An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

John Locke is widely regarded as the father of classical liberalism. This essay was groundbreaking in its approach to foundation of human knowledge and understanding, he describes the mind at birth as a blank slate filled later through experience, the essay became the principle sources of empiricism in modern philosophy and influenced many enlightenment philosophers. Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and befo...

Details An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

TitleAn Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Release DateJan 24th, 2007
PublisherPomona Press
GenrePhilosophy, Nonfiction, Classics, Politics, Psychology, History, Writing, Essays, Literature, 17th Century, Political Science, Academic

Reviews An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

  • Rowland Pasaribu
    The Essay Concerning Human Understanding is sectioned into four books. Taken together, they comprise an extremely long and detailed theory of knowledge starting from the very basics and building up. Book I, "Of Innate Ideas," is an attack on the Cartesian view of knowledge, which holds that human beings are born with certain ideas already in their mind. "Of Innate Ideas" begins with an argument against the possibility of innate propositional know...
  • Markus
    An Essay concerning Human UnderstandingBy John Locke (1632-1704)It was published in 1689. Book I - sets out to argue against all “Innate Notions” in the human being.According to the author, the mind at our birth is a blank white page upon which ideas are registered as the senses encounter the surrounding world. The term ‘Idea’ as defined by Locke does not have its usual sense. We think of Ideas as very close to ‘concept’. Locke, howev...
  • Brian
    There is absolutely no doubt that Locke's ideas and arguments are very straightforward and clear in style. He's the father of empiricism, among many other schools of thought (i.e. liberalism and individualism, which in essence, forms the proliferating values of the global society).But he's a dude from 17th century.And having read this along with his Second Treatise,I'm beginning to feel that although the literary challenge may be good for the bra...
  • Suzanne
    When I was making my reading list I included this title, intending also to reread Two Treatises, but when this author was the next on the list, I felt too pressed for time. I did the reread but set this aside. However, I then realized that I would have to also forego my intended Leibniz reading because it is a response to this. So, I'm way behind my fairly arbitrary and entirely self-imposed timetable because I doubled back and read this. I can't...
  • Matei
    Locke can't be blamed for getting most things wrong: our understanding of the world has changed drastically since his time. He can be blamed however for being wrong in things that his contemporaries or even predecessors got right, especially when this is caused by a very shallow treatment of the questions he addresses. I strongly disliked the Essay, it reads like the work of someone who tried to build his own simplistic system from scratch as a w...
  • Tyler
    John Locke's readable discourse on empiricism, which we might think of now as inductive reasoning from contingent facts, covers a broad scope and gives readers a taste of the Enlightenment in its full flower. Written before philosophy became too specialized for everyday discourse, this book serves as an excellent starting point anyone wanting to venture into philosophy. John Locke's easy writing style stands in contrast to his formidable reputati...
  • Benjamin
    This is the second time I've read this book, sort of. The first time was at university. After 10 or 11 years I decied to return to it and see how much I'd forgotten (especially as I teach bits of Locke for A-level Philosophy). I slowly realised that after the first few chapters, the notes and annotations disappeared from my book, indicating that I'd never finished it. After a couple of days of reading this, I realised why. Yes, it is one of the m...
  • Matthew
    John Locke has some of the best reasons why we should not believe in innate ideas, and from this, why we should not be in agreement with the Rationalists. However, this begs the question "How can we trust ideas based on experience?"Instead of bogging down his argument, I find that his trust in human experience to be refreshing. We cannot live our lives sitting in a room thinking about the random crap in the world -- we have to get out there and l...
  • K
    Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a book which aspired to do the following:a) Provide the epistemological foundation – empiricism – for corpuscularian (i.e., atomistic), and, perhaps, Newtonian scienceb) Reveal the inadequacies of Cartesianism and Aristotelianism in natural philosophyc) Reveal the inadequacies of the rationalists with their emphasis on innate ideasd) Provide an original and fairly convincing story of the origi...
  • Itsuka
    This is a joint review with Second Treatise of Government: understanding Locke's stance on human nature, one could not say something essential about his political theory. In return, looking at his political theory alone without understanding his idea on human nature would lead to a philistine interpretation of him and his vision on human-nature-to-be, as Leo Strauss demonstrated (sadly). I guess I h...
  • Cassandra Kay Silva
    I don't know if I just wasn't in the right mindset when reading this or what but I think this book could have been condensed to perhaps a third of its current size? The redundancy was astounding and the word choice so flowery for something that was not only not poetry but not even pleasant to the reader. I just felt like the style and flow of the book was very circular in kind of a spiral factor sort of way. What he had to say on complex ideas wa...
  • Brian
    This was one of the mammoth works I tackled after reading about Locke in Russell's book and hearing every enlightenment series start off with Locke and his contributions to politics as well as epistemological philosophy. I read this for pleasure not school, and it was difficult but very rewarding. I used Locke to springboard into the study of human knowledge and he is probably the best place to start in trying to understand just what we think we ...
  • Keith
