Free «Locke and Human Understanding» Essay Sample

Locke believes that all ideas come from sensation or reflection. Our empiric experience is the only source of our ideas according to him. Thus it is impossible for the soul to have “native ideas”. By “native ideas” Locke means those ones, which existed in our mind before we became able to perceive or to sense. The observatory of young children inclines us not to believe in the existence of ‘native ideas’. As Lock states, the fact that children are not able to analyze things proves the fact that they don’t have “native ideas” because they simply don’t have the basis for these ideas to be formed on. What new born has – is a clean sheet of paper, on which his observations are to be written on.

To my mind Kasper’s example, from one point of view, supports Locke’s ideas, and from the other - Plato’s ideas. Just as Locke considered, Kasper was lost in the world because he had no knowledge of it, he was pure and clean, perceiving thing in a completely different way, then we do. So we can say that very little was written on his paper of mind. However, according to the story of Kasper Hauser, he proved to learn rather quickly and he was eager to know more. This fact obviously supports Plato’s view. Kasper having never seen the surrounding world actually managed to live in it and to learn from it. In other words, the right teaching and experience seem to have drowned out the ‘native ideas’ out of Kasper in a comparatively short time. If there were no such ‘native ideas’, or just some sort of basic deep buried knowledge, he would never adjusted to the surrounding world and he would never be able to survive in it, and to perceive it.

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I believe that rich experience enables people to be creative. However, the way we perceive things also influences. I believe who has experienced the same situation, may make different conclusions our of it. Our experience gives out imagination a lot of material to work with, but it depends on person, how will she use the material. I don’t think that people lack clear ideas because of the lack of the experience, but because of the lack of reflections – ways of ho to use ‘the material’.

Sensation and reflection are the two sources from which our mind gets the ideas. Sensation means the senses which convey into the mind and furnish it. By senses Locke means sense of taste, color, smell etc. Reflection means perception of different operations within our mind. By the operations Locke means analysis, comparison, believing, reasoning, knowing and so on. Locke emphasizes that reflection is impossible without attention. This is why it is harder for children to make different reflection. Children have weak attention and it is hard for them to keep their attention and concentration on one action or operation for a long time. With the help of reflection, according to Locke we are able to reflect on the surrounding world. To my mind the phrase, where Locke the most refers to Descartes is the following: “ The ideas reflection affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operations within itself”. Locke as Descartes realizes that reflection can’t give us objective perception of the world, because we perceive everything through the prism of our reflection.

I agree with this statement. Nothing in this world remains constant even for a single moment. Everything is moving and changing. So does human and his thoughts. I would say that as well as sleeping Socrates is not the same person as awake Socrates, eating Socrates is not the same as talking Socrates. To my mind Locke bringing such a metaphor tried to emphasize that when the state of our consciousness changes, our soul changes. However, even in sleep soul still is able to perceive but, of course, in a completely different way. Thus since the way of perception changes, different ideas come to head, consequently a person becomes different. It is natural that we can’t talk about clear ideas during the sleep, but doesn’t it often happen, that after waking up new ideas are born within our mind.

The understanding is passive when we perceive simple ideas. By plain ideas Locke means those once, which require plain, simple, distinct perception. The understanding is active when it repeats, compares, and unites simple ideas in new, more complicated once. Consequently if understanding ‘acts’, it gets some new sort of information out of the once, which mind already had. The source of all our ideas is the impressions, which we get from the outward world. Discovery of something starts from getting impressions through senses or through reflections.

While asleep according to Locke thought is able to have ideas, which are not derived from sensation or reflection. Because when we are in different state of mind we perceive differently. However, it is freely possible to convert the unique thoughts, got while asleep into the thoughts and ideas of usual state of mind. Actually, as Locke stresses, a person can hardly even remember such kinds of thoughts. Lock thinks that in womb our mind in terms of reflection perceives nothing, because it is unable to perceive yet. For it doesn’t have the base on which to perceive, the basic knowledge, which would aloud him to perceive things is this or another way.

According to Locke memory begins to register time order, when human starts to perceive outward reality. Thus Locke thinks that memory can not retain something what has never been perceived before, like during the sleep.

Locke seems to doubt the fact that during sleep soul might be separated from the body to think apart. He thinks that it is incorrect to say, that a person is apart from its soul, because the person is the soul. Thus, according to Locke, during sleep we might not be able to clearly perceive what our soul thinks, but it doesn’t mean that at the moment the soul is traveling somewhere, for example visiting some other bodies. This idea seems to be quite irrational. However, it is clear, that Locke tends to identify a person with its soul rather than with its body.


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