John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher, was opposed to subjecting knowledge to revelation and claimed that faith could not have the power of authority in the face of clear and distinct experimental data. At the same time, Locke wrote:”We can know for certain that God is… He gave us the abilities with which our mind is endowed and thereby left a witness… God has abundantly provided us with the means to discover and cognize Him, as much as is necessary for our life and our happiness.”
Rejecting the view of innate ideas, Locke believed that all our knowledge we draw from experience, sensations. People are not born with ready-made ideas. The head of a newborn is a”clean board”, on which life draws its patterns – knowledge. Locke claimed that if ideas were innate, they would be known equally to the child, as well as to the adult, both to the idiot and to the normal person.”There is nothing in the mind, which was not previously felt,” this is Locke’s basic thesis. Sensations are obtained as a result of the action of external things on our senses. This is the external experience. Internal experience (reflection) is the observation of the mind behind its activities and how it manifests itself. However, Locke still admits that the mind has a kind of irresistible force that does not depend on experience, that reflection, apart from external expertise, generates ideas of existence, time, and number. Denying innate ideas as an inexperienced and untested knowledge, Locke recognized the presence in the mind of individual inclinations or predispositions to one or another activity.
He singled out three kinds of knowledge: the original (sensual, immediate), giving knowledge of individual things; demonstrative knowledge through inference, for example, through the comparison and relation of concepts; the highest kind is intuitive knowledge, that is, an immediate assessment by the mind of the correspondence and inconsistency of ideas to each other.
Locke had a tremendous influence not only on the subsequent development of philosophy but also, having outlined the dialectic of innate and social, primarily determined the further development of pedagogy and psychology.
The philosophical doctrine of Locke embodied the main features of the philosophy of modern times: the opposition to scholasticism, the orientation of knowledge on the connection with practice. The purpose of his philosophy is a man and his practical life, which found expression in the Lockean concepts of education and the social structure of society. The appointment of philosophy he saw in the development of the means to achieve happiness. Locke developed a method of cognition based on sensory perceptions and systematized the empiricism of the New Age.
The main philosophical works of John Locke
- “The experience of human understanding”
- “Two Treatises on the Board”
- “Experiences about the law of nature”
- “Letters of Tolerance”
- “Thoughts on education”
Philosophy of cognition
The main tool of knowledge, Locke believes the mind, which”puts a person above the rest of the sentient beings.” The subject of philosophy the English thinker sees primarily in the study of the laws of human understanding. To determine the possibilities of the human mind, and, accordingly, to identify those areas that act as natural limits of human cognition by its very structure, means to direct human efforts to solve real problems associated with practice.
In his fundamental philosophical work The Experience of Human Understanding, Locke examines the question of how far the cognitive ability of man can extend and what its real boundaries are. He poses the problem of the origin of ideas and concepts, through which a person comes to know things.
The task is to establish the basis for the reliability of knowledge. To this end, Locke analyzes the main sources of human representations, to which sensory perceptions and thinking relate. It is important for him to establish how the rational beginnings of cognition relate to sensory principles.
The only object of human thought is the idea. Unlike Descartes, who was in the position of”innate ideas”, Locke states that without exception, all ideas, concepts and principles (both private and general) that we find in the human mind come from experience, but as one of their most important sources are sensory impressions. This cognitive attitude has been called sensationalism, although we note that concerning Locke’s philosophy, this term can only be applied to certain limits. The fact is that Locke does not attribute direct perception to sensory perception as such; also he is not inclined to deduce all human knowledge only from sensory perceptions: along with external experience, as an equal in knowledge, internal experience is also recognized.
Almost all of Dolokov’s philosophy considered for itself that common ideas and concepts (such as God, man, material body, movement, etc.), as well as general theoretical judgments (eg, the law of causality) and practical principles (eg, the commandment of love of God) are the original combinations of representations that are the direct affiliation of the soul, on the basis that the general can never be the subject of experience. Locke rejects this point of view, regarding general knowledge as not primary, but, on the contrary, a derivative logically deduced from particular statements by reflection.
