An Essay On Human Understanding Summary

An Essay On Human Understanding Summary-42
[Essay I iii 24-26] Our best defense against this fate is to engage in independent thinking, which properly begins with a careful examinination of the function and limits of our discursive capacities.Attention to specific issues at hand often leads us to overlook the function of the most noble of our faculties, but Locke believed that the operations of the human understanding are familiar to us all.

[Essay I iii 24-26] Our best defense against this fate is to engage in independent thinking, which properly begins with a careful examinination of the function and limits of our discursive capacities.Attention to specific issues at hand often leads us to overlook the function of the most noble of our faculties, but Locke believed that the operations of the human understanding are familiar to us all.

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Claiming only to be an “Under-Labourer” whose task is to prepare the way for the “Master-Builders” of science, he encouraged ordinary readers to rely upon their own capacity for judgment rather than to accept the dictates of intellectual fashion.

[Essay Epistle] In the daily course of ordinary activity, everyone is inclined to rely upon a set of simple guidelines for living, and laziness or pride may encourage us to accept dearly held convictions without ever embarking on a careful examination of their truth. Locke pointed out that blind acceptance of “borrowed Principles”—the confident pronouncements of putative cultural authorities regarding crucial elements of human life—often leaves us vulnerable to their imposition of absurd doctrines under the guise of an innate divine inscription.

[Essay IV xiv 2] The pace of ordinary life commonly requires all of us to act quickly, on the basis of little more than our fallible memory of the merely probable evidence in favor of this course of action, Locke supposed, but awareness of this common reliance on “our mutual Ignorance” appropriately motivates broad toleration of the diversity of opinions and practices to which others may adhere.

[Essay IV xvi 3-4] The great theme of the Essay, then, is that we ought not to expect to achieve knowledge beyond the relatively narrow confines of what is necessary or, at least, useful for the practical conduct of human life.

Written in a straightforward, uncomplicated style, the Essay attempts nothing less than a fundamental account of human knowledge—its origin in our ideas and application to our lives, its methodical progress and inescapable limitations.

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Even three centuries later, Locke’s patient, insightful, and honest reflections on these issues continue to merit the careful study that this guide is intended to encourage.

by John Locke Locke prefaced his masterwork with a rhetorically understated “Epistle to the Reader.” His awareness of the need for a systematic investigation of the human understanding first arose in the context of a friendly but unproductive discussion of other issues.

(According to another of the participants in that meeting, they included “the Principles of morality, and reveald Religion.”) Although he drafted a preliminary account that dealt with many of the central themes of the Essay as early as 1671, Locke expanded his comments repeatedly before publishing the book nearly twenty years later and continued to supplement them with additional material he prepared for four further editions.

We employ ourselves in thinking, deciding, doing, and knowing all the time.

What we require is not a detailed scientific explanation of the nature of the human mind, but rather a functional account of its operations in practice.

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