of historical interest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    There is absolutely no doubt that Locke's ideas and arguments are very straightforward and clear in style. He's the father of empiricism, among many other schools of thought (i.e. liberalism and individualism, which in essence, forms the proliferating values of the global society). But he's a dude from 17th century. And having read this along with his Second Treatise, I'm beginning to feel that although the literary challenge may be good for the brains, it may turn out to be a deterrent for people There is absolutely no doubt that Locke's ideas and arguments are very straightforward and clear in style. He's the father of empiricism, among many other schools of thought (i.e. liberalism and individualism, which in essence, forms the proliferating values of the global society). But he's a dude from 17th century. And having read this along with his Second Treatise, I'm beginning to feel that although the literary challenge may be good for the brains, it may turn out to be a deterrent for people wanting to read Locke, causing them to miss out. Here I've found and listed a short glossary of words which might be either unfamiliar or used in an unfamiliar way: admit of - accept apprehension - understanding, perception bare/ barely - mere / merely corpuscles - small particles denominate - apply a name to something doth - does evidences - shows experiment - experience extravagant - odd / peculiar fain - gladly, happily hath - has impulse - causal impact peculiar - particular, specific sensible / insensible - able to be sensed / invisible to the senses superficies - outside surfaces v.g. - ex. viz. - i.e. without - outside (us)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    When I was making my reading list I included this title, intending also to reread Two Treatises, but when this author was the next on the list, I felt too pressed for time. I did the reread but set this aside. However, I then realized that I would have to also forego my intended Leibniz reading because it is a response to this. So, I'm way behind my fairly arbitrary and entirely self-imposed timetable because I doubled back and read this. I can't be the first reader to roll my eyes and grimace a When I was making my reading list I included this title, intending also to reread Two Treatises, but when this author was the next on the list, I felt too pressed for time. I did the reread but set this aside. However, I then realized that I would have to also forego my intended Leibniz reading because it is a response to this. So, I'm way behind my fairly arbitrary and entirely self-imposed timetable because I doubled back and read this. I can't be the first reader to roll my eyes and grimace about not understanding largish chunks of this book about human understanding. But, as it turns out, I actually think I did understand it just fine. I just didn't really like the middle part that much because it was boring and repetitive. Or boring because it was repetitive. Not that he doesn't warn us in the beginning. I just thought he was being self derogatory in order to ingratiate himself to the reader and make them more likely to accept his propositions. Nope. He really did get boring. I'm going to go on the record as being thoroughly exasperated with working so hard to understand these philosophers only to have all that hard work lead up to them trying to convince you that the Christian god exists. I did all that work to end up back at the ol' leap of faith? Thanks, Pal. In the last part of the essay I was getting a little uncomfortable with how much Spinoza I was reading that was not being attributed to Spinoza. What up, Locke? I did a little research and the jury is out on why this happened. Or if it happened. And there isn't much of a jury. A couple of turbonerds of political philosophy with a bone to pick. So, why 5 stars? Because it is actually mostly solidly written and compelling. I'm just so sick of reading it at this exact moment that I can't be more enthusiastic than this. But don't let that discourage you.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matei

