Locke essay concerning human understanding wikipedia

Many of Locke's views were sharply criticized by rationalists and empiricists alike. In 1704 the rationalist Gottfried Leibniz wrote a response to Locke's work in the form of a chapter-by-chapter rebuttal, the Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain ("New Essays on Human Understanding"). Leibniz was critical of a number of Locke's views in the Essay , including his rejection of innate ideas, his skepticism about species classification, and the possibility that matter might think, among other things. Leibniz thought that Locke's commitment to ideas of reflection in the Essay ultimately made him incapable of escaping the nativist position or being consistent in his empiricist doctrines of the mind's passivity. The empiricist George Berkeley was equally critical of Locke's views in the Essay . Berkeley's most notable criticisms of Locke were first published in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge . Berkeley held that Locke's conception of abstract ideas was incoherent and led to severe contradictions. He also argued that Locke's conception of material substance was unintelligible, a view which he also later advanced in the Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous . At the same time, Locke's work provided crucial groundwork for future empiricists such as David Hume . John Wynne published An Abridgment of Mr. Locke's Essay concerning the Human Understanding , with Locke's approval, in 1696. Louisa Capper wrote An Abridgment of Locke's Essay concerning the Human Understanding , published in 1811.

The relation between Locke's political views and his view of happiness should be pretty clear from what has been said. Since God has given each person the desire to pursue happiness as a law of nature, the government should not try to interfere with an individual's pursuit of happiness. Thus we have to give each person liberty: the freedom to live as he pleases, the freedom to experience his or her own kind of happiness so long as that freedom is compatible with the freedom of others to do likewise. Thus we derive the basic right of liberty from the right to pursue happiness. Even though Locke believed the path of virtue to be the “best bet” towards everlasting happiness, the government should not prescribe any particular path to happiness. First of all, it is impossible to compel virtue since it must be freely chosen by the individual. Furthermore, history has shown that attempts to impose happiness upon the people invariably result in profound unhappiness. Locke's viewpoint here is prophetic when we look at the failure of 20 th Century attempts to achieve utopia, whether through Fascism, Communism, or Nationalism.

Locke attacks both the view that we have any innate principles (for example, the whole is greater than the part, do unto others as you would have done unto you, etc.) as well as the view that there are any innate singular ideas (for example, God, identity, substance,  and so forth). The main thrust of Locke’s argument lies in pointing out that none of the mental content alleged to be innate is universally shared by all humans. He notes that children and the mentally disabled, for example, do not have in their minds an allegedly innate complex thought like “equals taken from equals leave equals”. He also uses evidence from travel literature to point out that many non-Europeans deny what were taken to be innate moral maxims and that some groups even lack the idea of a God. Locke takes the fact that not all humans have these ideas as evidence that they were not implanted by God in humans minds, and that they are therefore acquired rather than innate.

Oxford had enjoyed an influx of scientific inquiry and humanism – Roger Bacon (1220-92), John Wycliffe (1330-84), Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536) and Sir Thomas More (1477-1535), all had their influence on the colleges. The present head of Christ Church for Locke was the Presbyterian John Owen (1616-83), a Puritan proponent of toleration and independence for Protestant sects and an earlier supporter and follower of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). (Owen travelled with Cromwell into his wars in Scotland and Ireland). Avoiding a career in theology and despising the dry Scholasticism (although the techniques and knowledge were of great use to his mind), Locke concentrated his studies on medical science at Oxford and later held teaching and diplomatic positions until meeting up with Lord Ashley Cooper in 1666 (later Earl of Shaftesbury). The position of a don was Locke’s preferred ambition and would have loved to live his whole life at Oxford – but events altered this path and he was illegally ejected on political grounds in 1684 from his studentship at Christ Church.

Locke essay concerning human understanding wikipedia

locke essay concerning human understanding wikipedia

Oxford had enjoyed an influx of scientific inquiry and humanism – Roger Bacon (1220-92), John Wycliffe (1330-84), Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536) and Sir Thomas More (1477-1535), all had their influence on the colleges. The present head of Christ Church for Locke was the Presbyterian John Owen (1616-83), a Puritan proponent of toleration and independence for Protestant sects and an earlier supporter and follower of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). (Owen travelled with Cromwell into his wars in Scotland and Ireland). Avoiding a career in theology and despising the dry Scholasticism (although the techniques and knowledge were of great use to his mind), Locke concentrated his studies on medical science at Oxford and later held teaching and diplomatic positions until meeting up with Lord Ashley Cooper in 1666 (later Earl of Shaftesbury). The position of a don was Locke’s preferred ambition and would have loved to live his whole life at Oxford – but events altered this path and he was illegally ejected on political grounds in 1684 from his studentship at Christ Church.

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