John locke quotes from an essay concerning human understanding

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I pretend not to publish this Essay for the information of men of large thoughts, and quick apprehensions; to such masters of knowledge, I profess myself a scholar, and therefore warn them beforehand not to expect any thing here, but what, being spun out of my own coarse thoughts, is fitted to men of my own size; to whom, perhaps, it will not be unacceptable, that I have taken some pains to make plain and familiar to their thoughts some truths, which established prejudice, or the abstractedness of the ideas themselves, might render difficult.

Some objects had need be turned on every side: and when the notion is new, as I confess some of these are to me, or out of the ordinary road, as I suspect they will appear to others; it is not one simple view of it, that will gain it admittance into every understanding, or fix it there with a clear and lasting impression. There are few, I believe, who have not observed in themselves or others, that what in one way of proposing was very obscure, another way of expressing it has made very clear and intelligible; though afterward the mind found little difference in the phrases, and wondered why one failed to be understood more than the other.

Locke, John | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

We have our understandings no less different than our palates; and he that thinks the same truth shall be equally relished by every one in the same dress, may as well hope to feast every one with the same sort of cookery: the meat may be the same, and the nourishment good, yet every one not be able to receive it with that seasoning: and it must be dressed another way, if you will have it go down with some, even of strong constitutions. The truth is, those who advised me to publish it, advised me, for this reason, to publish it as it is; and since I have been brought to let it go abroad, I desire it should be understood by whoever Edition: current; Page: [ li ] gives himself the pains to read it; I have so little affection to be in print, that if I were not flattered this Essay might be of some use to others, as I think it has been to me, I should have confined it to the view of some friends, who gave the first occasion to it.

My appearing therefore in print, being on purpose to be as useful as I may, I think it necessary to make what I have to say, as easy and intelligible to all sorts of readers, as I can. And I had much rather the speculative and quick-sighted should complain of my being in some parts tedious, than that any one, not accustomed to abstract speculations, or prepossessed with different notions, should mistake, or not comprehend my meaning.

It will possibly be censured as a great piece of vanity or insolence in me, to pretend to instruct this our knowing age; it amounting to little less, when I own, that I publish this Essay with hopes it may be useful to others. But if it may be permitted to speak freely of those, who with a feigned modesty condemn as useless, what they themselves write, methinks it savours much more of vanity or insolence, to publish a book for any other end; and he fails very much of that respect he owes the public, who prints, and consequently expects men should read that, wherein he intends not they should meet with any thing of use to themselves or others: and should nothing else be found allowable in this treatise, yet my design will not cease to be so; and the goodness of my intention ought to be some excuse for the worthlessness of my present.

It is that chiefly which secures me from the fear of censure, which I expect not to escape more than better writers. I acknowledge the age we live in is not the least knowing, and therefore not the most easy to be satisfied. If I have not the good luck to please, yet nobody ought to be offended with me. I plainly tell all my readers, except half a dozen, this treatise was not at first intended for them; and therefore they need not be at the trouble to be of that number. But yet Edition: current; Page: [ lii ] if any one thinks fit to be angry, and rail at it, he may do it securely: for I shall find some better way of spending my time, than in such kind of conversation.

I shall always have the satisfaction to have aimed sincerely at truth and usefulness, though in one of the meanest ways. The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without master-builders, whose mighty designs in advancing the sciences, will leave lasting monuments to the admiration of posterity; but every one must not hope to be a Boyle, or a Sydenham; and in an age that produces such masters, as the great — Huygenius, and the incomparable Mr.

Newton, with some others of that strain; it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge; which certainly had been very much more advanced in the world, if the endeavours of ingenious and industrious men had not been much cumbered with the learned but frivolous use of uncouth, affected, or unintelligible terms, introduced into the sciences, and there made an art of, to that degree, that philosophy, which is nothing but the true knowledge of things, was thought unfit, or uncapable to be brought into well-bred company, and polite conversation.

Vague and insignificant forms of speech, and abuse of language, have so long passed for mysteries of science; and hard and misapplied words, with little or no meaning, have, by prescription, such a right to be mistaken for deep learning, and height of speculation, that it will not be easy to persuade, either those who speak, or those who hear them, that they are but the covers of ignorance, and hindrance of true knowledge. To break in upon the sanctuary of vanity and ignorance, will be, I suppose, some service to human understanding: though so few are apt to think they deceive or are deceived in the use of words; or that the language of the sect they are of, has any faults in it which ought to be examined or corrected; that I hope I shall be pardoned, if I have in the third book dwelt long on this subject, and endeavoured to make it so plain, that neither the inveterateness Edition: current; Page: [ lii ] of the mischief, nor the prevalence of the fashion, shall be any excuse for those, who will not take care about the meaning of their own words, and will not suffer the significancy of their expressions to be inquired into.

