JOHN LOCKE A Power-Point in Support of a Lecture

A Power-Point in Support of a
On Education
G.D.Albear, M.A.
EDF 4450
Eastern Illinois University
• List of major works
• (1689) A Letter Concerning Toleration
– (1690) A Second Letter Concerning Toleration
– (1692) A Third Letter for Toleration
(1689) Two Treatises of Government
(1689) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
(1693) Some Thoughts Concerning Education
(1695) The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the
Major unpublished or posthumous manuscripts
(1660) First Tract on Government (or the English Tract)
(c.1662) Second Tract on Government (or the Latin Tract)
(1664) Essays on the Law of Nature
(1667) Essay Concerning Toleration
(1706) Of the Conduct of the Understanding
(1707) A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul
– (1695) A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity
• The father of the Enlightenment in
Educational thought
• The “Essay Concerning Human
Understanding” (1690)
– Laid the psychological groundwork for
• Modern Educational Theory
• “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”
• (1693)
– Written during the time he was working on the
• Applies his philosophy to pedagogy
• One of John Locke's major works
• Is primarily about moral education—
– Its role in creating a responsible adult and
– The importance of virtue as a transmitter of culture
• However, Locke's detailed and comprehensive
guide also ranges over such practical topics as:
• The effectiveness of physical punishment
• How best to teach foreign languages
• Table manners, and
• Varieties of crying.
• His treatise on Education
– Stands at the beginning of modernity
– Stands also at the end of
• The evolutionary process of
– Discovering the child
• During the Middle Ages & The Renaissance
– Adults treated children as
• Toys
• Strange animals
• Small grown-ups
– Children mixed in adult company
– Played infantile adaptations of adult games
– Dressed in cut down versions of adult clothing
– Participated in overt-sexual play
• The precise age of a child was not known
– If known it was irrelevant
• The educational process knew nothing of
– Allocating children to classes or grades
– Most children remained illiterate
• Even among the educated
– Some began school early, some late
– Some were home schooled—TUTORS
– Others went away to school
• Some students completed their education in
– Three years
– Others in ten years
• Educators
– No conception of rationality in the child
– Or of self discipline relative to growth or age
– Or of the orderly development of subject matter
• Children were important as
– Labor
– Sources for inheritance
• WHY?
– Uncertain life expectancy
• Death was more prevalent then than now at younger
• Men aged quickly and died young
• The most frequent victims of
– Epidemics, vile nourishment and misplaced medical care:
» Children
• Children’s survival was so problematic, that:
– Parents covered their losses by
» Not investing to much attention in them
• Before this time most parents could not
remember how many children they had lost
• After this (18th century) they began to
remember or could count them, but the
sentiment we hold for children did not exist.
– We have evidence of this because even
Rousseau after abandoning his five illegitimate
children, was exact about their number.
• Locke was an expression and a cause of this
shift in sensibility
• The 16th and 17th century witnessed the
growing rationalization of the world.
• There was:
– A new calendar
– Mechanical clocks
– Improved administrative techniques
– Inquiries into
• Sources and nature of knowledge
• The magnificent cumulative discoveries of
• These changes also brought about
– New types of schools
• Differentiated by grades
• With a Curriculum
– However there were some great flaws
• Most schools taught by rote
• Disciplined with brutality
• Most children were still illiterate
• Childhood was still not very much
accepted as a step in the life cycle of
• It took Locke’s books and over fifty years
of consistent pushing by educators like
him to bring about the notion that:
– Children are humans with rights
– Their own rhythm of development
– Their own pedagogic needs
• Locke stressed the crucial significance of
education for the total physical and
psychic development of the human being
• Locke stated that 9/10 men are good or
evil, useful or not by their education
• He was the first to state that the
impressions one receives and experiences
one has in childhood have very important
and lasting tendencies in adulthood
• Locke states that the best thing one can
do relative to students is to be kind!
