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An Essay concerning Human Understanding

Central to Heidegger’s understanding of human being is the importance of death and dying in our understanding of our independence and wholeness. The importance of dying governs his choice of one of the examples he uses in the second Bremen lecture to clarify the difference between technology and ordinary concern:

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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding - Wikipedia

SparkNotes: Essay Concerning Human Understanding: …

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Locke devotes Book III of An Essay Concerning HumanUnderstanding to language. This is a strong indication that Lockethinks issues about language were of considerable importance inattaining knowledge. At the beginning of the Book he notes theimportance of abstract general ideas to knowledge. These serve assorts under which we rank all the vast multitude of particularexistences. Thus, abstract ideas and classification are of centralimportance in Locke’s discussion of language.

: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).38th Edition from William Tegg, London; scanned in three separate excerpts from early in the work.

SparkNotes: Essay Concerning Human Understanding

In his later writings on technology, which mainly concern us in this essay, Heidegger draws attention to technology’s place in bringing about our decline by constricting our experience of things as they are. He argues that we now view nature, and increasingly human beings too, only technologically — that is, we see nature and people only as raw material for technical operations. Heidegger seeks to illuminate this phenomenon and to find a way of thinking by which we might be saved from its controlling power, to which, he believes, modern civilization both in the communist East and the democratic West has been shackled. We might escape this bondage, Heidegger argues, not by rejecting technology, but by perceiving its danger.

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eidegger’s discussions offer several useful directions for dealing with technology, even if one disagrees with elements of his analysis. Consider his view of distance, where he differentiates neutral measured distance and geometrical shape from the spaces and distances with which we concern ourselves day by day. Someone thousands of miles away can be immediately present to one’s feelings and thoughts. Two tables may have identical size, yet each may be too big or small for comfortable, practical, or beautiful use. Heidegger’s understanding of the importance of space changes somewhat in his works, but what matters for us is his insistence that our understanding of the spaces in which we live is neither inferior nor reducible to a neutral, technical, scientific understanding of space. This is also true of time, direction, and similar matters. Perhaps most profoundly, Heidegger attempts to make visible an understanding of what is present, enduring, and essential that differs from a notion of the eternal based on time understood narrowly and neutrally. Heidegger’s alternatives provide ways to clarify the irreducibility of our experience to what we can capture technologically, or through natural science. One example of this irreducibility is Aristotle’s virtue, which acts in light of the right time, the right place, and the right amount, not in terms of measures that are abstracted from experience. Ordinary human ways of understanding are not mere folk opinion that is subservient to science, as some might say; they offer an account of how things are that can be true in its own way.

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An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, by John Locke


An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding - Wikipedia

Some listed here may now be out of print or unavailable. (Sacks)

Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" is often the first or only exposure students get to Emerson's thought. Here are some resources to help understand this essay:

An essay introducing the background and context of Transcendentalism, for help in understanding where Emerson's ideas came from.
From Emerson himself, with some dictionary and other simple definitions listed as well.
Basic information on Transcendentalism - links to the two items above plus more.
- HTML searchable copy of the text at

Ann Woodlief's excellent introduction to the Emerson essay, Self-Reliance.
An article by Alfred I.

An essay concerning human understanding : Locke, …

A second direction that Heidegger gives us for properly situating technology is his novel understanding of human being. For Heidegger, the traits that make us human are connected to our openness to being and to what can be revealed, to our standing in a clearing where things can approach us meaningfully. One feature of this understanding is that Heidegger pays attention to the place of moods as well as of reason in allowing things to be intelligible. Another feature is his concern for the unity in meaning in what is and is not, in presence and absence. For instance, an absent friend impresses on us the possibility of friendship as much as one who stands before us.

Vol 2: An essay concerning human understanding : in four books

Locke is often classified as the first of the great Englishempiricists (ignoring the claims of Bacon and Hobbes). This reputationrests on Locke’s greatest work, the monumental An Essay ConcerningHuman Understanding. Locke explains his project in severalplaces. Perhaps the most important of his goals is to determine thelimits of human understanding. Locke writes:

Essay Concerning Human Understanding

At the beginning of An Essay Concerning Human UnderstandingLocke says that since his purpose is “to enquire into theOriginal, Certainty and Extant of human knowledge, together with thegrounds and degrees of Belief, Opinion and Assent” he is goingto begin with ideas—the materials out of which knowledge isconstructed. His first task is to “enquire into the Original ofthese Ideas…and the ways whereby the Understanding comes to befurnished with them” (I. 1. 3. p. 44). The role of Book I of theEssay is to make the case that being innate is not a way inwhich the understanding is furnished with principles and ideas. Locketreats innateness as an empirical hypothesis and argues that there isno good evidence to support it.

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