Locke’s Theory of Knowledge

Woolhouse, Roger. "Locke's Theory of Knowledge," The Cambridge Companion to Locke. Ed. Vere Chappell, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994.


“In the course of its considerable length, the Essay concerning Human Understanding deals with many topics; but its main theme and concern is knowledge and the capacity of the human understanding to acquire it. “My Purpose,” Locke tells us, is “to enquire into the Original, Certainty, and Extent of human Knowledge; together with the Grounds and Degrees of Belief, Opinion, and Assent” (E I.i.2: 43). What is knowledge and how is it acquired? Are there any limits to what we can know and, therefore, things about which we can have only beliefs and things about which we must be ignorant? What, indeed, is the difference between knowledge and belief,? As its title indicates, the Essay intends these as questions more about the human knower and believer rather than about what is known and believed. What can we, with out minds, know? In setting out to inquire into knowledge, Locke is setting out “to take a Survey of our own Understandings, examind our own Powers, and see to what Things they were adapted” (E I.i.7: 47).”