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Personally, I prefer to eat at home, rather than going out. I feel this way for two reasons, which I will explore in the following essay. To begin with, meals cooked .

Following this introductory material, the Essay is divided into four parts, which are designated as books. Book I has to do with the subject of innate ideas. This topic was especially important for Locke since the belief in innate ideas was fairly common among the scholars of his day. The belief was as old as the dialogues of Plato, in which the doctrine of a world of ideas or universals had been expressed. Plato had taught that ideas are latent in the human mind and need only the stimulation of sense perception to bring them to the level of consciousness. Many of the philosophers of the so-called rationalistic school followed Plato in this respect.


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  • John Locke’s (–) Essay Concerning Human Understanding () – Modern Philosophy.
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In the era that preceded Locke, Descartes had insisted that the criterion of truth was to see so clearly and distinctly that it could not be doubted. For him the source of all knowledge was to be found in these ideas, which because they were innate, were also true. From them all other truths could be derived by making logical inferences. Locke saw many of the difficulties that follow from this position, and it occurred to him that these could be avoided if it could be shown conclusively that innate ideas do not exist.

Any attempt to further the cause of human knowledge must begin by showing the falsity of this position.

CHAP. I.: Introduction.

This is what he attempted to do in Book I. A more affirmative aspect of this theory of knowledge was set forth in Book II. Having stated his reasons for rejecting the belief in innate ideas, he now goes on to show how it is possible to construct the whole pattern of human knowledge from what has been experienced.

EMT - John Locke

Beginning with an account of simple ideas which are derived from the senses, he proceeds to an explanation of the ideas of reflection, perception, space, time, substance, power, and others that are related to these. Book III has to do with the meanings of words. It includes analysis of general terms, the names of simple ideas, the names of substances, an account of abstract and concrete terms, and a discussion concerning the abuse of words.

Book IV treats the subjects of knowledge and probability. Some information is given about knowledge in general, and this leads to a discussion with reference to the degrees of knowledge and the extent of human knowledge.

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In addition, it includes a detailed account of such subjects as the reality of knowledge, the nature of truth, the character of judgments, and the respective roles of reason and faith. Locke's theory of knowledge as a whole may be said to have four dominant characteristics. These are empiricism, dualism, subjectivism, and skepticism. A brief word concerning each of these should be helpful in preparing one to read the entire book. Locke's empiricism was to a large extent the result of the contrast he had observed between the natural scientists of his day and the work of the moralists and theologians.

The conclusions advanced by the scientists were tentative and always subject to revision in the light of new facts.

Moralists and theologians were usually of the opinion that their doctrines expressed the final and absolute truth, and no amount of experimentation or observation would cause them to change. The scientists were making remarkable progress and, with all of their differences, were discovering more and more areas of agreement. No similar progress could be observed in the areas of morals and religion.

Indeed, there seemed to be more confusion and disagreements here than in other fields of inquiry. What was the reason for all of this? The answer, as Locke saw it, was to be found in the different methods that had been used.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

The scientists did not begin with some innate idea or presupposition from which their knowledge could be derived. Instead, they looked to experience as the sole source of information, and they accepted as true only those conclusions that could be verified by experiment and observation.


  1. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, by John Locke!
  2. John Locke, 1632-1704.
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  4. The moralists and theologians had used a different method. They began with some authoritative statement. It might be an innate idea, as it was in the philosophy of Descartes, or it could be a divine revelation or something that was so regarded by an ecclesiastical body.

    The 100 best nonfiction books: No 90 – An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke (1689)

    Whatever was accepted in this fashion necessarily became the source from which knowledge must be derived. Since this knowledge could be obtained by deductive inference from the initial starting point, it was believed to have a certainty and finality about it that would not be possible on any other basis. But there are degrees of madness, as of folly; the disorderly jumbling ideas together, is in some more, and some less. In short, herein seems to lie the difference between idiots and madmen, That madmen put wrong ideas together, and so make wrong propositions, but argue and reason right from them: but idiots make very few or no propositions, and reason scarce at all.

    How a man may know whether he be so in earnest, is worth inquiry: and I think there is one unerring mark of it, viz. The not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant. Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? In that all our knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed either, about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings with all the MATERIALS of thinking.

    These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring. Ideas of pleasure and pain. There be other simple ideas which convey themselves into the mind by all the ways of sensation and reflection, viz.


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    6. 1. Historical Background and Locke’s Life.
    7. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
    8. It would be in vain for one intelligent being to set a rule to the actions of another, if he had it not in his power to reward the compliance with, and punish deviation from his rule, by some good and evil, that is not the natural product and consequence of the action itself. For that, being a natural convenience or inconvenience, would operate of itself, without a law. This, if I mistake not, is the true nature of all law, properly so called.

      If it has the good luck to prove so of any of thine, and thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed. Mistake not this for a commendation of my work; nor conclude, because I was pleased with the doing of it, that therefore I am fondly taken with it now it is done.