An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Setting & Symbolism

This Study Guide consists of approximately 26 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
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The understanding is the basic faculty of knowledge that, as Locke says, like the eye, is needed for seeing but does not see itself.

Simple Ideas

Simple ideas are derived directly from experience and cannot be broken down into constituent parts.

Complex Ideas

Complex ideas are, through a variety of different methods, made up of simple ideas.

Secondary Qualities

Secondary qualities are qualities like color or taste that are not things in themselves but, rather, arise from our reaction to those things.

Primary Qualities

Primary qualities are in the objects themselves and are invariant across different experiential modes.


Reflection is the faculty that takes ideas directly as an object rather than experience.


Substance is the presumed basis of all things. It is what all things are ultimately composed of though we do not perceive it directly.


A Mode is a kind of variation. Modes of knowledge are different kinds of knowledge.


Relations are properties that hold between things but that are not, strictly speaking, in things. That is, the distance between two objects is a relational property, but absent one of the objects, the relational property would not exist.


Knowledge for Locke can only be about and derived from ideas. In some sense then, we only know about our experiences and ideas, not necessarily the objects that cause them.

This section contains 227 words
(approx. 1 page at 400 words per page)
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