PHL302 Background

Ports of Call


Locke 1

Locke, Science, Morality and Knowledge


Readings for your journey

  1. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
    Book II Chapters 1-12
    Book II. 22--23
    Book IV Chapters 1-4
  2. Woolhouse The Empiricists, Ch. 6 optional

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

In this section of the course we are going to explore some brief sections from Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In this large work (a runs to a bit over 700 pages) Locke tries to determine the limits of human understanding, so as to make it clear what we can know. The Essay is divided into four books. All of the material we are going to look at comes from Book II. Before turning to this material, however, we should consider a bit about Locke and the world in which he grew up.


John Locke

John Locke (1632-1704) was one of the greatest philosophers in Europe at the end of the seventeenth century. Locke grew up and lived through one of the most extraordinary centuries of English political and intellectual history. It was a century in which conflicts between Crown and Parliament and the overlapping conflicts between Protestants, Anglicans and Catholics swirled into civil war in the 1640s. With the defeat and death of Charles I in the civil war, there began a great experiment in governmental institutions including the abolishment of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the Anglican church, and the establishment of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate in the 1650s. The collapse of the Protectorate after the death of Cromwell was followed by the Restoration of Charles II -- the return of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the Anglican Church. This period lasted from 1660 to 1688. It was marked by continued conflicts between King and Parliament and debates over religious toleration for Protestant dissenters and Catholics. This period ends with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which James II was driven from England and replaced by William of Orange and his wife Mary. This is one of the most important moments in the history of English government, marking as it does the shift of real power from the Crown to the Parliament. The final period during which Locke lived involved the consolidation of power by William and Mary, and the beginning of William's efforts to oppose the domination of Europe by the France of Louis XIV, which later culminated in the military victories of the John Churchill -- the Duke of Marlborough.


  1 of 4   NEXT