• Or as he calls it a gentle application of the
hand, as a guide
• (Locke, STCE, Section 63)
– These points of view and his conceptions of
knowledge demonstrated in his epistemology
make Locke the father of the enlightenment in
educational thought
• Locke’s pedagogy became popular
because his philosophy was popular
– Especially his epistemology as seen in
• The Essay states
– Pedagogically Learning is:
» Experience based
– Human nature is flexible
» Humans are organisms of interacting psychological
and physical characteristics
» They should be humanely treated and trained in a
utilitarian fashion
• Locke was an empiricist
– He imported into philosophy the scientific
method of:
• Isaac Newton
– He was philosophically modest
• He was going to:
– Inquire into
» The origins
» Certainty
» Extent of human knowledge
– Look at the extent as well as the limitations of human
• He says that he is not writting philosophy
at all
• Instead he simply states that he is an
“under-laborer in clearing ground a little
and removing some of the rubbish that lies
in the way of knowledge”
– (Locke, Introduction, Essay)
• How does he do that?
– He wont design a boastful system
– He wont design arguments over semantics
– He states that knowledge is man related
• Man knows by experience rather than dogma
• Man knows by observation rather than syllogisms
– The book is by nature didactic
• Rule based
– But rules based on experience
• The rules suggest that Locke looked at
children objectively
– Or at least with open eyes
• His educational program was not
– A divine pattern or
– A moral improbability
• It was a sensible attainable reality
• It aimed at producing:
– A civic minded
– Well mannered
– And soundly informed
• English gentleman
• He stated that children understand
reasoning early and take pride in being
treated as rational creatures
• Locke warns us that when he speaks of
reason relative to the child he is speaking
– Such as is suited to the child’s
• Capacity and
• Apprehension
– No one should argue with a 3-7 year old as if
he/she was a grown-up
– Long lectures and philosophical reasoning
amaze and confuse but do not instruct
• Locke believe in showing students pictures
to accompany their reading
• Education is not confined to formal
• It goes on in all transactions between
– Adults and children
– Children and children
• That is why the Thoughts on Education
deal with the child’s total environment
• He encourages children to study
• To profit from the art of conversation
• Encourages the inculcation of good habits
through practice
– Do not teach children by rules
– Teach them by the empirical practice of the
• He goes as far as stating that if possible design the
scenarios for the experience
• What is important to note is that since
children learn by imitation they must be
given experiences worth imitating
• Man’s nature is receptive and malleable
– Especially in early youth
• Locke dedicates the first part of his other
book the “Essay Concerning Human
Understanding” to an attack on the
doctrine of “innate principles”
• Locke believed experience was a perfectly
adequate foundation for knowledge
• Locke suggested that contemporary
theories of knowledge needed to be
• To “see what objects our understandings
were, or were not, fitted to deal with”
(Epistle to the Reader, Essay).
• HE BEGINS THE Essay this way:
• 'It is an established opinion amongst some men,
that there are in the understanding certain innate
principles... as it were stamped upon the mind of
man; which the soul receives in its very first
being, and brings into the world with it...
[However, I will show] how men, barely by the
use of their natural faculties, may attain to all the
knowledge they have, without the help of any
innate impressions; and may arrive at certainty,
without any such original notions or principles'
(Locke, Essay,1:1:1 )
• Locke set the stage for the debate
between what are traditionally known as
Rationalists and Empiricists as to exactly
how we acquire and justify knowledge.
• Locke's challenge to (Pure) Rationalists is
that if there are innate ideas, then these
would surely be known by all, and as such
there could be no question as to what truth
actually was/is.
• A new approach to grounding and justifying
knowledge (or truth) needs to be found.
• Locke was also concerned that a belief in the
existence of innate principles would make
people lazy in their thinking, and more prepared
to blindly follow dogmatic teachings without
questioning them; something he was
vehemently opposed to
– ('Truth has been my only aim; and wherever that has
appeared to lead, my thoughts have impartially
followed, without minding whether the footsteps of
any other lay that way or not' (1:3:24)
• In fact, the idea that one should think for
themselves in all matters of life is a deep
vein running through Locke's philosophical
and philosophical writings
– ('To break in upon the sanctuary of vanity and
ignorance will be, I suppose, some service to
human understanding; though so few are apt
to think they deceive or are deceived in the
use of words' (Epistle to the Reader, Essay)
• The key premise of Locke's argument is that if
there are innate rational principles in the mind, then
it would simply be the case that everyone would
know and agree to them
• Locke's argument can be set out in following way:
– If there were innate rational principles in the mind from
birth, then these would be universal and agreed by all
– There are no universal rational principles on which
everyone agrees
– Therefore, there are no innate rational principles
• Locke is particularly keen to draw attention to
the problems raised by the principle of noncontradiction
• ('"Whatsoever is, is," and "It is impossible for
the same thing to be and not to be"'), (1:1:4).