    Locke can't be blamed for getting most things wrong: our understanding of the world has changed drastically since his time. He can be blamed however for being wrong in things that his contemporaries or even predecessors got right, especially when this is caused by a very shallow treatment of the questions he addresses. I strongly disliked the Essay, it reads like the work of someone who tried to build his own simplistic system from scratch as a way to compensate for an inability to grasp anythin Locke can't be blamed for getting most things wrong: our understanding of the world has changed drastically since his time. He can be blamed however for being wrong in things that his contemporaries or even predecessors got right, especially when this is caused by a very shallow treatment of the questions he addresses. I strongly disliked the Essay, it reads like the work of someone who tried to build his own simplistic system from scratch as a way to compensate for an inability to grasp anything related to metaphysics which all other philosophers of his time dealt with. In this pioneering way, Locke is similar to Descartes, but where the latter was aware of what he was doing and being purposefully modest in his project, Locke displays no such intent. To anyone planning on reading Locke, I HIGHLY encourage an abridged version, or better yet, just skim through some notes on him. You will not miss out on anything worthwhile, I guarantee it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    John Locke's readable discourse on empiricism, which we might think of now as inductive reasoning from contingent facts, covers a broad scope and gives readers a taste of the Enlightenment in its full flower. Written before philosophy became too specialized for everyday discourse, this book serves as an excellent starting point anyone wanting to venture into philosophy. John Locke's easy writing style stands in contrast to his formidable reputation, and within these pages he pulls together his d John Locke's readable discourse on empiricism, which we might think of now as inductive reasoning from contingent facts, covers a broad scope and gives readers a taste of the Enlightenment in its full flower. Written before philosophy became too specialized for everyday discourse, this book serves as an excellent starting point anyone wanting to venture into philosophy. John Locke's easy writing style stands in contrast to his formidable reputation, and within these pages he pulls together his disparate and thoughtful observations on the contemporary state of mankind. The ideas set forth act as a counterweight to the rationalist tendencies of the earlier part of that century. By directing attention to the observed world, Locke moves philosophy away from its excessive reliance on Aristotle's syllogistic, formalized inductive logic, and lays out the case for observation as the primary means of attaining facts.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alan Johnson

    I began reading portions of this scholarly (Nidditch) edition of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 2002 and read additional substantial portions in 2015. 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 2002 and read additional substantial portions in 2015. 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, however, I am procrastinating in exactly the same manner I procrastinate going to the dentist.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    This is the second time I've read this book, sort of. The first time was at university. After 10 or 11 years I decied to return to it and see how much I'd forgotten (especially as I teach bits of Locke for A-level Philosophy). I slowly realised that after the first few chapters, the notes and annotations disappeared from my book, indicating that I'd never finished it. After a couple of days of reading this, I realised why. Yes, it is one of the most important documents in Philosophical history. This is the second time I've read this book, sort of. The first time was at university. After 10 or 11 years I decied to return to it and see how much I'd forgotten (especially as I teach bits of Locke for A-level Philosophy). I slowly realised that after the first few chapters, the notes and annotations disappeared from my book, indicating that I'd never finished it. After a couple of days of reading this, I realised why. Yes, it is one of the most important documents in Philosophical history. Yes, it kickstarts British empiricism and sets the groundwork for Locke's political philosophy, which would go on to change the world. However, it is the single dullest text you could choose to read. Sheer boredom digs in deep as you read dry and lifeless prose about dry and lifeless topics. Compare it to the Hume's Essay or Enquiries (which on closer examination, isn't too different to Locke's essay) and you see that similar topics can be written about with much more vitality and charm. Philosophers will shake their heads that I'm being so shallow as to ignore the content of the book for the sake of the style. I don't deny the arguments are good (in places), although many of them have seen their downfall since. However, if I was asked whether i enjoyed the book, I'd have to say no. It was dull as dishwater and, despite providing some powerful critiques of other philosophical outlooks, it didn't make me want to engage any further.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    John Locke has some of the best reasons why we should not believe in innate ideas, and from this, why we should not be in agreement with the Rationalists. However, this begs the question "How can we trust ideas based on experience?" Instead of bogging down his argument, I find that his trust in human experience to be refreshing. We cannot live our lives sitting in a room thinking about the random crap in the world -- we have to get out there and live it! This particular edition was a different one John Locke has some of the best reasons why we should not believe in innate ideas, and from this, why we should not be in agreement with the Rationalists. However, this begs the question "How can we trust ideas based on experience?" Instead of bogging down his argument, I find that his trust in human experience to be refreshing. We cannot live our lives sitting in a room thinking about the random crap in the world -- we have to get out there and live it! This particular edition was a different one from the rest of the class that I took, and I found that most of the text matched up word for word, however it was off when it came to chapter numbers, which confused me a bit -- how could the "complete" edition lack a chapter or two? I'm sure, though, that if I actually spent the time to worry about this, I would have figured out the problem. Overall, this is a great text of one of the most important thinkers for American democracy. Locke, therefore, should be read whether you agree with him or not. (If, of course, you are American. If not, read him because he has some pretty interesting things to say.)

