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Locke, John

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Title page for the fourth edition of John Lock...

Title page for the fourth edition of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding via Wikipedia

John Locke (1632-1704) was a British philosopher who had a profound influence on the school of empiricism.

Locke believed the human infant enters the world with a tabula rasa (i.e. a blank slate). Accordingly, we inherit nothing more than physical characteristics and a basic sense of goodness. This makes the mind free and equal among different individuals.

Although this may seem somewhat speculative today, Locke, himself, argued against abstract speculation in favor of recognizing the limits of knowledge through direct experience.

For Locke, we can only know about an object’s “primary qualities” of size, shape and motion. These qualities exist independently of perception. We can never know anything about an object’s “secondary qualities” of color, taste, smell, warmth, texture and sound because these are products of the object’s interaction with our senses–i.e. qualities that don’t inhere to the object itself.

Locke’s pragmatism didn’t close him off to the possibility of God’s existence. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) he argued for the “reasonableness” of the idea of God.

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