• Locke believes that if there are innate
rational principles in the mind, then these
would be geographically, culturally and
temporally transcending.
• In other words, we would find them
everywhere we looked in the world.
– Everywhere we went, we would expect to find people
agreeing on what is the case,
• ("Whatsoever is, is")
– and what is not the case,
• ('"It is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be"').
• However, the fact that there are differing opinions
over a variety of matters is once again evidence to
Locke that it cannot easily be argued that there are
innate rational principles present in the mind from
birth or we would not have disagreement on them.
• Locke is suggesting that if there are innate
universal rational principles in the mind from
birth, then people would automatically know
• For example, if the concept of 'triangularity' was
in the mind from birth, then children would be
born knowing this.
• As evidence that they knew this, when faced
with a shape-sorter, a child should always put
the triangular shape into the triangular hole.
• Anytime it failed to do so, this would be
evidence to Locke that 'triangularity' was not an
innate rational principle in the child's mind
• Furthermore, that children need to be taught to
recognize shapes, and taught to put the right
shape into the right hole, is why Locke would
– 'If therefore children... have minds, with those
impressions upon them, they must unavoidably perceive
them, and necessarily know and assent to these truths;
which since they do not, it is evident that there are no
such impressions' (1:1:5).
• Furthermore, if children are born with knowledge of
innate rational principles, then why do they find it
difficult to grasp some concepts/ideas?
• If they already have knowledge of things such as
'triangularity', then surely they would also know
that the missing angle in a right-angled triangle is
found using the theorem a2 + b2 = c2
• The belief that if there are innate rational
principles in the mind, then these will always
be known
• It seems strange to Locke to suggest we
have innate knowledge, yet be ignorant of
this knowledge, for this begs the question as
for what reason we have this knowledge in
the first place, if it were not for us to know it
(or use it)
• Locke is convinced that people learn to
respond to the world in appropriate ways
through experience, but also that this is
the way God intended us to gain
• He writes:
– 'I imagine anyone will easily grant that it would
be impertinent to suppose the ideas of colors
innate in a creature to whom God has given
sight, and a power to receive them by the
eyes from external objects' (1:1:1).
• If it is the case that we have an innate knowledge
of color, for what purpose have we been 'given'
eyes that are sensitive to receiving colour?
• If the mind already knows what colours are, then
why do we need colour-sensitive eyes?
• Furthermore, the fact that we learn a lot about the
world through seeing things, is also an indication
to Locke that this is probably the key sensory
means by which God intended knowledge to be
acquired by us. (INTELIGENT DESIGN?)
• The use of reason shows that some principles are
• When we use reason, this is the first time we
become aware of these innate ideas
• The fact that all people would agree to certain
terms (such as mathematical ones), means they
must be universally evident, and therefore innate?
• Maybe there are universally innate propositions
(first principles) upon which the more specific ideas
are based?
• What exactly does innate knowledge constitute?
• Locke writes,
– 'If propositions be brought to [a child] in words which stand for ideas
he has not yet in his mind, to such propositions, however evidently
true or false in themselves, he affords neither assent nor dissent, but
is ignorant. For words being but empty sounds, any further than they
are signs of our ideas, we cannot but assent to them as they
correspond to those ideas we have, but no further than that.' (Locke,
Essay,1:1:23 )
• In other words, if our understanding of the world is
expressed through language, this would mean that anything
not able to be expressed by language, would remain
unknown to us.
• So, in the case of innate knowledge, as far as Locke is
concerned it is ridiculous to suggest that we are born with
innate knowledge, yet cannot communicate such ideas to
either ourselves or other people.
• Locke would agree with Rationalists that innate principles
are universal.
• However, the fact that there are no universally agreed 'first'
principles is evidence to him that the mind is not born with
innate knowledge.
• In order to draw together his arguments for this, he once
again turns to the example of children, whose behaviour is
evidence to him that knowledge is something that is
acquired through experience, rather than innately known.
