Essay concerning human understanding john locke

Why think that the color of an object i. Hint: use II. Finally, what about thesis iii : secondary qualities are nothing but powers in objects to produce certain ideas in us? Well, this is just to combine i and ii. Note that primary qualities are powers and genuine qualities in objects; secondary are merely powers. But as Locke points out, ideas of secondary qualities depend not just on the objects; they also depend on the perceivers.

Catalog Record: An essay concerning human understanding. I | HathiTrust Digital Library

Think of as many different ways to change the color of this room as you can. Had the poor Indian philosopher who imagined that the earth also wanted something to bear it up but thought of this word substance, he needed not to have been at the trouble to find an elephant to support it, and a tortoise to support his elephant: the word substance would have done it effectually. And he that inquired might have taken it for as good an answer from an Indian philosopher—that substance, without knowing what it is, is that which supports the earth, as take it for a sufficient answer and good doctrine from our european philosophers—that substance, without knowing what it is, is that which supports accidents.

So that of substance, we have no idea of what it is, but only a confused obscure one of what it does. Would he not think himself mocked, instead of taught, with such an account as this? If any one should be asked, what is the subject wherein colour or weight inheres, he would have nothing to say, but the solid extended parts; and if he were demanded, what is it that solidity and extension adhere in, he would not be in a much better case than the Indian before mentioned who, saying that the world was supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested on; to which his answer was—a great tortoise: but being again pressed to know what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied— something, he knew not what.

Now that we know how we think about individual substances e. From III. By this way of abstraction they are made capable of representing more individuals than one; each of which having in it a conformity to that abstract idea, is as we call it of that sort. The ideas of the nurse and the mother are well framed in their minds; and, like pictures of them there, represent only those individuals.

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The names they first gave to them are confined to these individuals; and the names of nurse and mamma , the child uses, determine themselves to those persons. Afterwards, when time and a larger acquaintance have made them observe that there are a great many other things in the world, that in some common agreements of shape, and several other qualities, resemble their father and mother, and those persons they have been used to, they frame an idea, which they find those many particulars do partake in; and to that they give, with others, the name man , for example.

And thus they come to have a general name, and a general idea. Wherein they make nothing new; but only leave out of the complex idea they had of Peter and James, Mary and Jane, that which is peculiar to each, and retain only what is common to them all. When therefore we quit particulars, the generals that rest are only creatures of our own making; their general nature being nothing but the capacity they are put into, by the understanding, of signifying or representing many particulars.

For the signification they have is nothing but a relation that, by the mind of man, is added to them.

About Locke's 'Essay Concerning Human Understanding'

But yet I think we may say, the sorting of them under names is the workmanship of the understanding, taking occasion, from the similitude it observes amongst them, to make abstract general ideas , and set them up in the mind, with names annexed to them, as patterns or forms, for, in that sense, the word form has a very proper signification, to which as particular things existing are found to agree, so they come to be of that species, have that denomination, or are put into that class.

The frequent productions of monsters, in all the species of animals, and of changelings, and other strange issues of human birth, carry with them difficulties, not possible to consist with this hypothesis; since it is as impossible that two things partaking exactly of the same real essence should have different properties, as that two figures partaking of the same real essence of a circle should have different properties. But were there no other reason against it, yet the supposition of essences that cannot be known; and the making of them, nevertheless, to be that which distinguishes the species of things, is so wholly useless and unserviceable to any part of our knowledge, that that alone were sufficient to make us lay it by ….

By this real essence I mean, that real constitution of anything, which is the foundation of all those properties that are combined in, and are constantly found to co-exist with the nominal essence; that particular constitution which everything has within itself, without any relation to anything without it. But essence, even in this sense, relates to a sort, and supposes a species.

For, being that real constitution on which the properties depend, it necessarily supposes a sort of things, properties belonging only to species, and not to individuals: e. Hre are essences and properties, but all upon supposition of a sort or general abstract idea, which is considered as immutable; but there is no individual parcel of matter to which any of these qualities are so annexed as to be essential to it or inseparable from it. For let it be ever so true, that all gold, i.

For if we know not the real essence of gold, it is impossible we should know what parcel of matter has that essence, and so whether it be true gold or no. Now that we have some story about how our ideas of substances are constructed, we need to look at the two main kinds of substance we seem to find in the world: mind and body. These, I think, are the original ideas proper and peculiar to body; for figure is but the consequence of finite extension. It is true, solidity cannot exist without extension, neither can scarlet colour exist without extension, but this hinders not, but that they are distinct ideas.