  10. 5 out of 5

    K

    Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a book which aspired to do the following: a) Provide the epistemological foundation – empiricism – for corpuscularian (i.e., atomistic), and, perhaps, Newtonian science b) Reveal the inadequacies of Cartesianism and Aristotelianism in natural philosophy c) Reveal the inadequacies of the rationalists with their emphasis on innate ideas d) Provide an original and fairly convincing story of the origins of all of our ideas e) Provide a comprehensive natural Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a book which aspired to do the following: a) Provide the epistemological foundation – empiricism – for corpuscularian (i.e., atomistic), and, perhaps, Newtonian science b) Reveal the inadequacies of Cartesianism and Aristotelianism in natural philosophy c) Reveal the inadequacies of the rationalists with their emphasis on innate ideas d) Provide an original and fairly convincing story of the origins of all of our ideas e) Provide a comprehensive natural history of the mind f) Lay down the epistemological foundations of a liberal political theory g) Show the existence of an external, mind-independent world h) Explain the relation between language and the world i) Highlight the limitations of the human mind Whether Locke succeeded in any of the above is still a matter of fruitful debate, a testament to Locke’s genius. The Essay is one of those books that you’ll want to keep coming back to. It is a work of immense wisdom and intellectual power; nothing less than a masterpiece.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Itsuka

