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'Locke's way of ideas as context for his theory of education in Of the Conduct of the Understanding', History of European Ideas 27 (2001) 45-59; reprinted in Peter Anstey, ed., John Locke. Critical assessments of leading

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The central theme of John Locke’s Of the Conduct of the Understanding is human error. The Conduct was conceived as an additional chapter to An Essay concerning Understanding, but it was never finished and published posthumously in 1706 as a separate
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  1 LockeÕs way of ideas as context for his theory of education in Of the Conduct of the Understanding  1   Dr. Paul Schuurman Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam Faculteit Wijsbegeerte Oosmaaslaan 950-952 3063 DA Rotterdam The Netherlands email: schuurman@fwb.eur.nl The central theme of John LockeÕs Of the Conduct of the Understanding  is human error. The Conduct  was conceived as an additional chapter to An Essay concerning Understanding  , but it was never finished and published posthumously in 1706 as a separate work. Modern authors have regarded the Conduct  as a educational treatise. Indeed, the analysis in this work of the nature and causes of error and the ways to prevent and remedy error gives rise to numerous educational reflections. However, the aim of the present article is to show that these views should be understood within the specific epistemological context of a two-stage analysis of ideas, the first stage consisting of individual ideas that should all be clear and distinct, and the second stage consisting of reasonings based on combinations of these ideas. Keywords: John Locke - History of Philosophy - History of Educational Thought 1  The present article is based on the General Introduction to a text-critical edition of Of the Conduct of the Understanding by John Locke  , ed. Paul Schuurman (doct. diss., University of Keele, 2000); I would like to thank my supervisor Prof. G.A.J. Rogers, Prof. M.A. Stewart, University of Lancaster, and my colleague Dr. H. Krop, Erasmus University Rotterdam, for their generous advice.  2 1. Introduction On 10 April 1697 John Locke wrote to his Irish friend William Molyneux (1656-1698): I have lately got a little leisure to think of some additions to my book, against the next edition, and within a few days have fallen upon a subject that I know not how far it will lead me. I have written several pages on it, but the matter, the farther I go, opens the more upon me, and I cannot yet get sight of any end of it. The title of the chapter will be Of the Conduct of the Understanding, which, if I shall pursue, as far as I imagine it will reach, and as it deserves, will, I conclude, make the largest chapter of my Essay. 2   On 15 May Molyneux, whose answer had been delayed because of the death of his brother-in-law, reacted with his usual enthusiasm to LockeÕs latest project: You never write to me, that you do not raise new expectations in my longing Mind of partaking your Thoughts on those Noble Subjects you are upon. Your Chapter concerning the Conduct of the Understanding  must needs be very Sublime and Spacious. 3   Locke was already writing additions for the Fourth Edition of the Essay   concerning Human Understanding  when the Third Edition was still being prepared in 1695. In that year he wrote to Molyneux about additions on ÔEnthusiasmÕ and on Ôthe Connexion of IdeasÕ. 4  The Conduct  was another projected addition to the Fourth Edition. However, while ÔOf EnthusiasmÕ did indeed appear as Chapter xix of Part IV and ÔOf the Association of Ideas Õ as Chapter xxxiii of Part II of the Fourth Edition of the Essay,  the Conduct  was never finished. The Conduct  was published by A. and J. Churchill in the Posthumous Works  (= PW  ) in Trinity Term 1706, two years after LockeÕs death. The eighteenth century saw a ready dissemination of the Conduct  , together with his other works. This popularity was maintained during the 2   The Correspondence of John Locke  (= Corr. ), ed. E.S. de Beer (Oxford, 1976- ), Nr. 2243, Vol. VI, p. 87. 3   Corr.  2262, VI, p. 123. 4   Corr.  1857, V, p. 287 and ibid. 1887, V, pp. 352-353.  3 next century, despite LockeÕs allegedly diminished reputation in this period. 5  From the nineteenth century onwards the Conduct  has been regarded primarily as a work on education. In 1839 it was printed (in an abridged version) in one volume together with Some Thoughts concerning Education  (= Education ). 6  This combination was repeated in c . 1881 7  and also in 1912 in an edition titled The Educational Writings of John Locke  , by J.W. Adamson, who describes the Conduct  as a short treatise that Ôwas written to serve as a manual of self-instructionÕ. 8  Likewise, in his 1966 edition of the Conduct  , F.W. Garforth points to the many similarities between this work and Education . 9  More recently, in 1996, the Conduct  appeared in one volume with Education  in an edition by R.W. Grant and N. Tarcov, who describe these works as LockeÕs Ôtwo most important writings on educationÕ. 10  In the present article I shall discuss the central theme of the Conduct  , error, and give due attention to the educational reflections that this theme occasioned. However, I shall contend that the Conduct  should first of all be understood in the context of LockeÕs way of ideas as presented in his Essay.  I shall focus on the two-stage structure of this way of ideas and its relevance for LockeÕs analysis of error in the Conduct. 11   5  Cf. H. Aarsleff, ÔLockeÕs Reputation in Nineteenth-Century EnglandÕ, in: V. Chappell, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Locke  (Cambridge, 1995) 252-289. 6   The Conduct of the Understanding also Some Thoughts concerning Education,  by John Locke (Edinburgh, 1839). 