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John Locke
(29 Aug 1632 - 28 Oct 1704)

English philosopher, physician and philosopher who was the most important philosopher during the Age of Reason.


Science Quotes by John Locke (26 quotes)

All Men are liable to Error, and most Men are in many Points, by Passion or Interest, under Temptation to it.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 20, Section 17, 718.
Science quotes on:  |  Error (152)  |  Interest (82)  |  Passion (24)  |  Temptation (5)

Crooked things may be as stiff and unflexible as streight: and Men may be as positive and peremptory in Error as in Truth.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 19, Section 11, 703.
Science quotes on:  |  Error (152)  |  Truth (450)

Every Man being conscious to himself, That he thinks, and that which his Mind is employ'd about whilst thinking, being the Ideas, that are there, 'tis past doubt, that Men have in their Minds several Ideas, such as are those expressed by the words, Whiteness, Hardness, Sweetness, Thinking, Motion, Man, Elephant, Army, Drunkenness, and others: It is in the first place then to be inquired, How he comes by them? I know it is a received Doctrine, That Men have native Ideas, and original Characters stamped upon their Minds, in their very first Being.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 1, 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Consciousness (36)  |  Doctrine (33)  |  Idea (226)  |  Man (258)  |  Mind (272)  |  Thinking (166)

From whence it is obvious to conclude that, since our Faculties are not fitted to penetrate into the internal Fabrick and real Essences of Bodies; but yet plainly discover to us the Being of a GOD, and the Knowledge of our selves, enough to lead us into a full and clear discovery of our Duty, and great Concernment, it will become us, as rational Creatures, to imploy those Faculties we have about what they are most adapted to, and follow the direction of Nature, where it seems to point us out the way.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 11, 646.
Science quotes on:  |  Creature (51)  |  Duty (26)  |  Essence (19)  |  Faculty (21)  |  God (234)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Rational (18)

Had you or I been born at the Bay of Soldania, possibly our Thoughts, and Notions, had not exceeded those brutish ones of the Hotentots that inhabit there: And had the Virginia King Apochancana, been educated in England, he had, perhaps been as knowing a Divine, and as good a Mathematician as any in it. The difference between him, and a more improved English-man, lying barely in this, That the exercise of his Facilities was bounded within the Ways, Modes, and Notions of his own Country, and never directed to any other or farther Enquiries.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book I, Chapter 4, Section 12, 92.
Science quotes on:  |  Englishman (2)  |  Enquiry (72)  |  Facility (4)  |  Mathematician (110)  |  Thought (170)

If, then, there must be something eternal, let us see what sort of Being it must be. And to that it is very obvious to Reason, that it must necessarily be a cogitative Being. For it is as impossible to conceive that ever bare incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter...
— John Locke
In Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690, 1801), Book 4, Chap. 10, Sec. 10, 114.
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In all things, therefore, where we have clear evidence from our ideas, and those principles of knowledge I have above mentioned, reason is the proper judge; and revelation, though it may, in consenting with it, confirm its dictates, yet cannot in such cases invalidate its decrees: nor can we be obliged, where we have the clear and evident sentience of reason, to quit it for the contrary opinion, under a pretence that it is matter of faith: which can have no authority against the plain and clear dictates of reason.
— John Locke
in Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), book 4, ch. 18, sec. 20.

In our search after the Knowledge of Substances, our want of Ideas, that are suitable to such a way of proceeding, obliges us to a quite different method. We advance not here, as in the other (where our abstract Ideas are real as well as nominal Essences) by contemplating our Ideas, and considering their Relations and Correspondencies; that helps us very little, for the Reasons, and in another place we have at large set down. By which, I think it is evident, that Substances afford Matter of very little general Knowledge; and the bare Contemplation of their abstract Ideas, will carry us but a very little way in the search of Truth and Certainty. What then are we to do for the improvement of our Knowledge in Substantial beings? Here we are to take a quite contrary Course, the want of Ideas of their real essences sends us from our own Thoughts, to the Things themselves, as they exist.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 9, 644.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstract (19)  |  Being (34)  |  Contemplation (17)  |  Correspondence (6)  |  Essence (19)  |  Existence (150)  |  Idea (226)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Matter (135)  |  Method (73)  |  Reason (173)  |  Relation (35)  |  Substance (39)  |  Thought (170)