The fundamental idea of all empirical philosophy that experience is the inseparable limit of any possible cognition is fixed by Locke in the following positions:
- There are no innate ideas, knowledge or principles; the human soul (mind) is”tabula rasa” (“pure board”); only experience using individual perceptions records on it any content
- no human mind can create simple ideas, nor can it destroy existing ideas; they are delivered to our mind by sensory perceptions and meditation
- experience is the source and inseparable limit of true knowledge.”All our knowledge is based on experience, from it, in the end, it happens”
While giving an answer to the question of why there are no innate ideas in the mind, Locke criticizes the concept of”universal consent”, which served as a starting point for the proponents of the opinion”of the presence in the mind of previous knowledge from the moment of its existence.” The main arguments put forward by Locke are as follows:
- in reality, there is no alleged”universal consent” (this can be seen in the case of young children, mentally retarded adults and culturally backward peoples);
- the”universal agreement” of people on certain ideas and principles (if it is still admitted) does not necessarily follow from the”inbornness” factor, it can be explained by showing that there is another, practical way to achieve this.
So, our knowledge can extend as far as our experience allows.
As already mentioned, Locke does not identify experience entirely with sensory perception but treats this concept much broader. By his conception, all that from which the human mind, originally similar to the”unsung sheet of paper”, draws all its content from experience. The experience consists of external and internal:
- we feel material objects, or
- we perceive the activity of our mind, the movement of our thoughts.
From the ability of a person to perceive external objects through senses, sensations occur, the first source of most of our ideas (length, density, movement, color, taste, sound, etc.). The perception of the activities of our mind generates a second source of our ideas – an inner feeling, or a reflection. Reflection Locke calls that observation, to which the mind exerts its activities and the ways of its manifestation, as a result of which ideas arise in the mind of this activity. The inner experience of reason over oneself is possible only if the mind is stimulated from the outside by a series of actions that themselves constitute the first content of their knowledge. Recognizing the fact of the heterogeneity of physical and mental experience, Locke affirms the primary function of the ability of sensations, giving impetus to any reasonable activity.
Thus, all ideas come from sensation or reflection. External things give the mind ideas of sensory qualities, which are all the various perceptions caused in us by things, and the mind provides us with ideas of our activity related to thinking, reasoning, desires, etc.
The ideas themselves as the content of human thinking (“what the soul can do while thinking”) are divided by Locke into two types: simple ideas and complex ideas.
Any simple notion contains in itself only one uniform representation or perception in mind, not disintegrating into various other ideas. Simple ideas are the material of all our knowledge; they are formed through sensations and reflections. From the connection of sensation with reflection, simple ideas of sensory thinking arise, for example, pleasure, pain, strength, etc.
Feelings first give rise to the birth of individual ideas, and, as the mind settles with them, they are placed in memory. Every idea in mind is either a present perception or caused by memory; it can again become it. An idea that has never been perceived by the mind through sensations and reflections can’t be found in it.
Accordingly, complex ideas arise when simple ideas acquire a higher level due to the actions of the human mind. Actions in which the mind manifests its abilities are:
- combining several simple ideas into one complex one;
- bringing together two ideas (simple or complex) and comparing them with each other so that they can be viewed immediately, but not combined into one;
- abstraction, i.e. isolation of ideas from all other ideas that accompany them in real life and receive general ideas.
Lockean theory of abstraction continues the traditions that preceded it in medieval nominalism and English empiricism. Our representations are preserved with the help of memory, but later abstract thinking forms concepts from them that do not have an object directly corresponding to them and represent abstract representations formed with the help of a verbal sign. The general nature of these concepts, ideas or concepts is that they can be applied to the variety of individual things. Such a broad approach will be, for example, the idea of “man”, which applies to a range of single people. Thus, the abstraction, or general concept, is, according to Locke, the sum of common properties inherent in different objects and objects.