    This is a joint review with Second Treatise of Government: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Without understanding Locke's stance on human nature, one could not say something essential about his political theory. In return, looking at his political theory alone without understanding his idea on human nature would lead to a philistine interpretation of him and his vision on human-nature-to-be, as Leo Strauss demonstrated (sadly). I guess I have to split up a deeply intertwining review into This is a joint review with Second Treatise of Government: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Without understanding Locke's stance on human nature, one could not say something essential about his political theory. In return, looking at his political theory alone without understanding his idea on human nature would lead to a philistine interpretation of him and his vision on human-nature-to-be, as Leo Strauss demonstrated (sadly). I guess I have to split up a deeply intertwining review into two, with 1.a, 1.b, 2.a, 2.b, 3.a, 3.b paragraphs in two reviews following each other’s stream of themes, although they share the same punch line: Locke aims to promote Sapere Aude both in his philosophical work and in his political work. He sought to make the ability of reasoning the central feature of human development, the justification of the dignity of individual's existence. To achieve this goal, people has to be established as equal amongst each others, individuals must be granted favorable environment where they will have the chance to develop their intellect (theme of Second Treatise of Government); and the possible pitfalls of exercising reason must be clarified, along with the prestige of the Christian belief over reasoning must be overthrown (theme of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding). I guess the Church (churches?) back then didn’t have some capable readers either. If they saw what Locke was getting at, Locke would be rotting on a spike before he got these books published. 1.b Locke revealed the nature of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding right at the beginning of the book. In the epistle to the reader he wrote: He that hawks at larks and sparrows has no less sport, though a much less considerable quarry, than he that flies at nobler game: and he is little acquainted with the subject of this treatise—the UNDERSTANDING—who does not know that, as it is the most elevated faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater and more constant delight than any of the other. Its searches after truth are a sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great part of the pleasure. […] I pretend not to publish this Essay for the information of men of large thoughts and quick apprehensions; to such masters of knowledge I profess myself a scholar, and therefore warn them beforehand not to expect anything here, but what, being spun out of my own coarse thoughts, is fitted to men of my own size, to whom, perhaps, it will not be unacceptable that I have taken some pains to make plain and familiar to their thoughts some truths which established prejudice, or the abstractedness of the ideas themselves, might render difficult. It is stated, loud and clear, that this book is not for everybody. Locke shunned away a lot of people right before the book started, which is very different from the inviting and passionate style he demonstrated in Treatise. This amounts to saying that whatever happened in Essay will serve as a decoding guideline for Treatise. The major topics covered in Treatise should be examined in the context of Essay, in order to be decoded in the right manner. 2.b On the other hand, one could find Locke’s true opinions on human nature in Essay. The most famous assertion of Locke, that human mind is a tabula rasa, was made in order to refute Descartes’ “innate ideas”. This refutation turned out to be way more profound than it seemed to be, for at some point Locke led his reader to reflect on the concept of human. Is a person born outside of Christendom — who therefore has no idea of Christian God — human? Are children, idiots and madman human? If there is no such thing as innate ideas, then all ideas are forged, either by culture or by the individual’s mind. Naturally, it takes time and endeavor to master them, and it is an honorable pursuit to master them. This will appear very likely, and almost unavoidable to come to pass, if we consider the nature of mankind and the constitution of human affairs; wherein most men cannot live without employing their time in the daily labours of their callings; nor be at quiet in their minds without SOME foundation or principle to rest their thoughts on. There is scarcely any one so floating and superficial in his understanding, who hath not some reverenced propositions, which are to him the principles on which he bottoms his reasonings, and by which he judgeth of truth and falsehood, right and wrong; which some, wanting skill and leisure, and others the inclination, and some being taught that they ought not to examine, there are few to be found who are not exposed by their ignorance, laziness, education, or precipitancy, to TAKE THEM UPON TRUST. The “tabula rasa” hypothesis not only points at Descartes, but also directly refutes Plato’s theory of ideas. In Locke’s view, nothing can be taken for granted. With this humble attitude in mind, he came to realize the various pitfalls of knowing, the limit of words, the luring temptation of fanatic belief, the artificial nature of moral laws, all in all, the whole package of subversive bombs Nietzsche’s going to drop 200 years later, but in a different angle, in the Will to Power. Another thing I personally found impressive is that, Locke was way ahead of psychoanalysis or Schopenhauer to realize that man moves upon wishes: the desire to pursue pleasure is one, but far more powerful is the desire to get rid of unhappiness. Locke furthermore made a daring statement that Good is now equal to pleasure. This sounds like boring Aristotle — but then, keep in mind that before this statement Locke argued that there can be different standards of pleasure for different people. Saying that Good is equal to pleasure in this context amounts to promoting moral pluralism, another extremely courageous act that kept me wondering why the Church didn’t prosecute him. 3.b Bolder discussions on the standard of morality were (almost deliberately) scattered across Essay. In order to pin down the discussion on juridical duties, Locke gave the fundamental definition of identity in modernity: one flesh plus one soul is equal to one person. This is already groundbreaking enough. And Locke didn’t disappoint when it comes to ethics: not only did he sought to drive Church out of the State Apparatus, but also he wanted to shun religion away from the discussion on morality. He wanted to have a geometry of ethics, something that rests completely on observations and reasoning alone, universally true just like mathematical statements, and is immune from so-called “revelations” but stand up to the test of reality. I’m not sure how many people made it to the end of the book: For, to this crying up of faith in OPPOSITION to reason, we may, I think, in good measure ascribe those absurdities that fill almost all the religions which possess and divide mankind. For men having been principled with an opinion, that they must not consult reason in the things of religion, however apparently contradictory to common sense and the very principles of all their knowledge, have let loose their fancies and natural superstition; and have been by them led into so strange opinions, and extravagant practices in religion, that a considerate man cannot but stand amazed, at their follies, and judge them so far from being acceptable to the great and wise God, that he cannot avoid thinking them ridiculous and offensive to a sober good man. So that, in effect, religion, which should most distinguish us from beasts, and ought most peculiarly to elevate us, as rational creatures, above brutes, is that wherein men often appear most irrational, and more senseless than beasts themselves. CREDO, QUIA IMPOSSIBILE EST: I believe, because it is impossible, might, in a good man, pass for a sally of zeal; but would prove a very ill rule for men to choose their opinions or religion by. I just realized a pleasant surprise: the ultimate devastating criticism towards Christianity, Chapter XIX of Book IV, was not contained in gutenberg.org’s online edition — but miraculously it was translated into Chinese back in 1959. Just when I was wondering how someone could survive the Church with such a ruthless accusation! All in all, John Locke proved to be far more an interesting and esoteric writer than Leo Strauss expected. At some point I was roaring “NOTHING IS TRUE!!! LOCKE KNEW ABOUT FIRST CIVILIZATION!!!!!” (you know, ahem, I always thought Leo Strauss is a Mentor Assassin), and my friend kindly replied with this link: http://assassinscreed.wikia.com/wiki/... Damn those Templars. They can corrupt everything.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    I don't know if I just wasn't in the right mindset when reading this or what but I think this book could have been condensed to perhaps a third of its current size? The redundancy was astounding and the word choice so flowery for something that was not only not poetry but not even pleasant to the reader. I just felt like the style and flow of the book was very circular in kind of a spiral factor sort of way. What he had to say on complex ideas was brilliant, and the way he approached the mind an I don't know if I just wasn't in the right mindset when reading this or what but I think this book could have been condensed to perhaps a third of its current size? The redundancy was astounding and the word choice so flowery for something that was not only not poetry but not even pleasant to the reader. I just felt like the style and flow of the book was very circular in kind of a spiral factor sort of way. What he had to say on complex ideas was brilliant, and the way he approached the mind and our "innate ideas" was interesting but the language choice was for me not entirely pleasant or enjoyable. From a philosophical standpoint its a very important work, from a literary standpoint it bored me silly.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This was one of the mammoth works I tackled after reading about Locke in Russell's book and hearing every enlightenment series start off with Locke and his contributions to politics as well as epistemological philosophy. I read this for pleasure not school, and it was difficult but very rewarding. I used Locke to springboard into the study of human knowledge and he is probably the best place to start in trying to understand just what we think we know and how we could know it. This might be a long This was one of the mammoth works I tackled after reading about Locke in Russell's book and hearing every enlightenment series start off with Locke and his contributions to politics as well as epistemological philosophy. I read this for pleasure not school, and it was difficult but very rewarding. I used Locke to springboard into the study of human knowledge and he is probably the best place to start in trying to understand just what we think we know and how we could know it. This might be a long and difficult read, but if you can get through it you are half way to the human understanding!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Reading this again, under less purposive circumstances, I'm struck by how well it works as a work of prose, with delerious, rushed passages and moments of stillness and clarity, things Locke wants to say but steps back from (i.e. the possibility that matter can think), and funny, self-deprecating lines like "as the chief End of Language in Communication [is] to be understood, Words serve not well for that end." Great.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    Not an easy read, but the ideas contained here still have a weight. Locke was truly a genius.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justin Rutledge

