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If we will attentively consider new born children, we shall have little reason to think that they bring many ideas into the world with them and that "by degrees afterward, ideas come into their minds. Locke allowed that some ideas are in the mind from an early age, but argued that such ideas are furnished by the senses starting in the womb: If we have a universal understanding of a concept like sweetness, it is not because this is an innate idea, but because we are all exposed to sweet tastes at an early age.
He took the time to argue against a number of propositions that rationalists offer as universally accepted truth, for instance the principle of identitypointing out that at the very least children and idiots are often unaware of these propositions.
Furthermore, Book II is also a systematic argument for the existence of an intelligent being: Locke connects words to the ideas they signify, claiming that man is unique in being able to frame sounds into distinct words and to signify ideas by those words, and then that these words are built into language.
Chapter ten in this book focuses on "Abuse of Words. He also criticizes the use of words which are not linked to clear ideas, and to those who change the criteria or meaning underlying a term. Thus he uses a discussion of language to demonstrate sloppy thinking. Locke followed the Port-Royal Logique  in numbering among the abuses of language those that he calls "affected obscurity" in chapter Locke complains that such obscurity is caused by, for example, philosophers who, to confuse their readers, invoke old terms and give them unexpected meanings or who construct new terms without clearly defining their intent.
Writers may also invent such obfuscation to make themselves appear more educated or their ideas more complicated and nuanced or erudite than they actually are. Book IV[ edit ] This book focuses on knowledge in general — that it can be thought of as the sum of ideas and perceptions.
Locke discusses the limit of human knowledge, and whether knowledge can be said to be accurate or truthful.
Thus there is a distinction between what an individual might claim to "know", as part of a system of knowledge, and whether or not that claimed knowledge is actual. Locke writes at the beginning of the fourth chapter, Of the Reality of Knowledge: Knowledge, say you, is only the Perception of the Agreement or Disagreement of our own Ideas: But of what use is all this fine Knowledge of Man's own Imaginations, to a Man that enquires after the reality of things?
It matters now that Mens Fancies are, 'tis the Knowledge of Things that is only to be priz'd; 'tis this alone gives a Value to our Reasonings, and Preference to one Man's Knowledge over another's, that is of Things as they really are, and of Dreams and Fancies.
Reaction, response, and influence[ edit ] Many of Locke's views were sharply criticized by rationalists and empiricists alike. In the rationalist Gottfried Leibniz wrote a response to Locke's work in the form of a chapter-by-chapter rebuttal, the Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain "New Essays on Human Understanding".
Leibniz was critical of a number of Locke's views in the Essay, including his rejection of innate ideas, his skepticism about species classification, and the possibility that matter might think, among other things. Leibniz thought that Locke's commitment to ideas of reflection in the Essay ultimately made him incapable of escaping the nativist position or being consistent in his empiricist doctrines of the mind's passivity.
The empiricist George Berkeley was equally critical of Locke's views in the Essay. Berkeley held that Locke's conception of abstract ideas was incoherent and led to severe contradictions.
He also argued that Locke's conception of material substance was unintelligible, a view which he also later advanced in the Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. At the same time, Locke's work provided crucial groundwork for future empiricists such as David Hume.
John Wynne published An Abridgment of Mr. Locke's Essay concerning the Human Understanding, with Locke's approval, in Editions[ edit ] Locke, John.
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