I have been told, that a short epitome of this treatise, which was printed , was by some condemned without reading, because innate ideas were denied in it; they too hastily concluding, that if innate ideas were not supposed, there would be little left, either of the notion or proof of spirits.

John Locke (1632—1704)

If any one take the like offence at the entrance of this treatise, I shall desire him to read it through; and then I hope he will be convinced, that the taking away false foundations, is not to the prejudice, but advantage of truth; which is never injured or endangered so much, as when mixed with, or built on falsehood. In the second edition, I added as followeth:. The bookseller will not forgive me, if I say nothing of this second edition, which he has promised, by the correctness of it, shall make amends for the many faults committed in the former.

He desires too, that it should be known, that it has one whole new chapter concerning identity, and many additions and amendments in other places. These I must inform my reader are not all new matter, but most of them either farther confirmations of what I had said, or explications, to prevent others being mistaken in the sense of what was formerly printed, and not any variation in me from it; I must only except the alterations I have made in Book II.

What I had there writ concerning liberty and the will, I thought deserved as accurate a view, as I was capable of; those subjects having in all ages exercised the learned part of the world, with questions and difficulties, that have not a little perplexed morality and divinity; those parts of knowledge, that men are most concerned to be clear in.

http://nn.threadsol.com/149331-cell-phone.php This I cannot forbear to acknowledge to the world with as much freedom and readiness, as I at first published what then seemed to me to be right; thinking myself more concerned to quit and renounce any opinion of my own, than oppose that of another, when truth appears against it. For it is truth alone I seek, and that will always be welcome to me, when or from whence soever it comes.

But what forwardness soever I have to resign any opinion I have, or to recede from any thing I have writ, upon the first evidence of any errour in it; yet this I must own, that I have not had the good luck to receive any light from those exceptions I have met with in print against any part of my book; nor have, from any thing that has been urged against it, found reason to alter my sense, in any of the points that have been questioned.

Whether the subject I have in hand requires often more thought and attention than cursory readers, at least such as are prepossessed, are willing to allow: or, whether any obscurity in my expressions casts a cloud over it, and these notions are made difficult to others apprehensions in my way of treating them: so it is, that my meaning, I find, is often mistaken, and I have not the good luck to be every where rightly understood.

There are so many instances of this, that I think it justice to my reader and myself, to conclude, that either my book is plainly enough written to be rightly understood by those who peruse it with that attention and indifferency, which every one, who will give himself the pains to read, ought to employ in reading; or else, that I have writ mine so obscurely, that it is in vain to go about to mend it. Which ever of these be the truth, it is myself only am affected thereby, and therefore I shall be far from troubling my reader with what I think might be said, in answer to those several objections I have met with, to passages here and there of my book: since I persuade myself, that he who thinks them of moment enough to be concerned whether they are true or false, will be able to Edition: current; Page: [ lv ] see, that what is said, is either not well founded, or else not contrary to my doctrine, when I and my opposer come both to be well understood.

The booksellers preparing for the fourth edition of my Essay, gave me notice of it, that I might, if I had leisure, make any additions or alterations I should think fit. Whereupon I thought it convenient to advertise the reader, that besides several corrections I had made here and there, there was one alteration which it was necessary to mention, because it ran through the whole book, and is of consequence to be rightly understood.

What I thereupon said was this:.

By those denominations, I mean some object in the mind, and consequently determined, i. This, I think, may fitly be called a determinate or determined idea, when such as it is at any time objectively in the mind, and so determined there, it is annexed, and without variation determined to a name or articulate sound, which is to be steadily the sign of that very same object of the mind, or determinate idea.

To explain this a little more particularly. By determinate, when applied to a simple idea, I mean that Edition: current; Page: [ lvi ] simple appearance which the mind has in its view, or perceives in itself, when that idea is said to be in it: by determinate, when applied to a complex idea, I mean such an one as consists of a determinate number of certain simple or less complex ideas, joined in such a proportion and situation, as the mind has before its view, and sees in itself, when that idea is present in it, or should be present in it, when a man gives a name to it: I say, should be; because it is not every one, not perhaps any one, who is so careful of his language, as to use no word, till he views in his mind the precise determined idea, which he resolves to make it the sign of.

But this hinders not, but that when any one uses any term, he may have in his mind a determined idea, which he makes it the sign of, and to which he should keep it steadily annexed, during that present discourse. Where he does not, or cannot do this, he in vain pretends to clear or distinct ideas: it is plain his are not so; and therefore there can be expected nothing but obscurity and confusion, where such terms are made use of, which have not such a precise determination.

Upon this ground I have thought determined ideas a way of speaking less liable to mistakes, than clear and distinct: and where men have got such determined ideas of all that they reason, inquire, or argue about, they will find a great part of their doubts and disputes at an end. The greatest part of the questions and controversies that perplex mankind, depending on the doubtful and uncertain use of words, or which is the same indetermined ideas, which they are made to stand for; I have made choice of these terms to signify, 1.