    Tabula Rasa is the phrase that we always hear parroted when referring to John Locke, but this concept of being born with a blank slate, ready for knowledge to imprinted upon, is largely irrelevant for the crux of his argument in the Essay. Another concept commonly taught to entry level philosophy students is Locke's ideas of "reflection" and "sensation", but I firmly believe these too are not central to what the Essay is concerning. The Essay is one great crescendo of epistemology, beginning with Tabula Rasa is the phrase that we always hear parroted when referring to John Locke, but this concept of being born with a blank slate, ready for knowledge to imprinted upon, is largely irrelevant for the crux of his argument in the Essay. Another concept commonly taught to entry level philosophy students is Locke's ideas of "reflection" and "sensation", but I firmly believe these too are not central to what the Essay is concerning. The Essay is one great crescendo of epistemology, beginning with concepts of "ideas", "perception", "sense", "reflection", and weaving these conceptual threads into solid definitions of "knowledge", "reason", "judgment", "assent", "probability", and "faith". It may seem for the first half of the Essay that Locke is defining arbitrary ideas in arbitrary ways, but it becomes very clear in the last few chapters why he defined these words the way he did to begin with. One fascinating theme throughout the Essay is Locke's quick willingness to accept as true certain axioms against skepticism without feeling the need to prove himself. I'll end this short review with two quotations in regards to this theme, the first I found humorous, and the second both humorous and sobering. "If anyone pretends to be so skeptical, as to deny his own existence, (for really to doubt of it, is manifestly impossible,) let him for me enjoy his beloved happiness of being nothing, until hunger, or some other pain convince him of the contrary." "But yet, if after all this, anyone will be so skeptical, as to distrust his senses, and to affirm, that all we see and hear, feel and taste, think and do, during our whole being, is but the series and deluding appearances of a long dream, whereof there is no reality; and therefore will question the existence of all things, or our knowledge of anything: I must desire him to consider, that if all be a dream, then he does but dream, that he makes the question; and so it does not much matter that a waking man should answer him. But yet, if he pleases, he may dream that I make him this answer, that the certainty of things existing in rerum natura [the nature of things], when we have the testimony of our senses for it, is not only as great as our frame can attain to, but as our condition needs."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zandra

