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John Locke Paper Essay

Throughout the 17th century, John Locke presented society with his teachings and theories that clarified the order of natural law and fulfilled humanity’s divine purpose for living. It all began in 1647, as a young boy when he attended the prestigious Westminster School in London under the sponsorship of Alexander Popham. During his years at the Westminster School, he found the work of modern philosophers more interesting than the material being taught at the university.

Much of Locke’s influence and later work was characterized by opposition to authoritarianism, which focused on both the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church. Locke wanted each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. He wanted us to proportion go along with the proposition to the evidence for them. Locke came to the conclusion that there must be a balance and mutual understanding between individuality and social institutions where society will not feel suppressed under man made law and restrictions.

John Locke believed that all knowledge comes from experience. Experience is composed of two parts: external and internal. External experiences are ideas of supposed external objects. These objects enter our minds through sensation. Examples of sensations would be hot, cold, red, yellow, hard, soft, sweet and bitter. Internal experiences are reflections that make us understand the operation on the objects of sensation. Examples of reflections are thinking, willing, believing, doubting, affirming, denying, and comparing.

Once again Locke goes back to his foundation of principles by reaffirming that in order to achieve success and sensation there must be a working relationship between individual goals and the law of society. Sensation and reflection are called the two fountains of knowledge. All of our ideas we can naturally have or have so already come from these two experiences. Sensible qualities convey into the mind, and they produce most of the perceptions and most of the great sources of ideas we have.

Sensation and reflection differ from each other because sensation is what happens outside the body, and reflection has to do what happens inside the body with our mind. Also reflection has to do with the ideas it affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operations within itself, the mind takes over its own operations and the manner of them. Besides having sensible qualities one also contains primary and secondary qualities. Locke explains that these qualities are two kinds of properties that an object could have.

Primary qualities contain solidity, figure, extension, motion and number. They are properties that are objective and independent on senses. On the other hand, secondary qualities consist of color, smell, taste, sound and touch. They are properties that are subjectively perceived. In Locke’s, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, he states, “sensible qualities; which, whatever reality we by mistake attribute to them, are in truth nothing in the objects themselves, but powers to produce various sensations in us…” (John Locke, 77).

In other words, secondary qualities are dependent on the primary qualities. According to Locke, ideas are anything that is “the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding” (William Lawhead, 91). Locke states that sensation and reflection are classified as simple and complex ideas. Simple ideas are red, yellow, hard, soft, etc and for example, you touch an ice cube, your mind is telling you its cold and it’s hard, you learn that from experience. Locke believed that the mind cannot know an inexperienced idea or create a new simple idea.

Although the mind cannot create simple ideas, it can process them into complex ideas. Complex ideas are made up of several simple ideas, such as beauty, gratitude, a man, an army, the universe. Complex ideas are also broken down into three parts: ideas of substance which is a constant collection of simple ideas, ideas of mode which is a combination of several ideas, which form a mode, like a triangle, last but not least ideas of relationship, which is a comparison of one idea to another.

From experience it goes to sensation and reflection, and those are based on simple ideas and that’s all contained in the passive mind, after simple ideas it goes to complex ideas and that’s located in the active mind. Overall in Locke’s theory he uses epistemological dualism, which is the mind that consists of knowing and its ideas. He also states the object in the external world is known by ideas, and our ideas represent those objects. After researching about Locke’s theory of knowledge I would have to agree with what he has stated.

Locke states that you go through an internal and external experience and I feel that today’s youth do go through the motions of the internal and external experiences. As a result the youth are able to gain the knowledge from those experiences by allowing the mind to willingly accept these new ideas. For example, when I was younger I put my hand near a hot stove and from the heat irritating and pressuring my hand my mind told me it was a negative stimuli and it was essential to remove my hand from the stove and to keep that memory as a basic instinct.

Society goes through experiences throughout life of internal and external and eventually gains knowledge through these experiences. John Locke also stated that the mind does all the knowing and its ideas are known. I agree with what he is saying because your mind is always working, it’s always active, we receive ideas internally through our mind and we receive ideas from the outside that goes into our mind. The balance is necessary between internal and external factors to keep society and individuals stable and yet progressive to adapt to new changes that rise up.


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