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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Great Books in Philosophy)

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ISBN-13: 978-0879759179
ISBN-10: 0879759178
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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Great Books in Philosophy) + An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: with Hume's Abstract of A Treatise of Human Nature and A Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh (Hackett Classics) + Meditations on First Philosophy (Hackett Classics)
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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

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Great Books in Philosophy
  • Paperback: 644 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (December 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879759178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879759179
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #841,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on August 2, 1999
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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57 of 67 people found the following review helpful By mp on January 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "frconor" on April 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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 8 people found the following review helpful By Gary R. Childress on 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 By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on January 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
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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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Great Books in Philosophy)
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