    I enjoyed aspects of 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding', but only because I was reading it for the light it cast on Locke's political philosophy as described in his revolutionary work 'Two Treatises of Government'. In 'An Essay' Locke attempts an understanding of what it is to be human, or perhaps, what human dignity means: an individual's use of reason in all things, even in areas where prejudices are strongly held, such as religious beliefs. I found some paragraphs of this essay stunnin I enjoyed aspects of 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding', but only because I was reading it for the light it cast on Locke's political philosophy as described in his revolutionary work 'Two Treatises of Government'. In 'An Essay' Locke attempts an understanding of what it is to be human, or perhaps, what human dignity means: an individual's use of reason in all things, even in areas where prejudices are strongly held, such as religious beliefs. I found some paragraphs of this essay stunning for their revolutionary nature. Yet Locke hides his most brilliant gems in a lot of writing that is turgid and seemingly irrelevant. I wonder if he did this on purpose, to protect himself from the wrath of those he was reacting against? I can certainly understand why Locke delayed the publication of this work until near the end of his life. It is a radical book, but one that leaves me feeling uncertain that I know Locke's actual views on either morality and Christianity. How much is he paying lip service to these ideas; how much is he trying to undermine them altogether; or does he want to hold onto them, in the process of redefining them? For me there were two major problems with Locke's thinking that he does not seem to resolve: if human dignity lies in an individual's capacity to use reason, does that mean that children, madmen and the uneducated do not have dignity? Also, if human dignity lies in an individual's capacity to use reason, does our capacity to imagine count for nothing? Locke says the capacity to reason is what distinguishes us from animals, but I have heard the same said about our capacity to imagine. I think human creativity is not given enough weight by such philosophers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    This treatise published in 1689 was listed in Good Reading's "100 Significant Books." It's a work of epistemology--the branch of philosophy that examines knowledge. Rejecting Descartes' argument of innate principles, Locke argues that humans at birth are a blank slate written on by experience. Locke argues that innate ideas can't exist since by their nature they'd be universal, and there is no knowledge everyone agrees upon. I'm not sure given human nature I agree. I know that as different as hu This treatise published in 1689 was listed in Good Reading's "100 Significant Books." It's a work of epistemology--the branch of philosophy that examines knowledge. Rejecting Descartes' argument of innate principles, Locke argues that humans at birth are a blank slate written on by experience. Locke argues that innate ideas can't exist since by their nature they'd be universal, and there is no knowledge everyone agrees upon. I'm not sure given human nature I agree. I know that as different as human cultures and individuals might be, there are some constants, and even linguists think that's reflected in the structure of language. Many scientists and philosophers seem to try to argue for one single cause for things. I see no reason to believe identity and ideas couldn't come from both a hard-wired human nature and experience--that is, both nature and nurture. It's not that I disagree that what knowledge we have can only come from the senses and the use of reason to interpret it. That makes sense to me--but that doesn't mean I find Locke's particular line of argument completely convincing. And particularly because epistemology lies at the root of philosophy, it has consequences for ethics and politics. Locke is associated with the libertarian principles of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson cribbed much of the American Declaration of Independence from Locke's Two Treatises of Government. If humans are blank slates to be written on, in one way that can be very heartening and optimistic--a chance to make the world anew. But it also tempts people into totalitarian schemes, thinking humans can be twisted into whatever shapes they will. I have other doubts about Locke's arguments. 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Balfour

    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. 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 instance in his comments on the maxim "What is, is": "What is this more than trifling with words? 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.e., "Oyster is oyster;" and yet with all this not have been one whit the wiser or more knowing [...]" I also like that he calls it as it is with the Aristotelians and the Schoolmen, accusing them of abusing words through "affected obscurity". 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: "I once saw a creature that was the issue of a cat and a rat, and had the plain marks of both about it; wherein nature appeared to have followed the pattern of neither sort alone, but to have jumbled them both together".

