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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding [Kindle Edition]

John Locke
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Laid out in four books, "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" is John Locke's exposition on the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. In the first and second books Locke begins by rejecting the notion of innate ideas proposed by Descartes and proposes instead that humans are born as blank slates and that all knowledge is derived from experience. The discussion is continued in books three and four with a discussion of the theory as it relates to language, intuition, mathematics, moral philosophy, natural philosophy, faith, and opinion. A compelling and important philosophical work, "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" is a must read for all students of philosophy.

Editorial Reviews


"Oxford World Classics offers yet another abridgment of Locke s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Do we really need another? Yes, when it s as well done as
Phemister s."-Philosophy in Review


"Oxford World Classics offers yet another abridgment of Locke s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Do we really need another? Yes, when it s as well done as
Phemister s."-Philosophy in Review

Product Details

  • File Size: 1125 KB
  • Print Length: 458 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1420931431
  • Publisher: (July 1, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1X7W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #905,688 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
On the list of thinkers who have exemplified what Brand Blanshard called the "rational temper," John Locke must surely place very high. The reader of this his most influential and important work will be constantly struck not only by his sane and sober approach to philosophical questions but indeed, as another reviewer has noted, by how commonplace his own proposed solutions have become.
It will be found that Locke, generally regarded as an "empiricist," is extremely hard to pigeonhole. Though rejecting (an earlier version of) the doctrine of "innate ideas" and insisting that all of our ideas come from or through sense-experience, he was clearly a "rationalist" as regards the nature of knowledge itself. Both modern empiricists and modern rationalists could benefit from a healthy infusion of his reasonable, even-handed tenor and uncommon common sense.
Also highly recommended is E.J. Lowe's _Locke On Human Understanding_, an excellent introduction and overview to this great work as well as a delightful and highly insightful attempt to show that many of Locke's positions are still defensible today (though perhaps in need of some modification). It is a handy companion to the present volume both for the beginner and for the longtime reader of Locke; even those who know Locke well (or think they do!) will find Lowe's work engaging and enlightening.
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56 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Locked Into Reason 18th Century Style January 31, 2002
By mp
John Locke's 1698 "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" is one of the foundational texts of Western philosophy. It is a phenomenal enquiry into how and why people become functional individuals. Bringing into philosophy a developmental model of personal becoming, Locke drilled pre-Berkeleyan common sense into a growing capitalist nation, one which was already moving away from the absolutist model of government and viewing self in the world espoused by Thomas Hobbes in "Leviathan." While clearly building on and stepping on his predecessors, most notably Hobbes and Rene Descartes, Locke deals broadly with ideas, language, and how people come into knowledge, and sets the stage for a new phase of philosophy entering the 18th century.
Locke begins the "Essay" by rejecting and dispensing with the notion of "innate ideas," which basically says that we are born in possession of certain principles, elements of knowledge, or maxims that help us orient ourselves in the world. Through long and drawn out (one downside of Locke is his insistency on detail and repetition) examples and arguments, he attempts to prove that when we are born, we have absolutely nothing intelligence-wise, to recommend us. This is what is popularly referred to as the 'tabula rasa' theory, that when first born, our minds are like "empty cabinets" or "white sheets" of paper - which experience and experience only furnishes with our ideas about the world. His goal here is to get people to question their assumptions about the world, to ask questions and decide for themselves based on reason and experience, how best to interact with the world.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Re-Cognising April 4, 2003
Any search for this text will result in a plethora of commentaries upon it, whilst it itself seems almost doomed to take second place. The importance of this work to philosophy cannot be underestimated; Descartes is held in common perception to be the figure who changed the course of philosophy. Whilst it is true he may have dipped his toes in uncharted waters, Locke was the first to plunge in. Here we find human understanding stripped to its first principles and from there rebuilt in such a fashion as to purge the presumptions of our age. Locke recommends modesty to the philosopher and thinker throughout and in our current times this message might need restated. In a world, which owes so much to the United States Constitution, it would be appropriate for us all to see what it owed its own origins to and be recalled to values of liberty, modesty and reason in a way which does not rush headlong into a catastrophe of pride.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad binding: Not sure if fluke or normal June 29, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is great, it's exactly what I need for a class I'm taking on Modern Philosophy. It appears to be an unabridged edition of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. It's clear and understandable as printed. The only compaint I have is that simply opening this book to read it split the cover away from the pages. The book is effectively coming unravelled. I have other books from the Prometheus lineup which have no such problem, however, they are all relatively short books of less than 150 pages. This one is over 600 pages and from what I can tell it appears that the binding just isn't up to task for the amount of pages in the book. I'm not sure if this is just a fluke or not. But to Amazon's credit they refunded me the price of the book. I'm very glad I ordered an product due to the excellent customer service I received and feel very safe in future purchases from Amazon.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the major works in Western Philosophy January 19, 2005
It has been many years since I pondered and repondered over this volume. Locke is an important figure in the history of Western Philosophy. He is really the founding figure of the great empirical tradition which would go through Hume all the way up to the various analytical philosophies of the twentieth century.

He is also a major political thinker whose importance for the great founders of America cannot be overestimated.

Locke talks about the mind as tabula rasa as a blank slate which experience writes upon, and reflection compounds into ' complex ideas' The simple ideas come through experience. This total rejection of inherent ideas, and inherent structures of the mind is something which a lot of modern linguistic theory rejects.

As to the way we apprehend experience immediately I think here too Locke is in some way contradicted by modern psychological theory which would speak in some sense about our structuring that experience through our own participation in perception. In other words Locke's model of perception is I believe a far too ' passive one'. I cannot however judge, as I do not know enough about the subject whether or not Lockean categories in these areas of perception, reflection and in general description of the way we experience and know the world have any force today.

Locke's political thinking is incorporated in the Declaration of Independence with its formulation of rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As strong opponent of tyrannical authority in the political world Locke's thinking made a real impact on the world. He is one of those thinkers at the foundation of modern democratic thought.

The book is not easy reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference material
It is a direct reprint of the original text, which is rare. The old English is sometimes difficult to work through, but definitely worth the effort to get the true meaning Locke... Read more
Published 14 days ago by rlbrandner
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Received the book in good condition
Published 19 days ago by Stephen M. Keating
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Published 1 month ago by Bullwinkle86
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book!
Published 6 months ago by zaldie m. tobias
3.0 out of 5 stars Bought it for school
I couldn't really get into it. I only bought it for school anyway, so it wasn't a major disappointment. It was just ok.
Published 14 months ago by Brenda Stevenson
4.0 out of 5 stars Great edition to a great work
I really enjoy the Penguin books and feel that this is a very complete and solid edition of an important philosophical work.
Published 23 months ago by Flann O'Brien
5.0 out of 5 stars College text
This book is a required read for most philosophy programs across the country for both undergraduate and graduate studies. Read more
Published on February 4, 2012 by mrnolanburris
2.0 out of 5 stars Not unless you need it...
For the most part, this book is unreadable and uninspiring. The abridged editions are not much better. Read more
Published on December 31, 2003 by Sarang Gopalakrishnan
1.0 out of 5 stars Essay Concerning Very Little
I often ponder the meaning of life. I often consider what experiences I might accomplish over the course of my life. Read more
Published on January 1, 2002
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