Oh my head! Blast you, John Locke

A genius reasoning

For the Bible tells me so

Nothing can frustrate one more then a babbling brook of bullshit. Fortunately, in Locke’s infamous essay entitled, “The Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” the text if chock full of this “enlightened” maunder.

In the premier chapter of Book II, Locke presents his ideology that our knowledge derives from our empirical senses and not from any a priori understanding. The infamous “tabula rasa” expression derives from this.

Fair game.

For the NEXT 20 CHAPTERS, Locke’s argument becomes a elongated argument endeavoring to “prove” something. What is really sounds like is that Locke enjoys hearing himself talk. Alot.

Finally in the 21st chapter, readers finally get to the meat ‘n potatoes again. (It took a great deal of reading and re-reading to get past all of it). Finally, in the 21st chapter, readers see how individuals have the liberty to do with their lives as they please. We have free will to do right or wrong.

Written at a time when the Calvinist faith was dominating society, Locke’s work was mind blowing.  We were to learn for ourselves and by example–perceptions and reflections. There was no such thing as original sin. We did not inherit the problems of prior generations. If we sinned, we deserve the punishment for OUR actions.

The core essentials are genius. However, his reasoning to back this up was more long winded and only weakened his rationale.

Firstly, the essay is obviously an attack on religion. Constructed as a more scientific approach to where our ideas come from and why, Locke certainly has a way of using religion to back it up? (Huh?). As mentioned in lecture, the Great Awakenment used the Enlightenment as much as the Enlightenment used the church. In order to convince people to believe something novel, why not use what they already know, right? Locke is always saying that they need “proof, proof, proof, proof, proof.” But, they point back to God? Which is like that one thing you can’t prove?

But, Locke doesn’t even argue that strongly to convince. For two-fold. One, he uses the most outlandish examples then he can’t back it up with what he has already said! “He, I say, who considers this, will, perhaps, find reason to imagine, that a fetus in the mother’s womb, differs not much from the state of a vegetable; but passes the greatest part of its time without perception of thought, doing very little, but sleep in a place.” According to Locke’s rationale, if they have no perception, they have no soul? “To ask, at what time a man has first any ideas…I know it is an opinion , that the soul always thinks…and that actual thinking is as inseparable from the soul, as actual extension is from the body; which if true, to inquire after the beginning of a man’s ideas, is the same, as to inquire after the beginning of his soul.” Fail. And secondly, Locke is circular in his argument. For the love of Pete, I can’t find the passage. But, somewhere it states that Locke obviously believes there is no innate knowledge. Then, briefly he states that there is. And then, takes it back again. Why?

“Hunger calls for the teat.” Surely, coming from a scientific point of view, Locke should have been able to recognize a basic “instinct.” Without having to be told, or learn, naturally, we will go for the teat. When babies are born, they instantly start routing around for the mother’s nipple. It’s like we know somehow. Here is a link to what scientists believe are the natural instincts humans still display.


Last an not least, Rene Descartes would have a field day on Locke. Don’t you not know your not supposed to trust your senses on things? Locke sees the senses as being all powerful and the way to knowledge. But, once your senses fail. They should never be the source of ultimate faith right? Why trust in something that fails from time to time?

Maybe Descartes if just a tad bit paranoid and thinks too much. Or maybe, Locke doesn’t look into it enough.

As a stepping stone of moving away from the church and making observations of human’s thinking “without religion,” Locke’s essay is a gem. But as obviously pointed out, there are many holes to his debate. Maybe, he should keep it to the point next time. Save himself the college stunad’s critical analysis.

Thanks for reading! Hope I reinforced that I think this article was a royal pain in the ass!


~ by kellysawesomethoughts on February 1, 2011.

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