Essay On Human Understanding

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As with knowledge itself, Locke argues that people are generally too optimistic about what human reason can achieve.Locke next discusses the relationship between language and experience. Carefulness with language is essential, Locke maintains, because an idea can be inaccurately communicated to others even if it is clear to the individual.The opposite sometimes happens as well, especially in religious and philosophical debates: people use a word without having a clear and distinct idea of what it means.Ideas, Locke says, are the "objects of thinking," and they arise in the mind through just two means: Sensation is the sensory experience of the external world, which gives rise to ideas like "hot," "cold," "bitter," and "sweet." Reflection is the mind's awareness of its own operation and gives rise to more abstract ideas.Locke further classes ideas into ideas, which are built up by the mind from simple components.The term "probability," in contrast, refers to things established as merely to be true, even if the likelihood is very high.For example, Locke regards it as probable, but not totally certain, that Julius Caesar won the Roman Civil War.This goes even for the most fundamental principles of reasoning, including principles (i.e., assertions about how to behave).Locke now presents his own theories regarding ideas: what they are, how they are acquired, and how they relate to reality.To illustrate his arguments Locke explores basic philosophical ideas relating to time, space, and number.Even these complex concepts, he says, ultimately come from a combination of sensation and reflection and are built up from specific simple ideas.


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