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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).