An Essay On John Locke

1413 words - 6 pages

John Locke in his prose An Essay Concerning Human Understanding displays an extremely individualistic take on human reason (126). Proposing a perspective that is especially interesting during his time in the 17th century, which catered to a shift towards individual morals and responsibilities - the Puritan movement (Kang). Furthermore, John Locke sees the human mind as a product of one’s own experiences and inherent responsibilities, which is evident not only in his essay, but also in his upbringing (Locke; Spellman). His interest in the human mind positioned him to be the leader search for human understanding, a curiosity followed by many other writers such as Mary Astell and Judith Drake (Black et al.). While the former philosophy is not new to human inquiry as it was likely suppressed due to the anti-religious undertones it tends to convey (Being that we are self-perceived, so perceiving higher than ourselves might be a thing of question rather than fact), it was the shift from conventional to individual morals that allows for Locke’s approach to seem so ideal. The purpose of this essay will be to analyze Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding and determine how individualism is portrayed in this work (Locke). The conclusion is that Locke’s prose indicates that he endorses the idea of individualism through his theory of human understanding and self-acquired knowledge; furthermore, his work played a significant role in the propagation of individual morals during a shift from traditional to more personal values by remaining objective on the topic of a higher power and allowing for individual responsibility.
In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Herein ECHU), Locke supposes that “the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas,” suggesting that all humans are born with no innate knowledge and that all things a person comes to know is through experience (126). With the blank page concept as a springboard, Locke presents the beginnings of individual thought: all knowledge is through experience, and all experience is based on perception (Locke). Furthermore, that the very nature of perception is once again subject to reflection as Locke states our operations “… do furnish the understanding with another set of ideas, which could not be had from things without; and such are perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the different actings of our own minds,” (126). Therefore, all new things are subject to the perception and reflection of past experiences that “furnish” the understanding of the new; it is remarkable how well Locke is able to surmise such an explanation for human uniqueness in a single theory of reasoning. Roger Woolhouse in his expose John Locke discusses Locke’s views on the material and immaterial as such, the “Body can be divided into parts and the parts moved away from each other. Space cannot. ‘The Parts of pure Space are inseparable one from the...

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