Essay concerning human understanding book 2 chapter 1

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a work by John Locke concerning the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. It first appeared in although dated with the printed title An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate tabula rasa , although he did not use those actual words filled later through experience. The essay was one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern philosophy, and influenced many enlightenment philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley. Book I of the Essay is Locke's attempt to refute the rationalist notion of innate ideas. Book II sets out Locke's theory of ideas, including his distinction between passively acquired simple ideas —such as "red," "sweet," "round"—and actively built complex ideas , such as numbers, causes and effects, abstract ideas, ideas of substances, identity, and diversity.
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The Works, vol. 1 An Essay concerning Human Understanding Part 1

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Locke: Human Understanding Summary

Having developed in Book I his argument concerning the nonexistence of innate ideas, Locke undertakes in Book II to describe in detail the process by means of which ideas come to be present in human minds. His fundamental thesis is that experience alone is adequate to account for all the ideas included in anyone's store of knowledge. In beginning this discussion, he calls attention to the fact that neither the belief in an immortal soul nor the phenomenon of sleep can furnish any evidence for the existence of ideas prior to one's experience. Although the claim has been made by some thinkers that ideas were present in the soul before it was united with the body, he shows that this cannot be the case.
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Locke: Human Understanding Summary

Idea is the object of thinking. Every man being conscious to himself that he thinks ; and that which his mind is applied about whilst thinking being the ideas that are there, it is past doubt that men have in their minds several ideas, — such as are those expressed by the words whiteness, hardness, sweetness, thinking, motion, man, elephant, army, drunkenness, and others : it is in the first place then to be inquired, How he comes by them? I know it is a received doctrine, that men have native ideas, and original characters, stamped upon their minds in their very first being.
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He that hath names without ideas, wants meaning in his words, and speaks only empty sounds. He that hath complex ideas without names for them, wants liberty and dispatch in his expressions, and is necessitated to use periphrases. He that uses his words loosely and unsteadily will either be not minded or not understood.
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