He writes:
– 'The child certainly knows... that the wormseed or mustard it refuses,
is not the apple or sugar it cries for: this it is certainly and
undoubtedly assured of: but will any one say, it is by virtue of this
principle, "That it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to
be," that it so firmly assents to these and other parts of its
knowledge?' (1:1:25)
• If it was the case that children 'know' (for
example) the 'law of non-contradiction', that
something good for them cannot at the same
time be something bad, then they would also
know that something bad cannot at the same
time be something good.
• Yet the fact that children need to be taught
(or learn) what is good and bad for them (in
this case, what it is good and bad to eat), is
further evidence to Locke that children do not
have innate knowledge.
• Even though children may grow to accept what are deemed
to be 'universal truths' about the world (such as 2 + 2 = 4),
this cannot be taken as evidence for innate knowledge of
such principles
• The fact that there is no evidence (as far as Locke
is concerned) that children are born with innate knowledge of
the fundamental principles of reason
• That there is no evidence that there are universal truths in the
world such that people would always agree that x is true (and
therefore non-x is not true at the same time)
• That there is no conclusive argument to support the idea that
the 'first principles' of reason are present in the mind from
birth, leads Locke to conclude
– 'And if these "first principles" of knowledge and science are found not
to be innate, no other speculative maxims can (I suppose), with better
right pretend to be so.' (1:1:28)
• 'Moral principles require reasoning and discourse, and
some exercise of the mind, to discover the certainty of their
truth.' (1:2:1)
• One of the reasons why Locke rejected the theory of innate
rational principles is because he believed they can make
people lazy in their thinking.
• Furthermore, if it is the case that we need put no thought
into our beliefs, then we could believe all sorts of things
without ever wondering if they are true.
• In the case of what people believe to be right and wrong
actions, this could lead to all sorts of problems.
• Locke also believes that people usually do not act without a
good reason to, and that such reasons will (and should) be
good enough to show why they ought to a, but not b
• 'It may suffice that these moral rules are
capable of demonstration:
– and therefore it is our own fault if we come not to
a certain knowledge of them.
• But the ignorance wherein many men are of
them, and the slowness of assent wherewith
others receive them, are manifest proofs that
they are not innate, and such as offer
themselves to their view without searching.'
• Locke believed the actions of people are
the only real evidence we have with which
to judge their internal moral compass
– 'I have always thought the actions of men the
best interpreters of their thoughts' (1:2:3)
• Therefore, that people do not 'outwardly'
live according to the same moral code is
evidence to him that they do not live
according to the same innate universal
moral principles
– (which he denies the existence of anyway).
• To illustrate this, Locke uses the example of
• One might suggest that 'Justice' is a universally
innate moral principle, and that the basis of it is
that all people are aware that their actions are in
some way accountable.
• However, the fact that some people choose to
commit crimes shows that not all people must be
living according to such a universal principle.
• Now it might be suggested that 'criminals' do
have an innate sense of 'Justice', but choose to
express it differently
• For example, although 'criminals' break
the established social law, criminal
fraternities do not operate amidst chaos
but have their own rules and 'laws'.
• So, although criminals may act illegally
(according to the social law), they avoid
acting unjustly (insofar as they define
'Justice') for fear of retribution within their
own 'community'
• Where is that practical truth that is universally received,
without doubt or question, as it must be if innate? Justice...
• But will any one say, that those that live by fraud or rapine
have innate principles of truth and justice which they allow
and assent to?' (1:2:2)
– Locke rejects outright the idea that those who commit crimes can be
considered in any way to be acting 'justly'!
• 'Nature, I confess, has put into man a desire of happiness
and an aversion to misery:
– these indeed are innate practical principles which (as practical
principles ought) do continue constantly to operate and influence all
our actions without ceasing:
– these may be observed in all persons and all ages, steady and
universal; but these are inclinations of the appetite to good, not
impressions of truth on the understanding' (1:2:3))?
• Locke does admit that people appear to
naturally desire happiness, and avoid misery
• But this does not mean they have an innate
awareness of what will make them 'happy', or
• As Locke has already suggested, people
require proof (or sound reasons) as to why an
action should be considered good or bad