The Works of John Locke, vol. 1 (An Essay concerning …

§ 15. The senses at first let in particular ideas, and furnish the yet empty cabinet; and the mind by degrees growing familiar with some of them, they are lodged in the memory, and names got to them. Afterwards the mind, proceeding farther, abstracts them, and by degrees learns the use of general names. In this manner the mind comes to be furnished with ideas and language, the materials about which to exercise its discursive faculty: and the use of reason becomes daily more visible, as these materials, that give it employment, increase. But though the having of general ideas, and the use of general words and reason, usually grow together; yet, I see not, how this any way proves them innate. The knowledge of some truths, I confess, is very early in the mind; but in a way that shows them not to be innate. For, if we will observe, we shall find it still to be about ideas, not innate, but acquired: It being about those first which are imprinted by external things, with which infants have earliest to do, which make the most frequent impressions on their senses. In ideas thus got, the mind discovers that some agree, and others differ, probably as soon as it has any use of memory; as soon as it is able to retain and perceive distinct ideas. But whether it be then, or no, this is certain, it does so, long before it has the use of words, or comes to that, which we commonly call “the use of reason.” For a child knows as certainly, before it can speak, the difference between the ideas of sweet and bitter (i. e. that sweet is not bitter) as it knows afterwards (when it comes to speak) that wormwood and sugar-plums are not the same thing.

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John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 1 (An Essay concerning Human Understanding Part 1) [1689]

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With regard to bishop Fell’s conduct on this occasion, Dr. Birch observes, that notwithstanding his many good qualities, he was capable of some excesses in cases where the interest of party could bias him. Life of Tillotson, p. 100, first edition. What has been urged on the bishop’s side as rather favouring Mr. Locke, seems only to prove that all he acted against him might be done with some degree of reluctance; but yet notwithstanding the respect and kindness which he bore toward Mr. Locke, bishop Fell, it seems, on the clearest conviction of his inoffensiveness, under so many trials, had no thoughts of serving him so far as to run the least hazard of suffering for him, or with him. His candour towards Mr. Locke on a former occasion, when application was making for his being admitted to a doctor’s degree at Oxon, on a visit from the prince of Orange, will appear sufficiently from lord Shaftesbury’s letter to the said Dr. Fell, annexed in Vol. p. 321, of this edition.

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He was now at full liberty to pursue his speculations, and accordingly, in the year 1689, he published his ‘Essay on Human Understanding.’ This work, which has made our author’s name immortal, and which does honour to our country, gave great offence to many people at the first publication. It was proposed at a meeting of the heads of houses of the university of Oxford, to censure and discourage the reading of it; and after various debates among themselves, it was concluded, that each head of an house should endeavour to prevent its being read in his college. The reason of this is obvious; Mr. Locke had let in more light upon the minds of men than was consistent with the dark designs of some persons.

John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 1 (An Essay concerning Human Understanding Part 1) [1689]
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This, Reader, is the entertainment of those who let loose their own thoughts, and follow them in writing; which thou oughtest not to envy them, since they afford thee an opportunity of the like diversion, if thou wilt make use of thy own thoughts in reading. It is to them, if they are thy own, that I refer myself: but if they are taken upon trust from others, it is no great matter what they are, they not following truth, but some meaner consideration; and it is not worth while to be concerned, what he says or thinks, who says or thinks only as he is directed by another. If thou judgest for thyself, I know thou wilt judge candidly; and then I shall not be harmed or offended, whatever be thy censure. For though it be certain, that there is nothing in this treatise, of the truth whereof I am not fully persuaded; yet I consider myself as liable to mistakes, as I can think thee, and know that this book must stand or fall with thee, not by any opinion I have of it, but thy own. If thou findest little in it new or instructive to thee, thou art not to blame me for it. It was not meant for those that had already mastered this subject, and made a thorough acquaintance with their own understandings; but for my own information, and the satisfaction of a few friends, who acknowledged themselves not to have sufficiently considered it. Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of this Essay, I should tell thee, that five or six friends meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on a subject very remote from this, found themselves quickly at a stand, by the difficulties that rose on every side. After we had a while puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into my thoughts, that we took a wrong course; and that before we set ourselves upon inquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with. This I proposed to the company, who all readily assented; and thereupon it was agreed, that this should be our first inquiry. Some hasty and undigested thoughts on a subject I had never before considered, which I set down against our next meeting, gave the first entrance into this discourse; which having been thus begun by chance, was continued by intreaty; written by incoherent parcels; and after long intervals of neglect, resumed again, as my humour or occasions permitted; and at last, in a retirement, where an attendance on my health gave me leisure, it was brought into that order thou now seest it.

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§ 2. That the mind, in respect of its simple ideas, is wholly passive, and receives them all from the existence and operations of things, such as sensation or reflection offers them, without being able to make any one idea, experience shows us: but if we attentively consider these ideas I call mixed modes, we are now speaking of, we shall find their original quite different. The mind often exercises an active power in making these several combinations: for it being once furnished with simple ideas, it can put them together in several compositions, and so make variety of complex ideas, without examining whether they exist so together in nature. And hence I think it is that these ideas are called notions, as if they had their original and constant existence more in the thoughts of men, than in the reality of things; and to form such ideas, it sufficed, that the mind puts the parts of them together, and that they were consistent in the understanding, without considering whether they had any real being: though I do not deny, but several of them might be taken from observation, and the existence of several simple ideas so combined, as they are put together in the understanding. For the man who first framed the idea of hypocrisy, might have either taken it at first from the observation of one, who made show of good qualities which he had not, or else have framed that idea in his mind, without having any such pattern to fashion it by: for it is evident, that in the beginning of languages and societies of men, several of those complex ideas, which were consequent to the constitutions established amongst them, must needs have been in the minds of men, before they existed any where else: and that many names that stood for such complex ideas were in use, and so those ideas framed before the combinations they stood for ever existed.

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In his Paraphrase and Notes upon the epistles of St. Paul, how fully does our author obviate the erroneous doctrines (that of absolute reprobation in particular), which had been falsely charged upon the apostle! And to Mr. Locke’s honour it should be remembered, that he was the first of our commentators who showed what it was to comment upon the apostolic writings: by taking the whole of an epistle together, and striking off every signification of every term foreign to the main scope of it; by keeping this point constantly in view, and carefully observing each return to it after any digression; by tracing out a strict, though sometimes less visible, connexion in that very consistent writer, St. Paul; touching the propriety and pertinence of whose writings to their several subjects and occasions, he appears to have formed the most just conception, and thereby confessedly led the way to some of our best modern interpreters. Vide Pierce, pref. to Coloss. and Taylor on Rom. No. 60.