Link to essay concerning human understanding

The English philosopher and political theorist John Locke (1632-1704) laid much of the groundwork for the Enlightenment and made central contributions to the development of liberalism. Trained in medicine, he was a key advocate of the empirical approaches of the Scientific Revolution. In his “Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” he advanced a theory of the self as a blank page, with knowledge and identity arising only from accumulated experience. His political theory of government by the consent of the governed as a means to protect “life, liberty and estate” deeply influenced the United States’ founding documents. His essays on religious tolerance provided an early model for the separation of church and state.

Quick Start Guide essay concerning human understanding download

Essay concerning human understanding (1689)

Essay concerning human understanding.

At the beginning of An Essay Concerning Human UnderstandingLocke says that since his purpose is “to enquire into theOriginal, Certainty and Extant of human knowledge, together with thegrounds and degrees of Belief, Opinion and Assent” he is goingto begin with ideas — the materials out of which knowledge isconstructed. His first task is to “enquire into the Original ofthese Ideas…and the ways whereby the Understanding comes to befurnished with them” (I. 1. 3. p. 44). The role of Book I of theEssay is to make the case that being innate is not a way inwhich the understanding is furnished with principles and ideas. Locketreats innateness as an empirical hypothesis and argues that there isno good evidence to support it.

Essay Concerning Human Understanding

While in exile Locke finished An Essay Concerning HumanUnderstanding and published a fifty page advanced notice of it inFrench. (This was to provide the intellectual world on the continentwith most of their information about the Essay until PierreCoste's French translation appeared.) He also wrote and published hisEpistola de Tolerentia in Latin. Richard Ashcraft inhis Revolutionary Politics and Locke's Two Treatises ofGovernment suggests that while in Holland Locke was not onlyfinishing An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and nursinghis health, he was closely associated with the English revolutionariesin exile. The English government was much concerned with thisgroup. They tried to get a number of them, including Locke, extraditedto England. Locke's studentship at Oxford was taken away from him. Inthe meanwhile, the English intelligence service infiltrated the rebelgroup in Holland and effectively thwarted their efforts — atleast for a while. While Locke was living in exile in Holland, CharlesII died on Feb. 6, 1685 and was succeeded by his brother — whobecame James II of England. Soon after this the rebels in Holland senta force of soldiers under the Duke of Monmouth to England to try tooverthrow James II. Because of the excellent work of the Stuart spies,the government knew where the force was going to land before thetroops on the ships did. The revolt was crushed, Monmouth captured andexecuted (Ashcraft, 1986). For a meticulous, if cautious review, ofthe evidence concerning Locke's involvement with the English rebels inexile see Roger Woolhouse's Locke: A Biography (2007).

Essay concerning human understanding. Abridgment (Calkins)
An abridgment of Mr. Locke’s Essay concerning humane understanding. London, printed for A. and J. Churchill …, and Edw.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, by John Locke

John Locke (b. 1632, d. 1704) was a British philosopher, Oxfordacademic and medical researcher. Locke's monumental An EssayConcerning Human Understanding (1689) is one of the first greatdefenses of empiricism and concerns itself with determining the limitsof human understanding in respect to a wide spectrum of topics. Itthus tells us in some detail what one can legitimately claim to knowand what one cannot. Locke's association with Anthony Ashley Cooper(later the First Earl of Shaftesbury) led him to become successively agovernment official charged with collecting information about tradeand colonies, economic writer, opposition political activist, andfinally a revolutionary whose cause ultimately triumphed in theGlorious Revolution of 1688. Among Locke's political works he is mostfamous for The Second Treatise of Government in which heargues that sovereignty resides in the people and explains the natureof legitimate government in terms of natural rights and the socialcontract. He is also famous for calling for the separation of Churchand State in his Letter Concerning Toleration. Much ofLocke's work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. Thisis apparent both on the level of the individual person and on thelevel of institutions such as government and church. For theindividual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truthrather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject tosuperstition. He wants us to proportion assent to propositions to theevidence for them. On the level of institutions it becomes importantto distinguish the legitimate from the illegitimate functions ofinstitutions and to make the corresponding distinction for the uses offorce by these institutions. Locke believes that using reason to tryto grasp the truth, and determine the legitimate functions ofinstitutions will optimize human flourishing for the individual andsociety both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare. This inturn, amounts to following natural law and the fulfillment of thedivine purpose for humanity.

An essay concerning human understanding / John Locke ; abridged, edited and introduced by Maurice Cranston. – New

Drafts for the Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Oxford University Press is in the process of producing a new edition ofall of Locke's works. This will supersede The Works of JohnLocke of which the 1823 edition is probably the most standard. Thenew Clarendon editions began with Peter Nidditch's edition of AnEssay Concerning Human Understanding in 1975. The Oxford Clarendoneditions contain much of the material of the Lovelace collection,purchased and donated to Oxford by Paul Mellon. This treasure trove ofLocke's works and letters, which includes early drafts of theEssay and much other material, comes down from Peter King,Locke's nephew, who inherited Locke's papers. Access to these papershas given scholars in the twentieth century a much better view ofLocke's philosophical development and provided a window into thedetails of his activities which is truly remarkable. Hence the newedition of Locke's works will very likely be definitive.

Title page of vol. 2 reads: An essay concerning human understanding. By John Locke, Gent. The fifteenth edition. … Printed

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

John Locke in his Essay concerning Human Understandingrestates the importance of the experience of the senses overspeculation and sets out the case that the human mind at birth isa complete, but receptive, blank upon which experience imprintsknowledge. Locke definitely did not believe in powers ofintuition or that the human mind is invested with innateconceptions.