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mamluk Qayser

    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. 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 earliest and perhaps, most well-known among British empiricist. Now, empiricism is a belief that claims we gain our knowledge only through experience (either by sensation or reflection, or both), and there’re no innate or inherent concepts in us. 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. Locke also answered in the negative in a case his friend and scientist, Molyneux asked, “If a man born blind and taught to feel for this one object from his sense of touch and successfully identified that the object has four equal sides etc., and if he is made to be able to see, would the man recognize this same object solely from his new sense of sight? 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. Both of these examples are demonstration of Locke’s belief and his famous expression, tabula rasa, that man has no whatsoever preconceived notions in him, like the dog has none of the notions of color other than what he encountered in experience. 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. Scope. 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". Challenges.There are a few of challenges and difficulties that perhaps hamper our progress in completing the book. They are, (in my opinion): 1. Sentence structure, punctuation and vocabulary. While the text has been adjusted to an almost similar vocabulary as of modern usage, the sentences structure had mostly remain intact for the sake of preserving the flavor of Locke’s argument. One example would be abundance of commas in one sentence. While the purpose of the commas were to emphasize on the nuances in that one particular sentences, more than often they didn’t help me. 2. 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. Locke’s style of arguments are very refreshing and light-footed, elaborated in an innocence yet sharp and precise to the point manner. An example. 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. But, Locke started his argument with; if there’s innate argument, why children can only comprehend something when they are encountered it enough to reason on it? 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'.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Some of this book was assigned for the History of Classical Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago during the first semester of 1980/81, but I read all of it, albeit quickly at times. Like Hume, Locke is a relatively easy philosopher for modern Anglo-Americans, their thought being so substantially constituative of contemporary prejudice, both in philosophy and in the natural sciences. He is not, however, as careful and precise--not as "acute" as Kant put it--as Hume was. Although I did not do it Some of this book was assigned for the History of Classical Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago during the first semester of 1980/81, but I read all of it, albeit quickly at times. Like Hume, Locke is a relatively easy philosopher for modern Anglo-Americans, their thought being so substantially constituative of contemporary prejudice, both in philosophy and in the natural sciences. He is not, however, as careful and precise--not as "acute" as Kant put it--as Hume was. Although I did not do it this way, Locke's Essay might be most profitably read in the context of a study of the history of science during the early Enlightenment.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    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.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Petruzzi

    Locke's understanding of human understanding accounts for much of what is wrong with our society today. Yuck.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), 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 (1689), 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 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.e. ideas) about certain topics (such as God, the self, etc.). For Descartes, this was his building block for the rest of his epistemology. But back to Locke: he denies the existence of innate knowledge - for Locke we are blank slates, to be engraved by our experiences of the world around us. In other words: by perceiving the world around us with our senses, we form ideas about this world; these ideas are the only sort of knowledge we have. 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: (1) external, via our perceptual awareness (i.e. the senses), or (2) internal, via the mind's reflection. 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: (1) combinating, (2) relating or (3) abstracting from simple ideas. 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: our perceptions and sensations do not resemble the 'true' qualities - there is (and remains) a discrepancy. 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: we communicate our knowledge (i.e. our ideas) via word of mouth, so language is an important link in the chain of knowledge. 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: if we give meaning to words by relating them to specific ideas, (1) how do we know that the word we both use for some ideas, literally means the same to both of us? 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). To recapitulate: we are born without innate knowledge - all our ideas originated from sensual perception and the mind's reflection of the world around us; there are parts of the world (the primary qualities of objects) that we can reliably perceive, but not all parts (the secondary qualities); we use language to communicate our ideas and the meaning of words derives from the specific ideas they relate to. 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: (1) diversity, (2) relation, (3) existence and (4) coexistence. 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: this is pure knowledge, since the ideas have very strong internal relationships and these ideas are unrelated to the outside world. 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. What about those? Well, according to Locke, these ideas are defintely not knowledge, so in the words of the physicist Wolfgang Pauli: these ideas "can't even be wrong." So now what? 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: reductionist in the area!) - will be a mathematically 'beautiful' theory, which by deduction yields all the major theories in physics (general relativity, quantum mechanics, etc.). 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? For religious reasons? 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).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bill&Ted

