John Locke: Human Understanding Essay

1793 words - 7 pages

When considering knowledge, Locke is interested in the ability for us to know something, the capacity of gathering and using information and understanding the limits of what we know. He believes this also leads him to realise what we perhaps, cannot know. [1] He wants to find out about the origin of our ideas. His main stand-point is that we don’t have innate ideas and he aims to get rid of the sceptical doubt about what we know. The innate ideas which Locke sets out to argue against are those which “the soul receives in its very first being, and brings into the world with it”. [2] “Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters”. [3] This quote depicts the idea of the “Tabula Rasa”, that at birth are minds are completely empty like that of a blank slate and it is our experiences which draw on the blank slate, in order to form thoughts and ideas.
He has two types of argument against innate ideas; direct and indirect. The indirect argument can be seen as the more positive of the two, and the idea of it is that we are able to explain all knowledge we have without innate ideas but from other sources. The direct argument is the more negative view, and focuses on the problem of universal assent which Locke believes to be an insufficient idea and also necessary and absent. He expands from this by saying that modified universal assent is too inclusive and depends on the order of discovery. So really he is saying that the argument for innate principles doesn’t work, especially with regard to universal assent. He believes that if universal assent existed, it could be explained in other ways and therefore is not innate. However, Locke doesn’t believe that universal assented principles can exist at all and thinks that it is impossible to have principles innately in your mind without being aware that you do. Locke goes on to say that a person who believes in innate principles will modify their positions, for example, once hearing something and agreeing with it, will believe it was an innate idea. The problem he has with us thinking like this is that all sorts of things would end up being defined as innate. Locke thought that we had the capacity to recognise “self evident” truths and that we do have an innate capacity allowing us to recognise things, however they are not actually innate ideas within us, but ideas we gain from experience which our innate capacity allows us to understand. He was of the opinion that ideas are material of thinking and that there was no thinking before perception. While the mind has the capacity to think, it is not actually constantly thinking. For example, if you are asleep but not dreaming, then according to Locke, your mind isn’t actually thinking.
All ideas we experience derive from sensations and perception. Sensation obviously uses the bodily senses to receive ideas, whereas reflection uses the body’s own procedures to receive ideas like thinking, believing and doubting. [4] Both of these...

Find Another Essay On John Locke: Human Understanding

John Locke: Illuminating Path to Life, Liberty, and Property

1375 words - 6 pages included scientific innovators such as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. The great deal of knowledge that Locke acquired from Boyle and Newton proved to be critical in understanding the well-known works of Descartes, which he has admired since his days at Christ Church, Oxford. Descartes’ ideas became a key inspiration when Locke wrote An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (“John Locke – Biography”). As Locke studied medicine with 17th century’s

John Locke week 1 Essay

568 words - 2 pages expedient to return to France. From 1683 to 1688 he lived in Holland, and following the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the restoration of Protestantism to favor, Locke returned once more to England (Armitage, 2002). The new king, William III, appointed Locke to the Board of Trade in 1696, a position from which he resigned because of ill health in 1700. He died in Oates on October 28, 1704.Concerning Human Understanding is the masterwork of the

John Locke Biography.

1003 words - 4 pages Author: John LockeBorn: August 29, 1632; Wrington, Somerset, EnglandDied: October 28, 1704; Oates, Essex, EnglandAuthor Profile:Locke is known for his political writings (the Two Treatises of Government are the basis for the principles used in the American and British constitutions) and for his epistemology, which is the central focus of "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding." He never wrote a work devoted specifically to ethics, but he did

John Locke’s Theory of Personal Identity

1849 words - 7 pages Cited Copenhaver, Rebecca, "Reid on Memory and Personal Identity", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Locke, J. (2008 [1690]) ‘The Self and Consciousness: John Locke, Essay concerning Human Understanding’, in Cottingham, J. (ed.) Western Philosophy: An Anthology, 2nd edn, Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 275-80. ‘Locke on