Some immediate object of the mind, which it perceives and has before it, distinct from the sound it uses as a sign of it.

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That this idea, thus determined, i. If men had such determined ideas in their inquiries and discourses they would both discern how far their own inquiries and discourses went, and avoid the greatest part of the disputes and wranglings they have with others. Besides this, the bookseller will think it necessary I should advertise the reader, that there is an addition of two chapters wholly new; the one of the association of ideas, the other of enthusiasm. These, with some other larger additions never before printed, he has engaged to print by themselves after the same manner, and for the same purpose, as was done when this essay had the second impression.

In the sixth edition, there is very little added or altered; the greatest part of what is new, is contained in the 21st chapter of the second book, which any one, if he thinks it worth while, may, with a very little labour, transcribe into the margin of the former edition. Since it is the understanding, that sets man above the rest of sensible beings, and gives him all the advantage and dominion, which he has over them; it is certainly a subject, even for its nobleness, worth our labour to inquire into.

The understanding, like the eye, whilst it makes us see and perceive all other things, takes no notice of itself; and it requires art and pains to set it at a distance, and make it its own object. But, whatever be the difficulties that lie in the way of this inquiry; whatever it be, that keeps us so much in the dark to ourselves; sure I am, that all the light we can let in upon our own minds, all the acquaintance we can make with our own understandings, will not only be very pleasant, but bring us great advantage, in directing our thoughts in the search of other things.

This, therefore, being my purpose, to inquire into the original, certainty, and extent of human knowledge; together with the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion, and assent; I shall not at present meddle with the physical consideration of the mind; or trouble myself to examine, wherein its essence consists, or by what motions of our spirits, Edition: current; Page: [ 2 ] or alterations of our bodies, we come to have any sensation by our organs, or any ideas in our understandings; and whether those ideas do in their formation, any, or all of them, depend on matter or no: These are speculations, which, however curious and entertaining, I shall decline, as lying out of my way in the design I am now upon.

It is, therefore, worth while to search out the bounds between opinion and knowledge; and examine by what measures, in things, whereof we have no certain knowledge, we ought to regulate our assent, and moderate our persuasions. In order whereunto, I shall pursue this following method. First, I shall enquire into the origin of those ideas, notions, or whatever else you please to call them, which a man observes, and is conscious to himself he has in his mind; and the ways, whereby the understanding comes to be furnished with them.

Secondly, I shall endeavour to shew what knowledge the understanding hath by those ideas; and the certainty, evidence, and extent of it. Thirdly, I shall make some enquiry into the nature and grounds of faith, or opinion; whereby I mean that assent, which we give to any proposition as true, of whose truth yet we have no certain knowledge: and here we shall have occasion to examine the reasons and degrees of assent.

If, by this enquiry into the nature of the understanding, I can discover the powers thereof; how far they reach; to what things they are in any degree proportionate; and where they fail us: I suppose it may be of use to prevail with the busy mind of man, to be more cautious in meddling with things exceeding its comprehension; to stop when it is at the utmost extent of its tether; and to sit down in a quiet ignorance of those things, which, upon examination, are found to be beyond the reach of our capacities. We should not then perhaps be so forward, out of an affectation of an universal knowledge, to raise questions, and perplex ourselves and others with disputes about things, to which our understandings are not suited; and of which we cannot frame in our minds any clear or distinct perceptions, or whereof as it has perhaps too often happened we have not any notions at all.

If we can find out how far the understanding can extend its view, how far it has faculties to attain certainty, and in what cases it can only judge and guess; we may learn to content ourselves with what is attainable by us in this state. For, though the comprehension of our understandings comes exceeding short of the vast extent of things; yet we shall have cause enough to magnify the bountiful author of our being, for that proportion and degree of knowledge he has bestowed on us, so far above all the rest of the inhabitants of this our mansion.

Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them as St. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments, that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their maker, and the sight of their own duties.

Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight and satisfaction; if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp every thing. We shall not have much reason to complain of the narrowness of our minds, if we will but employ them about what may be of use to us; for of that they are very capable: and it will be an unpardonable, as well as childish peevishness, if we undervalue the advantages of our knowledge, and neglect to improve it to the ends for which it was given us, because there are some things that are set out of the reach of it.

It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant, who would not attend his business by candle-light, to plead that he had not broad sun-shine. The candle, that is set up in us, shines bright enough for all our purposes.


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The discoveries we can make with this, ought to satisfy us; and we shall then use our understandings right, when we entertain all objects in that way and proportion that they are suited to our faculties, and upon those grounds they are capable of being proposed to us, and not peremptorily, or intemperately require demonstration, and demand certainty, where probability only is to be had, and which is sufficient to govern all our concernments.

If we will disbelieve every things, because we certainly cannot know all things; we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he, who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.