And if it be a reason to prove that spirit is different from body, because thinking includes not the idea of extension in it; the same reason will be as valid, I suppose, to prove that space is not body, because it includes not the idea of solidity in it; space and solidity being as distinct ideas as thinking and extension , and as wholly separable in the mind one from another … Extension includes no solidity, nor resistance to the motion of body, as body does.

When considered between the extremities of matter, which fills the capacity of space with something solid, tangible, and moveable, it is properly called extension. And so extension is an idea belonging to body only; but space may, as is evident, be considered without it. Locke here sets out the constituent ideas that make up the complex idea of the mind. Most famously, he denies that we can be sure that what thinks in us in an immaterial substance. Thinking and motivity The ideas we have belonging and peculiar to spirit , are thinking , and will , or a power of putting body into motion by thought, and, which is consequent to it, liberty.

For, as body cannot but communicate its motion by impulse to another body, which it meets with at rest, so the mind can put bodies into motion, or forbear to do so, as it pleases. The ideas of existence , duration , and mobility , are common to them both. And therefore, though thinking be supposed never so much the proper action of the soul, yet it is not necessary to suppose that it should be always thinking, always in action. It is doubted whether I thought at all last night or no.

The question being about a matter of fact, it is begging it to bring, as a proof for it, an hypothesis, which is the very thing in dispute: by which way one may prove anything …. But men in love with their opinions may not only suppose what is in question, but allege wrong matter of fact. How else could any one make it an inference of mine, that a thing is not, because we are not sensible of it in our sleep? I do not say there is no soul in a man, because he is not sensible of it in his sleep; but I do say, he cannot think at any time, waking or sleeping, without being sensible of it.

Our being sensible of it is not necessary to anything but to our thoughts; and to them it is; and to them it always will be necessary, till we can think without being conscious of it. Now, Locke realizes that the Cartesian will not leave things at that; he will insist that minds think even during sleep, though they do not remember it. Locke thinks this move has a heavy price:. If the soul doth think in a sleeping man without being conscious of it, I ask whether, during such thinking, it has any pleasure or pain, or be capable of happiness or misery? I am sure the man is not; no more than the bed or earth he lies on.

For to be happy or miserable without being conscious of it, seems to me utterly inconsistent and impossible. Or if it be possible that the soul can, whilst the body is sleeping, have its thinking, enjoyments, and concerns, its pleasures or pain, apart, which the man is not conscious of nor partakes in—it is certain that Socrates asleep and Socrates awake is not the same person; but his soul when he sleeps, and Socrates the man, consisting of body and soul, when he is waking, are two persons: since waking Socrates has no knowledge of, or concernment for that happiness or misery of his soul, which it enjoys alone by itself whilst he sleeps, without perceiving anything of it; no more than he has for the happiness or misery of a man in the indies, whom he knows not.

For, if we take wholly away all consciousness of our actions and sensations, especially of pleasure and pain, and the concernment that accompanies it, it will be hard to know wherein to place personal identity. It is plain then, that the idea of corporeal substance in matter is as remote from our conceptions and apprehensions, as that of spiritual substance , or spirit: and therefore, from our not having, any notion of the substance of spirit, we can no more conclude its non-existence, than we can, for the same reason, deny the existence of body ….

For though the pressure of the particles of air may account for the cohesion of several parts of matter that are grosser than the particles of air, and have pores less than the corpuscles of air, yet the weight or pressure of the air will not explain, nor can be a cause of the coherence of the particles of air themselves.

And if the pressure of the aether, or any subtiler matter than the air, may unite, and hold fast together, the parts of a particle of air, as well as other bodies, yet it cannot make bonds for itself , and hold together the parts that make up every the least corpuscle of that materia subtilis.

For, in the communication of motion by impulse, wherein as much motion is lost to one body as is got to the other, which is the ordinariest case, we can have no other conception, but of the passing of motion out of one body into another; which, I think, is as obscure and inconceivable as how our minds move or stop our bodies by thought, which we every moment find they do.

We have by daily experience clear evidence of motion produced both by impulse and by thought; but the manner how, hardly comes within our comprehension: we are equally at a loss in both. So that, however we consider motion, and its communication, either from body or spirit, the idea which belongs to spirit is at least as clear as that which belongs to body.

And if we consider the active power of moving, or, as I may call it, motivity, it is much clearer in spirit than body; since two bodies, placed by one another at rest, will never afford us the idea of a power in the one to move the other, but by a borrowed motion. Though our knowledge be limited to our ideas, and cannot exceed them either in extent or perfection; … Yet it would be well with us if our knowledge were but as large as our ideas, and there were not many doubts and inquiries concerning the ideas we have , whereof we are not, nor I believe ever shall be in this world resolved.

