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John Locke’s (1632–1704) Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689)

25 September, 2015 - 10:35

As Locke admits, his Essay is something of a mess, from an editorial point of view. What follows are what I take to be some of the most important passages from the book, grouped under topical headings in an attempt to make a coherent and systematic whole. Parts and headings are given in bold and are purely my invention. Section headings are given in italics, and are Locke’s. Otherwise, all material in italics is mine, not Locke’s. ‘…’ indicates an omission.

The Essay is organized into Books, Chapters, and Sections. The start of each section cites book.chapter.section. For example, ‘I.i.5’ means Book I, chapter i, section 5.

(Textual note: the standard edition of the Essay is that of P.H. Nidditch (Oxford, 1975); but Roger Woolhouse’s Penguin edition is superior in some respects.)

<!–The headings are as follows:

  1. The Project
  2. Against Innate Knowledge
  3. Ideas and their Origin
  4. Simple Ideas
  5. Primary and Secondary Qualities
  6. Complex Ideas
  7. Substance/substratum
  8. Natural Kinds
  9. Body
  10. Mind
  11. Personal Identity
  12. The Limits of Knowledge
  13. God–>