Plato argued that we can only recognize individuals as members of a species because we are aware of the essence of that species—for example, we recognize a particular tree as a tree because we understand what a tree is in its essence. Human beings decide which differences and similarities they will use to separate and classify particular things into categories—they choose how to define categories rather than discovering the essence of a given species.
Idea is the object of thinking. Every man being conscious to himself that he thinks; and that which his mind is applied about whilst thinking being the ideas that are there, it is past doubt that men have in their minds several ideas,— such as are those expressed by the words whiteness, hardness, sweetness, thinking, motion, man, elephant, army, drunkenness, and others: I know it is a received doctrine, that men have native ideas, and original characters, stamped upon their minds in their very first being.
All ideas come from sensation or reflection. Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas: Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety?
Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? In that all our knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives itself.
Our observation employed either, about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring.
The objects of sensation one source of ideas.
First, our Senses, conversant about particular sensible objects, do convey into the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do affect them.
And thus we come by those ideas we have of yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, sweet, and all those which we call sensible qualities; which when I say the senses convey into the mind, I mean, they from external objects convey into the mind what produces there those perceptions.
The operations of our minds, the other source of them. Secondly, the other fountain from which experience furnisheth the understanding with ideas is,— the perception of the operations of our own mind within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got;— which operations, when the soul comes to reflect on and consider, do furnish the understanding with another set of ideas, which could not be had from things without.
And such are perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the different actings of our own minds;— which we being conscious of, and observing in ourselves, do from these receive into our understandings as distinct ideas as we do from bodies affecting our senses.
This source of ideas every man has wholly in himself; and though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with external objects, yet it is very like it, and might properly enough be called internal sense. By reflection then, in the following part of this discourse, I would be understood to mean, that notice which the mind takes of its own operations, and the manner of them, by reason whereof there come to be ideas of these operations in the understanding.
These two, I say, viz. The term operations here I use in a large sense, as comprehending not barely the actions of the mind about its ideas, but some sort of passions arising sometimes from them, such as is the satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any thought. All our ideas are of the one or the other of these.
The understanding seems to me not to have the least glimmering of any ideas which it doth not receive from one of these two. External objects furnish the mind with the ideas of sensible qualities, which are all those different perceptions they produce in us; and the mind furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own operations.
These, when we have taken a full survey of them, and their several modes, combinations, and relations, we shall find to contain all our whole stock of ideas; and that we have nothing in our minds which did not come in one of these two ways. Let any one examine his own thoughts, and thoroughly search into his understanding; and then let him tell me, whether all the original ideas he has there, are any other than of the objects of his senses, or of the operations of his mind, considered as objects of his reflection.
And how great a mass of knowledge soever he imagines to be lodged there, he will, upon taking a strict view, see that he has not any idea in his mind but what one of these two have imprinted;— though perhaps, with infinite variety compounded and enlarged by the understanding, as we shall see hereafter.
He that attentively considers the state of a child, at his first coming into the world, will have little reason to think him stored with plenty of ideas, that are to be the matter of his future knowledge.
It is by degrees he comes to be furnished with them. And though the ideas of obvious and familiar qualities imprint themselves before the memory begins to keep a register of time or order, yet it is often so late before some unusual qualities come in the way, that there are few men that cannot recollect the beginning of their acquaintance with them.
And if it were worth while, no doubt a child might be so ordered as to have but a very few, even of the ordinary ideas, till he were grown up to a man. But all that are born into the world, being surrounded with bodies that perpetually and diversely affect them, variety of ideas, whether care be taken of it or not, are imprinted on the minds of children.
Light and colours are busy at hand everywhere, when the eye is but open; sounds and some tangible qualities fail not to solicit their proper senses, and force an entrance to the mind;— but yet, I think, it will be granted easily, that if a child were kept in a place where he never saw any other but black and white till he were a man, he would have no more ideas of scarlet or green, than he that from his childhood never tasted an oyster, or a pine-apple, has of those particular relishes.
Men are differently furnished with these, according to the different objects they converse with. Men then come to be furnished with fewer or more simple ideas from without, according as the objects they converse with afford greater or less variety; and from the operations of their minds within, according as they more or less reflect on them.
For, though he that contemplates the operations of his mind, cannot but have plain and clear ideas of them; yet, unless he turn his thoughts that way, and considers them attentively, he will no more have clear and distinct ideas of all the operations of his mind, and all that may be observed therein, than he will have all the particular ideas of any landscape, or of the parts and motions of a clock, who will not turn his eyes to it, and with attention heed all the parts of it.A summary of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 's John Locke (–).
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Of Ideas Of Ideas in general, and their Original 1. Idea is the object of thinking. Every man being conscious to himself that he thinks; and that which his mind is applied about whilst thinking.
Essay I John Locke i: Introduction Chapter i: Introduction 1. Since it is the understanding that sets man above all other animals and enables him to use and dominate them, it is cer-.
John Locke, a philosopher of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, greatly influenced the American revolution and the French revolution. His beliefs were the social contract, natural rights, and the right of . Of Ideas / Of Ideas in general, and their Original / 1. Idea is the object of thinking.
Every man being conscious to himself that he thinks; and that which his mind is applied. John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 2 (An Essay concerning Human Understanding Part 2 and Other Writings) .