    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 150 pages and started skimming huge sections. Nothing was new. Still, I feel completely comfortab 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 150 pages and started skimming huge sections. Nothing was new. 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. Of note in this book are the sections about 3/4 of the way through it. 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's his philosophy. 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ken Ryu

    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. 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 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zach Mazlish

    Interesting stuff. Locke is super repetitive, and most of the first half of the book dedicated to debunking the notion of innate knowledge and explaining how humans come to knowledge has been proven wrong so it is more interesting as “reading backwards” material than anything else, but also is a good way of instigating thinking about various problems of cognitive science and perception and the miracle of how humans come to knowledge. Locke’s epistemic humility about humans ability to know “subst Interesting stuff. Locke is super repetitive, and most of the first half of the book dedicated to debunking the notion of innate knowledge and explaining how humans come to knowledge has been proven wrong so it is more interesting as “reading backwards” material than anything else, but also is a good way of instigating thinking about various problems of cognitive science and perception and the miracle of how humans come to knowledge. Locke’s epistemic humility about humans ability to know “substances” I think is smart relative to the philosophers who came before him, but his belief that these answers are ultimately unknowable was ill-timed in light of the scientific revolution of the next 100 years. I enjoyed the latter half much more than the first half. His stuff on philosophy of language and consistent emphasis on the imperfection of words and the importance of definitions is spot-on and I can think of many people today who would benefit from grappling with what he’s saying. I’m not sure of how sensical his various linguistic theories have proven to be (my sense is not very), but again it raises a number of interesting linguistic & philosophy of language questions. The final section on knowledge/opinion reads straight out of the “rationalist” movement in its epistemic humility, belief in the importance of inquiry/knowledge, and discussion of the biases/motives for human error. It’s stunningly perceptive at times and again a great example of the realization that people have been saying the same things for a long time in humanistic fields. The biggest part of Locke’s philosophy that consistently seems misplaced is his faith in God/miracles, and his reasonings in those areas also seem inadequate. In general his philosophy is more repetitive and less intellectually ambitious/impressive than others I’ve read, but is interesting in its scope of inquiry into perception, and is great in terms of practical analysis of human knowledge/behavior. He is able to perceive the insularity of philosophical approaches better than other philosophers I’ve encountered so far, which makes sense for why he came to be a more popular symbol of enlightenment political movements (though his political philosophy is almost wholly absent from this text). I skimmed some chapters of the second half (and wish I had done so for the first half) because he is so damn repetitive, but I’m glad I got through this and think I’m starting to see the various ways it has influenced intellectual & philosophical thought ever since.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Timo

    In an effort to revisit past influential philosophers, I arrived at John Locke. This book was difficult to get through. But I made it! First, as with the vast majority of philosophers, John Locke was seeking the impossible: an objective subjective. He wanted to show the right way to live, the right ideas to hold, for "man" as a Universal being, with Universal standards. Universalism fails in a species that is evolving both biologically and culturally at an unprecedented rate. Additionally, he fai In an effort to revisit past influential philosophers, I arrived at John Locke. This book was difficult to get through. But I made it! First, as with the vast majority of philosophers, John Locke was seeking the impossible: an objective subjective. He wanted to show the right way to live, the right ideas to hold, for "man" as a Universal being, with Universal standards. Universalism fails in a species that is evolving both biologically and culturally at an unprecedented rate. Additionally, he failed to adequately question his own foundation. He relied upon god with reasoning that was clearly fallacious by his very own standards. Alas, that makes it hard for me to take much else seriously. This book could have been written at about a third the length. His ideas were so overlapping and so repetitive as to make me wonder if he thought length equals depth? He does admit up front that he should have made it more concise. Maybe he always meant to? Nonetheless, if it were of value to explore in greater details, his thinking was moving toward a clearer understanding of existence and the things we can and cannot know. He and I would have had a lot to discuss.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cheng Yap

    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. 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 what Locke is attempting to say elsewhere...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Morris Yen

    brilliant ideas of empiricism

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.