Some Thoughts Concerning Education, John Locke
Some Thoughts Concerning Education
John Locke
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Some Thoughts Concerning Education is a 1693 treatise on the education of gentlemen written by the English philosopher John Locke. For over a century, it was the most important philosophical work on education in England. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke outlined a new theory of mind, contending that the mind is originally a tabula rasa or "blank slate"; that is, it did not contain any innate ideas at birth. Some Thoughts Concerning Education explains how to educate that mind using three distinct methods: the development of a healthy body; the formation of a virtuous character; and the choice of an appropriate academic curriculum.

Some Thoughts Concerning Education

John Locke

With Introduction and Notes
the Rev. R. H. Quick, M.A.

Some Thoughts Concerning Education

Doctrina vires promovet insitas,
cultus pectora roborant:
defecere mores,
bene nata culpa.

Hor. Lib. iv. Od. 4.


The Germans, who hitherto have had the history of education in their own hands, have uniformly attributed an important part in it to one Englishman and one only the philosopher Locke; and their first well-known historian, F. H. Ch. Schwarz, has asserted that “modern pedagogy is more or less directly [a safe form of statement] the pedagogy of Locke. Die Pädagogik und Didaktik der neuen Zeit ist die Lockèsche, mehr oder iveniger folgerecht(quoted by Herbart, Päd. Schriften ii. 329 in Beyer’s Bibliothek). But so little has been thought of education in this country that our one classic has never been carefully edited, and has now been for some time “out of print.” An inquiring student was lately told that the only edition obtainable was the Tauchnitz. I have no doubt there are American editions; the whole work is certainly to be found in Henry Barnard’s English Pedagogy; but our booksellers have not as yet had the enterprise or the good fortune of Columbus.

It has lately occurred to at least two committees at once that an English edition was wanted. There has been much talk about education of late years; and at length people are beginning to perceive that some thought about it and study of it may be desirable. The University of Cambridge has gone so far as to institute an examination, so that for the future there will be some young teachers who will find it useful to read the chief English classic connected with their profession. This is, I suppose, the reason why new editions, two at least, appear about the same time. The National Society’s edition is to be edited by the Rev. Evan Daniel. Unfortunately neither Canon Daniel nor I knew of the other’s work till too late, or we should have avoided even the appearance of rivalry.

On examining the text I found that many errors had crept into the only complete editions, i.e. the editions published after Locke’s death. The best text is that of the Works in 3 vols. folio, issued in 1714 by Locke’s own bookseller, Churchill. But this is by no means faultless. It even gives a wrong date (1690 instead of 1693) at the foot of the Epistle Dedicatory. I have corrected many inaccuracies, but I fear not all.

Hallam speaks of Locke’s “deficiencies of experience,” but neither Hallam nor anyone else could have known before the publication of Mr Fox Bourne’s Life what Locke’s experience was. I have endeavoured in the biographical introduction to put before the reader all that we now can learn about it.

Locke’s study of medicine is no doubt an advantage to the ordinary reader, but it is decidedly the reverse to the ordinary editor. However, I have turned this weak part of the notes into a particularly strong one, by getting the help of Dr J. F. Payne, Fellow of Magdalen College Oxford, Assistant Physician and Lecturer at St Thomas’s Hospital. Dr Payne tells us what the science of the nineteenth century has to say to Locke’s advice; and his notes are the more interesting from his having made a special study of the history of medicine.

Locke showed the interest he took in the Thoughts by adding to the editions which came out in his life-time, and by leaving fresh matter which was added after his death. The original work was not more than two-thirds the size of the present. I have given a table from which the student may see what the original work was. Some of the most important passages in the book, e.g. the attack on the public schools, do not belong to it.

R. H. Q.

Trin. Coll. Cam.,
March 19th, 1880.

Preface to the Second Edition

Since the first Cambridge edition of the Thoughts came out four years ago, Locke has received much attention both at home and abroad. I will here mention the chief works bearing on the Thoughts which have since been published.

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