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How were Locke's ideas about substance related to his theory of knowledge?
Locke confined knowledge to sensory information and the workings of the mind, and he had a moderate skepticism about claims beyond those two sources of information. Locke introduced his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) as the result of conversations among friends which led to the question of what it was possible for them to know, given the limitations of human faculties: "It was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were or were not fitted to deal with." Locke's method was not to rely on tradition or what other philosophers had claimed, but to look to "the things themselves."
Knowledge, according to Locke, was direct awareness of some fact. The only facts we can know are those that consist of relationships among our ideas. A fact is something true about the world. Locke did not think that we had direct experience of the world. Things in the world acted on our sense organs to produce ideas. Therefore, the truths we know (facts) are about the relationships between ideas. Ideas are mental objects for Locke, some of which are representations of things in the world. In Book I of the Essay, Locke attacks the rationalist doctrine of innate ideas and innate knowledge. His argument is that we have innate capacities, but nothing like knowledge until there is experience—this is Locke's famous description of the mind as a tabula rasa, or blank slate.
In Book II, he explains our different types of ideas by tracing them to sensation and reflection on sensation. Reflection consists of combination, division, generalization, and abstraction. For Locke, our ideas are like impressions from experience. When we consider our ideas in our minds, we can combine different ideas, divide an idea into more ideas, generalize about what ideas in a group share, or abstract some property shared by a group of ideas. In Book III, Locke explains how words can mislead us about facts or "the things themselves." Book IV is a discussion of how we are obligated to conduct our minds in forming beliefs, so as not to stray too far from what we know.
What was original about Locke's thoughts concerning education?
Locke originally wrote down his ideas in answer to his relative Edward Clarke, who asked how he should raise his son to grow up to be a gentleman. There was broad
Why do Locke's biographers consider his last years happy ones?
After a life of moving from one place to another, when Locke's health began to fail in the early 1690s, he moved into the home of Damaris Cudworth, who had become Lady Masham. Biographers think it probable that he had been close to proposing to her decades earlier. When Locke joined the Masham household, he was on friendly terms with Sir Francis Masham, Damaris' husband, and he insisted on paying one pound weekly rent, although he would have been welcome as a guest. He brought with him his personal library of 5,000 books and his personal effects, all of which were inventoried on a list that Lady Masham signed (a regular practice for Locke, whenever he moved). The country air at Oats, in Essex, was better for his lungs than London had been and he was able to continue his writing, receive visitors, and keep up his correspondence until he died.
This arrangement, however, was not without its detractors. John Edwards, who believed that Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity was a subversive and even atheistic work, referred to Locke as "the governor of the seraglio [brothel] at Oates."
interest in this subject among a new group of property owners who had representation in their government and were neither poor nor idly rich. Locke's letters to Clarke were first published anonymously in 1693, and then became Some Thoughts Concerning Education, which went through 24 editions by 1800, five of which Locke supervised before he died.
Locke advised that the temperament of the child should be observed so that "having once established your authority and the ascendant over him, the next thing must be to bend the crooks the other way if he have any in him." But he counseled a light touch concerning physical discipline, which was an innovation, and he suggested that shame was a better tool than corporeal punishment.
Locke's system for bringing up male children to become men of property and affairs involved an austere diet, trained bowels, hard beds, early rising, and plenty of exercise outdoors with bare heads and wet feet in all kinds of weather. The fondness of mothers and superstitions of servants were to be minimized. Locke assumed that self-discipline in childhood would result in strong adults. Locke thought children should be educated at home, by sober tutors, with an emphasis on learning languages. He had no use for poetry or abstract, speculative learning, but advised that astronomy, geography, anatomy, history, and geometry be part of the home curriculum. He also advised that a gentleman's son acquire skill in at least one manual trade, such as painting, woodworking, gardening, or metalworking.
Why were Locke's views on religion influential?
Locke held a common sense view of religion and advised toleration of competing sects within Protestantism. His toleration did not extend to Catholicism, however, although that did not diminish its force within the Protestant community. In The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) he allowed for the validity of revelation, but only insofar as it did not violate previously accepted facts or beliefs. He suggested that the Church of England could be reformed to attract dissenters by diminishing the power of its bishops, eliminating all mysteries, rituals, and superstitions in belief, and reducing its creed to simply an acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
In his Letter on Toleration (1689) Locke argued against religious persecution of all kinds or any laws that interfered with those religious practices that would be lawful if they were not specifically religious. Part of his argument was the pragmatic one that suppression of religious beliefs unnecessarily breeds rebellion. His overall endorsement of toleration, particularly on the part of government, was to have a later influence on the separation between church and state in the U.S. Constitution.
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