It is one thing, to shew a Man that he is in an Error; and another, to put him in possession of Truth.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 7, Section 11, 602.
Science quotes on:  |  Error (152)  |  Truth (450)

Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas; how comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience.
— John Locke
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), book 2, ch. 2, sec. 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Experience (132)  |  Knowledge (679)

Let us then suppose the Mind to be, as we say, white Paper, void of all Characters, without any Ideas; How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store, which the busy and boundless Fancy of Man has painted on it, with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of Reason and Knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from Experience: In that, all our Knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives it self. Our Observation employ'd either about external, sensible Objects; or about the internal Operations of our Minds, perceived and reflected on by our selves, is that, which supplies our Understandings with all the materials of thinking.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 2, 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Experience (132)  |  Idea (226)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Mind (272)  |  Object (47)  |  Observation (264)  |  Paper (25)  |  Reason (173)  |  Thinking (166)

Nature never makes excellent things, for mean or no uses: and it is hardly to be conceived, that our infinitely wise Creator, should make so admirable a Faculty, as the power of Thinking, that Faculty which comes nearest the Excellency of his own incomprehensible Being, to be so idlely and uselesly employ'd, at least 1/4 part of its time here, as to think constantly, without remembering any of those Thoughts, without doing any good to it self or others, or being anyway useful to any other part of Creation.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 15, 113.
Science quotes on:  |  Creator (15)  |  Excellence (18)  |  Faculty (21)  |  Incomprehensible (2)  |  Means (25)  |  Nature (534)  |  Thinking (166)  |  Understanding (231)  |  Use (54)

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.
— John Locke
'Dedicatory Epistle.' Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690).
Science quotes on:  |  Habit (42)

No Man's Knowledge here, can go beyond his Experience.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 19, 115.
Science quotes on:  |  Experience (132)  |  Knowledge (679)

Not that we may not, to explain any Phenomena of Nature, make use of any probable Hypothesis whatsoever: Hypotheses, if they are well made, are at least great helps to the Memory, and often direct us to new discoveries. But my Meaning is, that we should not take up anyone too hastily, (which the Mind, that would always penetrate into the Causes of Things, and have Principles to rest on, is very apt to do,) till we have very well examined Particulars, and made several Experiments, in that thing which we would explain by our Hypothesis, and see whether it will agree to them all; whether our Principles will carry us quite through, and not be as inconsistent with one Phenomenon of Nature, as they seem to accommodate and explain another.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 13, 648.
Science quotes on:  |  Cause (122)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Hypothesis (150)  |  Meaning (52)  |  Memory (42)  |  Mind (272)  |  Nature (534)  |  Particular (24)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Principle (97)

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge, it is thinking makes what we read ours.
— John Locke
On the Conduct Of Understanding (written 1697, published posthumously 1706), collected in Works (5th Ed. 1751), Vol. 3, 387.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Material (60)  |  Mind (272)  |  Reading (25)  |  Thinking (166)  |  Understanding (231)

Such propositions are therefore called Eternal Truths, not because they are Eternal Truths, not because they are External Propositions actually formed, and antecedent to the Understanding, that at any time makes them; nor because they are imprinted on the Mind from any patterns, that are any where out of the mind, and existed before: But because, being once made, about abstract Ideas, so as to be true, they will, whenever they can be supposed to be made again at any time, past or to come, by a Mind having those Ideas, always actually be true. For names being supposed to stand perpetually for the same ideas, and the same ideas having immutably the same habitudes one to another, Propositions concerning any abstract Ideas that are once true, must needs be eternal Verities.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 11, Section 14, 638-9.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstract (19)  |  Eternal (14)  |  Idea (226)  |  Mind (272)  |  Name (58)  |  Pattern (18)  |  Proposition (28)  |  Truth (450)  |  Understanding (231)

