In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, first published in 1690, John Locke provides a complete account of how we acquire mathematical, natural, scientific, religious, and ethical knowledge. Rejecting the theory that some knowledge is innate, Locke argues that it derives from sense perceptions and experience, as analyzed and developed by reason. While defending these central claims with vigorous common sense, Locke offers many incidental—and highly influential—reflections on space and time, meaning, free will and personal identity. The result is a powerful, pioneering work, which together with Descarte's works, largely set the agenda for modern philosophy.
Roger Woolhouse's introduction to this edition provides a brief biography of Locke, a history of the text and an outline of the fundamentals of his thought.