Locke grew up and lived through one of the most extraordinary centuries of English political and intellectual history.
Following this introductory material, the Essay is divided into four parts, which are designated as books. Book I has to do with the subject of innate ideas. This topic was especially important for Locke since the belief in innate ideas was fairly common among the scholars of his day.
The belief was as old as the dialogues of Plato, in which the doctrine of a world of ideas or universals had been expressed.
Plato had taught that ideas are latent in the human mind and need only the stimulation of sense perception to bring them to the level of consciousness. Many of the philosophers of the so-called rationalistic school followed Plato in this respect.
In the era that preceded Locke, Descartes had insisted that the criterion of truth was to see so clearly and distinctly that it could not be doubted.
For him the source of all knowledge was to be found in these ideas, which because they were innate, were also true.
From them all other truths could be derived by making logical inferences. Locke saw many of the difficulties that follow from this position, and it occurred to him that these could be avoided if it could be shown conclusively that innate ideas do not exist.
Any attempt to further the cause of human knowledge must begin by showing the falsity of this position. This is what he attempted to do in Book I. A more affirmative aspect of this theory of knowledge was set forth in Book II. Having stated his reasons for rejecting the belief in innate ideas, he now goes on to show how it is possible to construct the whole pattern of human knowledge from what has been experienced.
Beginning with an account of simple ideas which are derived from the senses, he proceeds to an explanation of the ideas of reflection, perception, space, time, substance, power, and others that are related to these.
Book III has to do with the meanings of words. It includes analysis of general terms, the names of simple ideas, the names of substances, an account of abstract and concrete terms, and a discussion concerning the abuse of words. Book IV treats the subjects of knowledge and probability.
Some information is given about knowledge in general, and this leads to a discussion with reference to the degrees of knowledge and the extent of human knowledge. In addition, it includes a detailed account of such subjects as the reality of knowledge, the nature of truth, the character of judgments, and the respective roles of reason and faith.
These are empiricism, dualism, subjectivism, and skepticism. A brief word concerning each of these should be helpful in preparing one to read the entire book. The conclusions advanced by the scientists were tentative and always subject to revision in the light of new facts.
Moralists and theologians were usually of the opinion that their doctrines expressed the final and absolute truth, and no amount of experimentation or observation would cause them to change. The scientists were making remarkable progress and, with all of their differences, were discovering more and more areas of agreement.
No similar progress could be observed in the areas of morals and religion. Indeed, there seemed to be more confusion and disagreements here than in other fields of inquiry.
What was the reason for all of this? The answer, as Locke saw it, was to be found in the different methods that had been used. The scientists did not begin with some innate idea or presupposition from which their knowledge could be derived.
Instead, they looked to experience as the sole source of information, and they accepted as true only those conclusions that could be verified by experiment and observation. The moralists and theologians had used a different method.
They began with some authoritative statement. It might be an innate idea, as it was in the philosophy of Descartes, or it could be a divine revelation or something that was so regarded by an ecclesiastical body. Whatever was accepted in this fashion necessarily became the source from which knowledge must be derived.
Since this knowledge could be obtained by deductive inference from the initial starting point, it was believed to have a certainty and finality about it that would not be possible on any other basis. People who believe they have certain or absolute knowledge are likely to be intolerant of those who hold opposite opinions.John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Book 2: Chapter Book II - Chapter XXVII Of Identity and Diversity.
Wherein identity consists. Another occasion the mind often takes of comparing, is the very being of things, when, considering anything as existing at any determined time and place, we compare it with itself existing at another time, and thereon form the ideas of.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Book II: Ideas John Locke Simple ideas of reﬂection 27 Chapter vii: Simple ideas of both sensation and reﬂection 27 Essay II John Locke xxvii: Identity and diversity also covertly relative, in the same way as ‘young’ and old’.
A large apple is smaller than a small horse. Statements about. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding begins with a short epistle to the reader and a general introduction to the work as a whole.
Following this introductory material, the Essay is divided into four parts, which are designated as books. Book I has to do with the subject of innate ideas. This. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Book II: Ideas John Locke Simple ideas of different senses 27 Chapter vi: Simple ideas of reﬂection 27 Chapter vii: Simple ideas of both sensation and reﬂection Essay II John Locke Chapter viii: Some further points about our simple ideas29 Chapter ix: Perception 34 Chapter x: Retention Summary.
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.
John Locke’s purpose in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is to inquire into the origin and extent of human knowledge.
His conclusion—that all knowledge is derived from sense experience.