The Ideas of primary Qualities of Bodies, are Resemblances of them, and their Patterns do really exist in the Bodies themselves; but the Ideas, produced in us by these Secondary Qualities, have no resemblance of them at all. There is nothing like our Ideas, existing in the Bodies themselves. They are in Bodies, we denominate from them, only a Power to produce those Sensations in us: And what is Sweet, Blue or Warm in Idea, is but the certain Bulk, Figure, and Motion of the insensible parts in the Bodies themselves, which we call so.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 15, 137.
Science quotes on:  |  Idea (226)  |  Understanding (231)

The Qualities then that are in Bodies rightly considered, are of Three sorts.
First, the Bulk, Figure, Number, Situation, and Motion, or Rest of their solid Parts; those are in them, whether we perceive them or no; and when they are of that size, that we can discover them, we have by these an Idea of the thing, as it is in it self, as is plain in artificial things. These I call primary Qualities.
Secondly, The Power that is in any Body, by Reason of its insensible primary Qualities, to operate after a peculiar manner on any of our Senses, and thereby produce in us the different Ideas of several Colours, Sounds, Smells, Tastes, etc. These are usually called sensible Qualities.
Thirdly, The Power that is in any Body, by Reason of the particular Constitution of its primary Qualities, to make such a change in the Bulk, Figure, Texture, and Motion of another Body, as to make it operate on our Senses, differently from what it did before. Thus the Sun has a Power to make Wax white, and Fire to make Lead fluid. These are usually called Powers.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 23, 140-1.
Science quotes on:  |  Bulk (3)  |  Colour (32)  |  Figure (13)  |  Fire (59)  |  Idea (226)  |  Lead (33)  |  Motion (64)  |  Number (90)  |  Quality (29)  |  Rest (28)  |  Sense (104)  |  Situation (21)  |  Smell (9)  |  Sound (21)  |  Sun (115)  |  Taste (16)  |  Wax (3)

The Commonwealth of Learning is not at this time without Master-Builders, whose mighty Designs, in advancing the Sciences, will leave lasting Monuments to the Admiration of Posterity; But every one must not hope to be a Boyle, or a Sydenham; and in an Age that produces such Masters, as the Great-Huygenius, and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some other of that Strain; 'tis Ambition enough to be employed as an Under-Labourer in clearing Ground a little, and removing some of the Rubbish, that lies in the way to Knowledge.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), The Epistle to the Reader, 9-10.
Science quotes on:  |  Ambition (18)  |  Robert Boyle (23)  |  Christiaan Huygens (6)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Learning (130)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (176)  |  Posterity (11)  |  Rubbish (5)  |  Thomas Sydenham (5)

The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.
— John Locke
Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693).
Science quotes on:  |  Education (177)  |  Knowledge (679)

The senses at first let in particular Ideas, and furnish the yet empty Cabinet: And the Mind by degrees growing familiar with some of them, they are lodged in the Memory, and Names got to them.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book I, Chapter 2, Section 15, 55.
Science quotes on:  |  Idea (226)  |  Memory (42)  |  Mind (272)  |  Name (58)  |  Sense (104)  |  Understanding (231)

To show, therefore, that we are capable of knowing, i.e. being certain that there is a God, and how we may come by this certainty, I think we need go no further than ourselves, and that undoubted knowledge we have of our own existence... For man knows that he himself exists... If any one pretends to be so sceptical as to deny his own existence, (for really to doubt of it is manifestly impossible,) let him for me enjoy his beloved happiness of being nothing, until hunger or some other pain convince him of the contrary... He knows also that nothing cannot produce a being; therefore something must have existed from eternity... Next, it is evident, that what had its being and beginning from another, must also have all that which is in and belongs to its being from another too. All the powers it has must be owing to and received from the same source. This eternal source, then, of all being must also be the source and original of all power; and so this eternal Being must be also the most powerful... And most knowing. Again, a man finds in himself perception and knowledge. We have then got one step further; and we are certain now that there is not only some being, but some knowing, intelligent being in the world. There was a time, then, when there was no knowing being, and when knowledge began to be; or else there has been also a knowing being from eternity...And therefore God.
— John Locke
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), book 4, ch. 10, sec 19.
Science quotes on:  |  God (234)  |  Knowledge (679)

