Skip over navigation

Some Thoughts Concerning Education

John Locke

Important Terms

Plot Overview

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Affectation  -  If a parent or tutor tries to force a certain behavior on a child whose temperament is not suited to that behavior the result is affectation. Affectation is awkward and forced behavior that seems not to be genuine. There are two sorts of affectation. In one sort of affectation, the outward manner of the person does not match his inward emotions. For instance, someone is acting affected if they are acting sad but you can tell that they do not really feel sad. In the other sort of affectation, the person really is feeling the emotion being expressed, but the way in which he chooses to express the emotion is not suited to him. For instance, if someone is very sad, but not prone to crying, and he forces himself to cry, then he is being affected.
Breeding  -  When Locke speaks of "good breeding" he is mainly referring to manners. Someone who is well-bred always knows how to behave correctly in every situation, so as to make everyone around them feel comfortable and happy. The rule of thumb when it comes to good breeding, according to Locke, is not to think meanly of yourself or of others. Good-breeding is one of the primary aims of education, and can only be taught by example. For this reason, one of the most important qualities to look for in a tutor is good breeding.
Dominion  -  An inclination toward dominion is a desire for ownership or power. Locke believes that this inclination is responsible for much of the injustice and oppression in the world, and should therefore be suppressed in a child as early as possible.
Epistemology  -  Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the study of knowledge and belief. Questions in epistemology include, "How do we come to have knowledge?", "Do we know anything?", "How do we form beliefs based on evidence?". Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding addressed many of the most important questions in epistemology.
Empirical  -  When something is an empirical question, that means that the question can only be settled by going out into the world and investigating. The question, "What percentage of the population of the United States likes ice cream" is an example of an empirical question, which can only be answered through empirical investigation. The question "What is the square root of two", on the other hand, is not an empirical question. In order to answer this question all you have to do it think about the mathematics involved; you do not have to go out and investigate what the world is like.
Empiricism  -  "Empiricism" is a collective name given to a variety of philosophical doctrines concerned with human knowledge. Empiricists generally believe that knowledge comes exclusively through experience, and that there is no knowledge that human beings are born with. In addition to John Locke, some famous empiricists have been George Berkeley, Thomas Reid, David Hume, Rudolph Carnap, G.E. Moore, and W.V. Quine.
Enlightenment  -  The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement, popular during the 18th century, which sought to examine all doctrines and traditions using the faculty of reason. Strong emphasis was placed on ideals of tolerance. As Enlightenment ideals spread into state policy (primarily in the 19th century) many humanitarian reforms resulted.
Gamesome Humor  -  This is the term given by Locke to a child's natural high spirits and playfulness. Locke is adamant about the fact that a child not be punished for his gamesome humor, and, further, that this quality not be discouraged in any way.
Materialist  -  A materialist is someone who believes that matter is the only substance that exists in the world. Materialists do not believe in any spiritual substances, such as soul, God, angels, or some non-material component of consciousness.
Natural Law  -  "Natural law" is the term used to refer to the doctrine of moral law that states that such laws are "natural", or simply a permanent part of the world, rather than created by man. Theorists throughout the centuries have differed on the particulars of this theory, disagreeing in particular on the question of the natural basis for these moral laws, and on how human beings come to know these natural laws. Locke ascribed to a view of natural law that placed its source in God, and our access to it in the faculty of reason.
Natural philosophy  -  Natural philosophy is the branch of philosophy concerned with what the natural world is like. The two components of natural philosophy are physics, which is the study of matter, or the physical world, and metaphysics, which is the study of all other aspects of the natural world (such as God, souls, etc.)
Principle of Virtue  -  According to Locke, the principle of virtue is the capacity to deny one's own desires. If someone has, and exercises, this capacity he will be virtuous, and if one lacks this capacity or fails to exercise it he cannot be virtuous.
Scholasticism  -  The dominant school of thought in Western Europe from the Middle Ages through the age of enlightenment. During Locke's time, they had complete control of the schools. Scholastics were primarily concerned with working out problems in, and extending the theories of, Aristotle.
Temperament  -  Locke recognizes the fact that every mind is different. He calls the different characters of mind temperaments. A temperament is really just a natural inclination in some direction. A cowardly temperament, for instance, is just an inclination to be easily frightened. A cruel temperament is an inclination to disregard the feelings of others, or an inclination to gain pleasure out of the pain of others. Locke believes that a child's particular temperament should be taken into account in his education. An educator should aim to guard against the particular weaknesses of a child's temperament and to encourage his the strengths.
Wants of Fancy  -  According to the distinction made by Horace, wants of fancy are desires that have no basis in need. The desire for a slice of cake would be a want of fancy, as opposed to the desire for sustenance which would count as a want of nature. Locke believes that a child should not be indulged in any of his wants of fancy.
Wants of Nature  -  According to the distinction made by Horace, wants of nature are desires that have a basis in physical need. When we feel hungry, for instance, this is a signal that our body needs food. We are not supposed to ignore our wants of nature, but must satisfy them without too much delay.
Wisdom  -  According to Locke, wisdom is the ability to manage one's business ably and with foresight. Wisdom is the result of a good natural temperament, the application of mind, and experience. Children cannot be wise, because they have no experience, but parents can lay the foundation for wisdom in their children by promoting a love of truth, a respect for reason over passion, and a tendency toward reflection.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us