    Reading this again, under less purposive circumstances, I'm struck by how well it works as a work of prose, with delerious, rushed passages and moments of stillness and clarity, things Locke wants to say but steps back from (i.e. the possibility that matter can think), and funny, self-deprecating lines like "as the chief End of Language in Communication [is] to be understood, Words serve not well for that end." Great.
  • Sean Chick
    Not an easy read, but the ideas contained here still have a weight. Locke was truly a genius.
  • Justin Rutledge
    Tabula Rasa is the phrase that we always hear parroted when referring to John Locke, but this concept of being born with a blank slate, ready for knowledge to imprinted upon, is largely irrelevant for the crux of his argument in the Essay.Another concept commonly taught to entry level philosophy students is Locke's ideas of "reflection" and "sensation", but I firmly believe these too are not central to what the Essay is concerning.The Essay is on...
  • Zandra
    I enjoyed aspects of 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding', but only because I was reading it for the light it cast on Locke's political philosophy as described in his revolutionary work 'Two Treatises of Government'. In 'An Essay' Locke attempts an understanding of what it is to be human, or perhaps, what human dignity means: an individual's use of reason in all things, even in areas where prejudices are strongly held, such as religious beli...
  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    This treatise published in 1689 was listed in Good Reading's "100 Significant Books." It's a work of epistemology--the branch of philosophy that examines knowledge. Rejecting Descartes' argument of innate principles, Locke argues that humans at birth are a blank slate written on by experience. Locke argues that innate ideas can't exist since by their nature they'd be universal, and there is no knowledge everyone agrees upon. I'm not sure given hu...
  • David Balfour
    This is very dry and repetitive, but it makes a whole lot more sense than anything by the Rationalists. Locke has an endearing humbleness whereby he genuinely acknowledges that he is liable to error, and that there are certain things we cannot know, or at least be sure we know. The way he identifies language and inconsistent terminology as the source of so much disagreement and misunderstanding is also a real breakthrough, I think.Occasionally Lo...
  • Mamluk Qayser
    What daunts each of us in reading philosophical text could be outlined as follows; its readability and also of its relevance. Both of these main challenges, could more or less, traced back to one problem; limitation on resources whether financial, time to read (in the former) or the time to digest and apply (in the latter). Before we elaborate on those two points, we could take a cursory glance on the main idea that Locke tried to present to us i...
  • Erik Graff
    Some of this book was assigned for the History of Classical Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago during the first semester of 1980/81, but I read all of it, albeit quickly at times.Like Hume, Locke is a relatively easy philosopher for modern Anglo-Americans, their thought being so substantially constituative of contemporary prejudice, both in philosophy and in the natural sciences. He is not, however, as careful and precise--not as "acute" as ...
  • Nathaniel
    I only read the part of this that deal with moral law and morality. The most famous part of this book are those that deal with epistemology so I will have to pick this book up again. Nontheless the sections that I did read were pretty exceptional.
  • Brittany Petruzzi
    Locke's understanding of human understanding accounts for much of what is wrong with our society today. Yuck.
  • Xander
    In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), the English philosopher John Locke tried to come up with a theory of knowledge, that would do away with all earlier attempts of philosophers from the time of Plato onwards to Descartes. This book is a long and dense one, but it is well-structured and written (relatively) approachable for the general public. (This review is based on my reading of this book two years ago, so I will only give the br...
  • Bill&Ted
    I do not much care for John Locke. I will not take the argument that some people have taken and argue that all of the contemporary world's problems are the result of his work. That said, John Locke's opinions and ideas have heavily disseminated into the culture and are largely unignorable. Many people, through a sort of cultural osmosis, have probably actually read this book. I got to about the last 150 pages and started skimming huge sections. N...
  • Ken Ryu
    Locke is accessible yet profound, which is rare for philosophers. His assertion is that human knowledge is learned and not innate. His common example of this is that a man born blind has no concept of the colors red or blue. If this man were to gain the power of sight, then, and only then, would he comprehend the meaning of these colors. It is a logical argument, but obviously one that is oversimplified. He discusses how humans are uniquely capab...
  • Zach Mazlish
    Interesting stuff. Locke is super repetitive, and most of the first half of the book dedicated to debunking the notion of innate knowledge and explaining how humans come to knowledge has been proven wrong so it is more interesting as “reading backwards” material than anything else, but also is a good way of instigating thinking about various problems of cognitive science and perception and the miracle of how humans come to knowledge. Locke’...
  • Timo
    In an effort to revisit past influential philosophers, I arrived at John Locke. This book was difficult to get through. But I made it!First, as with the vast majority of philosophers, John Locke was seeking the impossible: an objective subjective. He wanted to show the right way to live, the right ideas to hold, for "man" as a Universal being, with Universal standards. Universalism fails in a species that is evolving both biologically and cultura...
  • Cheng Yap
    Locke clearly attempts to explain his philosophy clearly, but it is unfortunately bogged down by too many examples as well as long and winding prose that does not seem particularly important. Locke even admits that his work may be too long in places, but he writes it as such anyway as he needs to explain everything he has in mind. I, however, found many of the tangents unproductive and boring, putting a real drag on the book that I could not even...
  • Jimena Casillas
    How we learn if we didn't have any innate ideas to distinguish good or bad?