Truth scarce ever yet carried it by Vote any where at its first appearance: New Opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other Reason, but because they are not already common.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), The Epistle Dedicatory, 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Acceptance (31)  |  Common (44)  |  Opinion (81)  |  Opposition (22)  |  Reason (173)  |  Suspicion (14)  |  Truth (450)  |  Understanding (231)

Truth then seems to me, in the proper import of the word, to signify nothing but the joining or separating of Signs, as the Things signified by them do agree or disagree one with another. The joining or separating of signs here meant, is what by another name we call proposition. So that truth properly belongs only to propositions: whereof there are two sorts, viz. mental and verbal; as there are two sorts of signs commonly made use of, viz. ideas and words.
— John Locke
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), book 4, ch. 5, sec. 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Truth (450)

We have hitherto considered those Ideas, in the reception whereof, the Mind is only passive, which are those simple ones received from Sensation and Reflection before-mentioned, whereof the Mind cannot make anyone to it self, nor have any Idea which does not wholy consist of them. But as these simple Ideas are observed to exist in several Combinations united together; so the Mind has a power to consider several of them united together, as one Idea; and that not only as they are united in external Objects, but as it self has joined them. Ideas thus made up of several simple ones put together, I call Complex; such as are Beauty, Gratitude, a Man, an Army, the Universe; which tough complicated various simple Ideas, made up of simple ones, yet are, when the Mind pleases, considered each by if self, as one entire thing, and signified by one name.
— John Locke
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 12, Section 1, 163-4.
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Quotes by others about John Locke (5)

I turn my eyes to the schools & universities of Europe
And there behold the loom of Locke whose woof rages dire,
Washed by the water-wheels of Newton. Black the cloth
In heavy wreaths folds over every nation; cruel works
Of many wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden, which
Wheel within wheel in freedom revolve, in harmony & peace.
'Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion' (1804-20), First Chapter, Pl.15, lines 14-20. In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 654-55.
Science quotes on:  |  Education (177)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (176)  |  Poetry (63)

Origin of man now proved.— Metaphysics must flourish.—He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.
In a notebook not intended for publication, Notebook M (1838), 84. Reproduced in P. H. Barrett et al. (eds.), Charles Darwin's Notebooks, 1836-1844: Geology, Transmutation of the Species and Metaphysical Enquiries (1987), 539. Also reproduced at the Darwin Online website.
Science quotes on:  |  Origin Of Man (7)

The chief art of learning, as Locke has observed, is to attempt but little at a time. The widest excursions of the mind are made by short flights frequently repeated; the most lofty fabrics of science are formed by the continued accumulation of single propositions.
'The Need For General Knowledge,' Rambler No. 137 (9 Jul 1751). In Samuel Johnson, Donald Greene (ed.), Samuel Johnson (1984), 223.
Science quotes on:  |  Learning (130)

John Locke invented common sense, and only Englishmen have had it ever since!
As quoted by Gilbert Ryle from a conversation he had with Russell during travel on a train on Locke with Gilbert Ryle. Ryle recounted this to D.C. Dennett, who used it as a chapter epigraph in his Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (1995), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Common Sense (34)

By a recent estimate, nearly half the bills before the U.S. Congress have a substantial science-technology component and some two-thirds of the District of Columbia Circuit Court's case load now involves review of action by federal administrative agencies; and more and more of such cases relate to matters on the frontiers of technology.
If the layman cannot participate in decision making, he will have to turn himself over, essentially blind, to a hermetic elite. ... [The fundamental question becomes] are we still capable of self-government and therefore freedom?
Margaret Mead wrote in a 1959 issue of Daedalus about scientists elevated to the status of priests. Now there is a name for this elevation, when you are in the hands of—one hopes—a benevolent elite, when you have no control over your political decisions. From the point of view of John Locke, the name for this is slavery.
Quoted in 'Where is Science Taking Us? Gerald Holton Maps the Possible Routes', The Chronicle of Higher Education (18 May 1981). In Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (1982), 80.
Science quotes on:  |  Education (177)  |  Elite (2)  |  Freedom (41)  |  Government (50)  |  Margaret Mead (4)  |  Science (875)  |  Scientist (237)  |  Slavery (5)  |  Technology (98)


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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 70 -
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