An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding


Category: Philosophy

By John Locke

Published in 1690

Reference #0199

First Edition, First Issue, with the cancelled title and the dedication undated. Inlaid at the front of the book is an endpaper leaf bearing Locke’s full signature above the bookplate of Richard Palmer. The work first appeared in 1689, however, it is dated 1690.

“An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding,” is a work about the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. Locke states that the mind is a blank slate at birth, only to be filled with knowledge by sensory experiences throughout life, a theory known as empiricism.

“Essay” consists of four books: Book I – the refutation that the mind is born with knowledge; Book II – Locke’s theory of ideas including the distinction between simple and complex ideas, primary and secondary qualities, and personal identity; Book III – language; and Book IV – knowledge. This essay influenced many Enlightenment thinkers, including David Hume.