Locke essay concerning human understanding online

He produced several drafts of this work in the nearly two decades prior to its publication and he continued producing additions, corrections and other related material after the first edition had appeared in The transcriptions of these manuscripts are currently available in a database on the present website.

The database includes a transcription of the manuscripts with text-critical apparatus, historical and philosophical notes, a precise description of all relevant manuscripts, and a reconstruction of the genesis of the texts. The database reflects the often complicated structure of a single text that is based on more than one manuscript, and one single manuscript containing several texts. The database is accessible in the present online version and provides tools for accessing text-critical information and sophisticated text searching.

With Newton, Locke did so much to sponsor the 18th-century picture of the world as a kind of celestial clock, a vast and mechanical assembly of matter in motion, with man taking his place as an element, like a cog, in a regular and predetermined universe.

He had, of course, been anticipated in this by his predecessor Thomas Hobbes , but he went further. In the Essay he treats man as an appropriate subject for objective investigation.


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It is hardly a surprise, therefore, that Locke should have had an important effect not merely on philosophy and psychology, but also on thought and literature. Bertrand Russell once said, possibly speaking for effect, that Locke had made a bigger difference to the intellectual climate of mankind than anyone since Aristotle. Nonetheless, there is really no writer in this series who more impressively embodies the English spirit than Locke, in the sense that it is he who teaches us to think for ourselves, to weigh evidence empirically, to keep belief within limits, and to put all things to the test of reason and experience.


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