7  John Locke, The Conduct of the Understanding; also, Some Thoughts concerning Education  (Philadelphia, c.  1881). 8   The Educational Writings of John Locke,  ed. J.W. Adamson (New York, 1912), 12. 9  John LockeÕs Of the Conduct of the Understanding  , ed. Francis W. Garforth (New York, 1966), 14. 10  Locke, Some Thoughts concerning Education and Of the Conduct of the Understanding,  eds. R.W. Grant and N. Tarcov (Indianapolis, 1996) p. vii. 11  References to the Conduct  will be to the paragraph numbers as recently established in my critical-text editon (see above, note 1), followed by the conventional section numbers of PW   that have been used in all subsequent English editons. However, in PW   there are two cases of misnumbered sections (numbers 13 and 38 are used twice). In later editions these errors have  been corrected; I will make use of these corrected section numbers. Quotations are taken from the text of the new edition.  4 2. Errors of the first and the second kind In the introductory paragraphs to the Conduct,  Locke stresses the importance of the understanding, its liability to errors of all kinds and the possibility of curing these errors: ...there are a great many natural defects in the understanding capable of amendment which are over looked and wholy neglected. And it is easy to perceive that men are guilty of a great many faults in the exercise and improvement of this facultie of the minde which hinders them in their progresse and keeps them in ignorance and error all their lives. 12   He then proceeds in a very loose way to describe the nature and causes of these errors and to formulate remedies. At the start of paragraph 37 (¤12) he suggests that in the previous pages he has given Ôthe common and most general miscariages which I thinke men should avoid or rectifie in a right conduct of their understandingsÕ. In par. 38 (¤12) he announces the intention of continuing more particularly with Ôseveral weaknesses or defects in the understandingÕ. This very broad division into general and particular errors is only roughly adhered to. Nevertheless, although its catalogue of errors, causes of error and remedies for error is rather bewildering in its lack of order, the Conduct  has a clear function within the context of LockeÕs work. An important step towards a delineation of the function of the Conduct  can be made once it is appreciated that most errors discussed by Locke fall into one of two major categories. In par. 98 (¤3) Locke neatly sums up both types in a single clause: ...[1] the want of determined Ideas and [2] of Sagacity and exercise in finding out and laying in order intermediate Ideas... This distinction should be placed in the larger framework of a parallel distinction in LockeÕs Ôway of ideasÕ as presented in the Essay.  A discussion of 12   Conduct  , par. 5 (¤2).  5 this complicated topic can start with two words taken from the above quotation: ÔIdeasÕ and ÔdeterminedÕ. First, Ôidea(s)Õ is the most frequently used noun in the Essay. 13  Ideas are objects of the understanding, which is the alledged core-subject of the Essay concerning Human Understanding.  In the final paragraph of the Introduction, Locke gives both a definition of idea and an account of the strong connection between ideas and understanding: Thus much I thought necessary to say concerning the Occasion of this Enquiry into humane Understanding. But, before I proceed on to what I have thought on this Subject, I must here in the Entrance beg pardon of my Reader, for the frequent use of the Word Idea,  which he will find in the following Treatise. It being the Term, which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the Object of the Understanding when a Man thinks, I have used it to express whatever is meant by Phantasm, Notion, Species,  or whatever it is, which the Mind can be employÕd about in thinking; and I could not avoid frequently using it. 14   So, since the understanding has no other object but its ideas, any discussion of the former implies scrutiny of the latter as well; ÔSince the Mind,  in all its Thoughts and Reasonings, hath no other immediate Object but its own Ideas,  which it alone does or can contemplate, it is evident, that our Knowledge is only conversant about them.Õ 15  Second, there is the word ÔdeterminedÕ; it is related to the expression Ôclear and distinctÕ. In an addition to the ÔEpistle to the ReaderÕ that was included in the Fourth Edition of the Essay,  Locke proposes to replace Ôclear and distinctÕ by ÔdeterminateÕ or ÔdeterminedÕ. 16  Yet Ôclear and distinctÕ was allowed to remain a current expression in both the Essay  and the Conduct . 17   13  According to R.M.P. Malpas, ÔAn Electronic Text of the Essay Õ, The Locke Newsletter,  21 (1990) 81, the word Idea  occurs 1,339 times and the word Ideas  2,343 times. The only words which exceed the combined 3,682 are: ÔaÕ, ÔandÕ, ÔbeÕ, ÔinÕ, ÔisÕ, ÔitÕ, ÔofÕ and ÔtoÕ. 14   Essay,  I.i.8: 47 The edition of the Essay  used here is that by P.H. Nidditch (Oxford, 1975); quotation is by Book, Chapter, Section, followed by a colon, followed by page number(s). 15  Essay,  IV.i.1.: 525. For two short introductions to the heavily debated topic of the precise nature of Lockean ideas, cf. J.W. Yolton, ÔIdeaÕ, in: id., A Locke Dictionnary  (Blackwell, 1993) 88-93 and M. Ayers, ÔIdeas and Objective BeingÕ, in D. Garber and M. Ayers, eds., The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy  (Cambridge, 1998), Vol. II, pp. 1090-1094. 16  Op. cit. pp. 12-14. 17  In 1697-1698 Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, had published three lenghty attacks on the Essay ; see Stillingfleet, Three Criticisms of Locke  (Hildesheim, 1987). He read LockeÕs Ôclear and distinct ideasÕ in the Cartesian sense of being intellectual. Although Stillingfleet
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