Locke draws attention to the fact that in the language, because of its special nature, lies not only the source of concepts and representations but also the source of our delusions. Therefore, Locke considers the main task of the philosophical science of language separation of the logical element of language, speech from the psychological and historical. He recommends first of all to free the content of each concept from the side thoughts attached to it by general and personal circumstances. This, in his opinion, should ultimately lead to the creation of a new philosophical language.
Locke asks himself the question: in what relations are sensory perceptions adequately representing the nature of things? Answering him, he develops a theory of primary and secondary qualities of things.
Fundamental qualities are the properties of things themselves and their spatial and temporal characteristics: density, length, shape, movement, rest, etc. These conditions are objective in the sense that the corresponding ideas of the mind, according to Locke, reflect the reality of objects, existing outside of us.
Secondary qualities, which are combinations of primary attributes, for example, taste, color, smell, etc., are subjective. They do not reflect the objective properties of things themselves; they only arise on their basis.
Locke shows how subjective is inevitably brought into cognition and the human mind itself through sensory perceptions (sensations).
Our knowledge, Locke says, is real only insofar as our ideas are consistent with the reality of things. Receiving simple ideas, the soul is passive. However, having them, she gets the opportunity to perform various actions on them: to combine them with each other, to separate some ideas from the others, to form complex ideas and so on, i.e. all that is the essence of human knowledge. Accordingly, knowledge is understood by Locke as a perception of connection and correspondence or, on the contrary, inconsistency and incompatibility of any of our ideas. Where there is this perception, there is also cognition.
Locke distinguishes various types of knowledge – intuitive, demonstrative and sensual (sensitive). Intuition opens us up to the truth in acts when the mind perceives the relationship of two ideas directly through themselves without the intervention of other ideas. In the case of demonstrative cognition, the mind perceives the correspondence or inconsistency of ideas through other ideas, which are themselves obvious, i.e. intuitive, in reasoning. Demonstrative knowledge depends on evidence. Sensual cognition gives knowledge of the existence of individual things. Since sensory cognition does not extend beyond the existence of things given to our senses at every moment, it is much more limited than the previous ones. For each stage of cognition (intuitive, demonstrative and sensual), there are special degrees and criteria for the evidence and reliability of knowledge. Intuitive knowledge acts as the main type of knowledge.
All his ideas and positions to which reason comes in the process of cognition, he expresses in words and utterances. In Locke we find an idea of truth that can be defined as immanent: for man, the truth consists in the concordance of representations not with things, but with each other. Truth is nothing but the right combination of ideas. In this sense, it is not directly related to any single representation, but only when the person brings the contents of primary representations to certain laws and places them in communication with each other.
Among the basic views of Locke belongs to his conviction that our thinking, even in its most definitive conclusions, does not possess any guarantee for their identity with reality. The absolute completeness of knowledge – this goal, always desired for man, is for him originally unattainable by his nature. Locke’s skepticism is expressed in the following way: we, due to psychological legitimacy, must imagine the world as we do, even if it were completely different. Therefore, it is obvious to him that the truth is difficult to possess, and that an intelligent person will stick to his views while retaining a certain amount of doubt.
Speaking about the limits of human knowledge, Locke identifies the objective and subjective factors that limit his capabilities. Subjective factors include the limitations of our sense organs and, consequently, the incompleteness of our perceptions on this basis, and by its structure (the role of primary and secondary qualities) and to some extent the inaccuracy of our notions. He refers to objective factors the structure of the world, where we find the infinity of macro and micro worlds that are inaccessible to our sensory perceptions. However, despite the imperfection of human cognition due to its very structure, a person is available those knowledge that, with the proper approach to the process of cognition, nevertheless, are constantly being improved and fully justify themselves in practice, giving him undoubted benefits in his life.”We will have no reason to complain about the limitations of the forces of our minds if we use them for what can be of use to us because they are very capable of this… The candle that is lit in us burns bright enough for all our purposes. The discoveries that we can make in her light must satisfy us.”