Nevertheless, I do not question but that human knowledge, under the present circumstances of our beings and constitutions, may be carried much further than it has hitherto been, if men would sincerely, and with freedom of mind, employ all that industry and labour of thought, in improving the means of discovering truth, which they do for the colouring or support of falsehood, to maintain a system, interest, or party they are once engaged in.

We have the ideas of matter and thinking , but possibly shall never be able to know whether [any mere material being] thinks or no; it being impossible for us, by the contemplation of our own ideas, without revelation, to discover whether Omnipotency has not given to some systems of matter, fitly disposed, a power to perceive and think, or else joined and fixed to matter, so disposed, a thinking immaterial substance: it being, in respect of our notions, not much more remote from our comprehension to conceive that God can, if he pleases, superadd to matter a faculty of thinking , than that he should superadd to it another substance with a faculty of thinking ; since we know not wherein thinking consists, nor to what sort of substances the Almighty has been pleased to give that power, which cannot be in any created being, but merely by the good pleasure and bounty of the Creator.

For I see no contradiction in it, that the first Eternal thinking Being, or Omnipotent Spirit, should, if he pleased, give to certain systems of created senseless matter, put together as he thinks fit, some degrees of sense, perception, and thought: though, as I think I have proved, lib. What certainty of knowledge can any one have, that some perceptions, such as, e. For, since we must allow He has annexed effects to motion which we can no way conceive motion able to produce, what reason have we to conclude that He could not order them as well to be produced in a subject we cannot conceive capable of them, as well as in a subject we cannot conceive the motion of matter can any way operate upon?

And therefore it is not of such mighty necessity to determine one way or the other, as some, over-zealous for or against the immateriality of the soul, have been forward to make the world believe. Who, either on the one side, indulging too much their thoughts immersed altogether in matter, can allow no existence to what is not material: or who, on the other side, finding not cogitation within the natural powers of matter, examined over and over again by the utmost intention of mind, have the confidence to conclude—that Omnipotency itself cannot give perception and thought to a substance which has the modification of solidity.

He that considers how hardly sensation is, in our thoughts, reconcilable to extended matter; or existence to anything that has no extension at all, will confess that he is very far from certainly knowing what his soul is. Since, on which side soever he views it, either as an unextended substance , or as a thinking extended matter , the difficulty to conceive either will, whilst either alone is in his thoughts, still drive him to the contrary side. It is past controversy, that we have in us something that thinks; our very doubts about what it is, confirm the certainty of its being, though we must content ourselves in the ignorance of what kind of being it is: and it is in vain to go about to be sceptical in this, as it is unreasonable in most other cases to be positive against the being of anything, because we cannot comprehend its nature.

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For I would fain know what substance exists, that has not something in it which manifestly baffles our understandings …. Both religion and morality require, Locke thinks, the certainty of post-mortem rewards and harms. But how can we make sense of the self surviving the death of the body, if we cannot show that the self is immaterial? For, being at that instant what it is, and nothing else, it is the same, and so must continue as long as its existence is continued; for so long it will be the same, and no other. In like manner, if two or more atoms be joined together into the same mass, every one of those atoms will be the same, by the foregoing rule: and whilst they exist united together, the mass, consisting of the same atoms, must be the same mass, or the same body, let the parts be ever so differently jumbled.

But if one of these atoms be taken away, or one new one added, it is no longer the same mass or the same body. And A treatise on the conduct of the understanding. Skip to main Skip to similar items. HathiTrust Digital Library. Search full-text index. Available Indexes Full-text Catalog Full view only. Advanced full-text search Advanced catalog search Search tips. Search HathiTrust. Tools Cite this Export citation file. Similar Items An essay concerning human understanding. Author Locke, John, Published Locke, John, Knowledge, Theory of. Draft A, after the first sentence introduction of the empiricist principle in its first lines, continues with a discussion of the source of ideas, dividing them into simple and complex, and the difference between ideas of sensation and reflection. He considers standard objections to the empiricist principle derived from familiar claims that some knowledge is innate.

He also examines the nature of certainty, the importance of probability claims in our accounts of the world. In the second section, amongst many other claims, he draws the distinction between body and mind, which he calls spirit, and claims that:. This was a position that Locke was to hold to throughout the several editions of his work and which was widely misunderstood. Draft B is well over twice the length of Draft A, and explores in much greater depth the claims and implications to be found in the earlier version.

Although all the issues raised are covered in the published Essay , often with elaboration and greater sophistication, the general direction remains very much the same. Not all of the topics which appear in the published Essay feature in Draft B.

Locke's "Essay," Book I

The history of the writing of the Essay is itself an important contribution to its argument. The two early Drafts make a considerable contribution to the correct understanding of that argument.