Philosophy: John Locke Essay Concerning Human Understanding

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Locke is a famous philosopher and a political theorist who founded the British Empiricism and made some fundamental contributions to theories of liberal government. Locke theory of politics was founded on the theory of social contract, and he believed that the nature of human beings allowed men and women to be selfish. In his first book, Locke tries to explain the fact that ideas originate from experience. He argues that there is no idea that arises from experience and that no ideas are innate. He further argues that for ideas to be innate it has to be shared and present in either children or idiots. Since there is no such knowledge, there is, therefore, no reason to believe that innate ideas exist.

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Locke has written several books and in his first book tries to discover where ideas emanate, to explain what it means for a person to have these ideas and also to explain what an idea is as well as to examine faith issues and opinions so as to ascertain how human beings can continue with limited knowledge. Locke opposes the idea that all human beings are born with the knowledge of certain principles. Plato and Descartes among other philosophers believe that there are innate ideas that all people assent (Ben-Yami, 102). According to Locke, such ideas do not exist and that there are no principles that are accepted by almost all human beings. Moreover, if there exist any universal principle, then it might have originated in any other way other than through the innate knowledge.

In another explanation, Locke asserts that human beings do not have ideas in their brains which they are not aware of, so, in this case, human beings cannot possess the basic knowledge not until it is taught to them or they think it through by themselves. Another argument brought forward is that human beings are different and so are their moral philosophies, therefore, moral knowledge cannot be innate. Finally, the theory of innate ideas is confronted by Locke by arguing that those ideas that are presented as innate are complex as well as confusing in that it requires more research to be able to get their meaning. In the case where God is considered innate, Locke believes that God is not universally accepted, and, therefore, his existence cannot be termed as innate knowledge.

To examine Lockes arguments, it is good to consider the notion that it is not possible for a thing to exist and not exist at the same time. If a thing like that were true, then every human being in all periods of history would know as well as understand the idea but it is not always the case. If at all these ideas were implanted in all human beings then it would be expected that children, as well as idiots, would be able to formulate them. In the world today, the existence of the extreme being has others question how the earth was created. There are those who believe that a Supreme Being called God created it while others choose to believe in science. There are believers in the creation theory while there are pagans at the same time. If at all the ideas of creation were implanted in us or that they were in us during birth, then the world would not be split, and pagans would not be there.

According to Locke, there is no sense in imagining that knowledge is innate. In his words Locke says: It seems a near contradiction to say that there are truths imprinted on the soul, which it perceives or understands not; imprinting if it signifies anything, being nothing else but the making certain truths to be perceived. Locke suggests that innate knowledge can only be perceived under certain conditions (Locke, 56). This argument, however, makes it hard and unclear to understand the meaning of innate ideas. The question is if human beings were not able to perceive these ideas or if they were not aware of them could the ideas be described as innate. Accepting the views of Locke would make it impossible for human beings to differentiate between innate and new ideas that are discovered.

Locke also at some point claims that innate ideas are discovered when human beings begin to reason. According to his believes it makes no sense in describing truths that are discovered through reason as innate knowledge. Locke also constructs an argument to back up his claims by investigating and disproving the available interpretations of his claims. His claims are that there are no innate principles or ideas, and those human beings are not born with the ideas of God, impossibility or even identity. If it were possible for the minds of human beings to know the areas that are not known then, there would be no need for human beings to waste their resources on the questions that do not have answers. It would, therefore, be important to find the areas that human beings can be certain of their knowledge and those that they cannot obtain information or knowledge. Over time since Locke wrote the essay, there have been various modifications on the issues involved in the explanations of innate ideas.

It is important to consider the freedom of individuals to reason and act for themselves. This freedom requires a sense of responsibility so that they can exercise the freedom of reason in a better way. According to Locke, the only thing that could help human beings in understanding their reason would be to enable the human mind to arrive at the truth. Likewise, the mind has its limitations and, therefore, human beings are required to be tolerant of individuals that hold opinions that are conflicting and those that are different from their beliefs. Tolerance, in this case, would be a safeguard from persecution and all the evils that are associated with tolerance.

To conclude, the ideas of the subconscious mind once admitted, the explanations of Locke lose force. This is because the idea may be located in the part of the human mind and end up not being brought out into consciousness until an experience has taken place. It is, therefore, important to remember that the major objective of Lockes essay was to disprove those scholars that maintained that the understanding of certain ideas was certain and true. It was also his work to show that no human being had the right to question the understanding and beliefs of other scholars. In this sense, Lockes work and arguments were undeniably adequate.

Works cited

Ben-Yami, Hanoch. Descartes' Philosophical Revolution: A Reassessment. , 2015. Print.

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. New York: Dover Publications, 1959. Print.

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