John Locke’s Social Philosophy
His views on the development of society Locke expounds mainly in the”Two treatises on governance.” The basis of his social concept is the theory of”natural law” and”social contract,” which became the ideological basis of the political doctrine of bourgeois liberalism.
Locke talks about two states that are consistently experienced by societies – natural and political, or, as he calls it, civil.”The natural state has a law of nature, by which it is governed and which is obligatory for everyone; and the mind that is this law teaches all people that, since all people are equal and independent, no one of them should damage the life, health, freedom or property of another.”
In civil society, in which people unite on the basis of an agreement to create”one political body,” to replace natural freedom, when a person is not ruled by any higher authority, but guided only by the law of nature,”freedom of people in conditions of existence system of government ».” It is freedom to follow my desire in all cases when the law does not prohibit it, and not be dependent on the unstable, uncertain, unknown autocratic will of another person.” The life of this society is regulated not by the natural rights of every person (self-preservation, freedom, property) and the desire to defend them personally, but by a permanent law common to everyone in society and established by the legislative power created in it. The state’s goal is to preserve society, ensure the peaceful and safe coexistence of all its members, by universal legislation.
In the state, Locke distinguishes three main branches of power: legislative, executive and federal. Legislative power, whose function is to formulate and approve laws, is the supreme power in society. It is established by the people and is implemented through a higher elected body. The executive power monitors the rigor and continuity of the implementation of laws” that are created and remain in force”. The federal government”includes leadership of external security and the interests of society”. Power is legal to the extent that the people support it, its actions are limited to the common good.
Locke opposes all forms of violence in society and civil wars. His social views are characterized by the ideas of moderation and the rational organization of life. As in the case of the theory of knowledge, in matters of education and functions of the state, he occupies empirical positions, denying any ideas about the innate nature of the ideas of social life and the laws of its regulatory. Forms of social life are determined by the real interests and practical needs of people, they”can be carried out for no other purpose, but only in the interests of peace, security and the public good of the people.”
John Locke’s Ethical Philosophy
The character and inclinations of a person, according to Locke, depend on education. Education creates great differences between people. Insignificant or almost imperceptible impressions, produced per capita in childhood, have significant and lasting consequences.”I think that it’s as easy for a child’s soul to direct along one or another path, like river water…”. Therefore, everything that a person should receive from upbringing and that should affect his life; it is necessary to invest in his soul promptly.
When educating a person, one should first of all pay attention to the inner world of a person, take care of the development of his intellect. From Locke, the basis of the”honest man” and the spiritually developed personality are four qualities that are”introduced” into a person by upbringing and subsequently manifest in him their action with the strength of natural qualities: virtue, wisdom, good manners and knowledge.
The basis of virtue and all dignity, Locke sees in a person’s ability to refuse the satisfaction of his desires, to act contrary to his inclinations and”to follow only what the mind indicates as the best, even if direct desire attracted him to the other side.” This ability must be acquired and improved from an early age.
Wisdom Locke understands “how skillful and prudent conduct of their affairs in this world.” It is the product of a combination of an excellent natural character, an active mind and experience.
Good manners implies strict adherence to the rules of love and kindness towards other people and oneself as a representative of the human race.
Thus, moral qualities and moral are not congenial to man. They are developed by people as a result of communication and life together and are instilled in children in the process of education. Briefly summarizing, one can say that one of the central moments of Locke’s philosophy is the non-acceptance of one-sided rationalism. The basis of reliable knowledge, he seeks not in innate ideas, but in the experimental principles of cognition. In his arguments concerning not only questions of perception, but also questions of human behavior, upbringing and development of culture, Locke becomes in the position of quite a tough empiricism. With this, he enters pedagogy and cultural studies. And although his very sensationalist concept was contradictory in many respects, however, it gave impetus to the further development of philosophical knowledge.