The practical conduct of human life doesn’t depend upon achieving speculative certainty about the inner workings of the natural world or acquiring detailed information about our own natures.It will be enough if we can secure “the Conveniences of Life” and recognize what we ought to do.Our intellectual energy would be most efficiently employed were we to avoid intractable disputes over matters beyond our ken and rely instead upon our “Satisfaction in a quiet and secure Possession of Truths, that most concern’d us.” [Essay I i 7] In ordinary life, we know what we need to know, and expecting more than that would only lead us to despair.Tags: How To Write A Good Introduction To An EssaySovereign Lady Essays On Women In Middle English LiteratureBusiness Disaster Recovery PlanCrucible Essays ThemesEssay On Trifles By Susan GlaspellArgumentative Essay On Religion In SchoolThe Complete Writing A Great Research Paper SeriesLayout For Business PlanExample Of Comparison Essay
Publisher Of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
by John Locke Locke prefaced his masterwork with a rhetorically understated “Epistle to the Reader.” His awareness of the need for a systematic investigation of the human understanding first arose in the context of a friendly but unproductive discussion of other issues.The simple truth is that we can’t be certain about everything, and it would be counter-productive to try to expand our knowledge beyond its natural limits.Since we are not capable of knowing everything, contentment with our condition requires a willingness not to reach beyond the limitations of our cognitive capacities.(According to another of the participants in that meeting, they included “the Principles of morality, and reveald Religion.”) Although he drafted a preliminary account that dealt with many of the central themes of the Essay as early as 1671, Locke expanded his comments repeatedly before publishing the book nearly twenty years later and continued to supplement them with additional material he prepared for four further editions.Claiming only to be an “Under-Labourer” whose task is to prepare the way for the “Master-Builders” of science, he encouraged ordinary readers to rely upon their own capacity for judgment rather than to accept the dictates of intellectual fashion.[Essay IV xvi 3-4] The great theme of the Essay, then, is that we ought not to expect to achieve knowledge beyond the relatively narrow confines of what is necessary or, at least, useful for the practical conduct of human life.Although speculative knowledge of the essences of God, human beings, and material things exceeds the capacity of our cognitive faculties, according to Locke, we have no grounds for complaint.Observation of the causal regularities in nature enables us to secure our survival and comfort, “ease, safety, and delight,” during this life.What is more, evaluation of our moral conduct in the light of our accountability to God for the actions we perform provides amply for our hope of a better existence beyond this life.After a mere mention of the polemic against innate ideas, Locke explained his own belief that all human thought originates in the simple ideas of sensation and reflection.He devoted particular attention to the primary/secondary quality distinction and to the acquisition of simple ideas of space, time, number, pleasure, and pain.