The Ideas of Hobbes VS Locke

964 words - 4 pages Hobbes Vs. LockeNick CappyThomas Hobbes and John Locke were English philosophers who attended Oxford University. Hobbes was born in Westport, England and Locke was born in Wrington. These two philosophers became famous because of their ideas about politics and the understanding of human nature. Thomas Hobbes had a very negative view on human nature. He describes human nature as being constantly at war with one another. According to Hobbes

John Locke

891 words - 4 pages John Locke was very influential during the age of the Enlightenment. His writings challenged the philosophies of thinkers of the time, including both Scots and Americans. He was the first person to identify himself through his consciousness. He began to believe that there were endless possibilities of the human mind. John Locke was born in Wrington, England on August 29th, 1632. He grew up in a Puritan household, and he was baptized the day he

John Locke

1430 words - 6 pages later, Cooper was forced to flee to Holland, shortly after Locke followed him. They remained there until the Glorious Revolution of 1688. On his return to England, Locke published several works, the chief of these being the Two Treaties of Government, and the Essay Concerning Human Understanding. These writings were eventually successful and both exerted a vast influence when the American revolution began in the seventeen hundreds. These works

John Locke

1987 words - 8 pages John Locke believes that man ought to have more freedom in political society than John Stuart Mill does. John Locke's The Second Treatise of Government and John Stuart Mill's On Liberty are influential and potent literary works which while outlining the conceptual framework of each thinkers ideal state present two divergent visions of the very nature of man and his freedom. John Locke and John Stuart Mill have different views regarding how

A biography of John Locke.

636 words - 3 pages adopted these ideals. Locke also believed that if the people were unhappy with the government they were within their rights to change or remove it. Soon a revolution seemed to be the proper recourse of a people whose rights were deprived because of tyranny. Locke's theory became traditional in British philosophical circles in the eighteenth century.The principal philosophical work of John Lock was the Essay Concerning Human Understanding. It took Locke

Mill and Locke's conception of Freedom

1980 words - 8 pages John Locke believes that man ought to have more freedom in political society than John Stuart Mill does. John Locke's The Second Treatise of Government and John Stuart Mill's On Liberty are influential and potent literary works which while outlining the conceptual framework of each thinkers ideal state present two divergent visions of the very nature of man and his freedom. John Locke and John Stuart Mill have different views regarding how much

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

Similar Essays

Comparison Of Thomas Hobbes And John Locke: Human Nature

1546 words - 6 pages sovereign. For Hobbes, only the omnipotent sovereign or “Leviathan” will ensure mankind’s safety and security. The following essay will, firstly, examine Hobbes’ pessimistic premises of human nature (equality, egotism, and competition), in contrast with John Locke’s charitable views of humanity; secondly, determine whether Hobbes’ resultant state of nature (an all out war) necessarily follows from his premises; thirdly, discuss whether Hobbes

John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding

1485 words - 6 pages John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding In John Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding", he makes a distinction between the sorts of ideas we can conceive of in the perception of objects. Locke separates these perceptions into primary and secondary qualities. Regardless of any criticism of such a distinction, it is a necessary one in that, without it, perception would be a haphazard affair. To illustrate this, an

John Locke's Influence On Government Essay

1135 words - 5 pages such as Chillingworth had argued that human understanding was limited. Essay Concerning Human Understanding aimed to determine the limits of human understanding.In John Locke=s Two Treatises of Civil Government (1690), Locke gives his theory of natural law and natural rights which he uses to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate civil government, and to argue for the legitimacy of revolt against the divine and absolute right of the

John Locke Essay

1326 words - 5 pages In 1668 John Locke was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society which came from the philosophical club that was established at Oxford in 1663. In 1671 Locke wrote two drafts of his essay which revolutionized English philosophy. His essay was about the principles of morality and revealed religion. Locke concluded that questions about religious and moral principles could be answered only after thorough investigation of the human