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An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding


price to what they go along with, proportionable to their own greatness,
I can with confidence brag, I here make your lordship the richest
present you ever received. This I am sure, I am under the greatest
obligations to seek all occasions to acknowledge a long train of favours
I have received from your lordship; favours, though great and important
in themselves, yet made much more so by the forwardness, concern,
and kindness, and other obliging circumstances, that never failed to
accompany them. To all this you are pleased to add that which gives yet
more weight and relish to all the rest: you vouchsafe to continue me in
some degrees of your esteem, and allow me a place in your good thoughts,
I had almost said friendship. This, my lord, your words and actions so
constantly show on all occasions, even to others when I am absent, that
it is not vanity in me to mention what everybody knows: but it would be
want of good manners not to acknowledge what so many are witnesses of,
and every day tell me I am indebted to your lordship for. I wish they
could as easily assist my gratitude, as they convince me of the great
and growing engagements it has to your lordship. This I am sure, I
should write of the UNDERSTANDING without having any, if I were not
extremely sensible of them, and did not lay hold on this opportunity to
testify to the world how much I am obliged to be, and how much I am,
MY LORD,
Your Lordship's most humble and most obedient servant,
JOHN LOCKE
2 Dorset Court, 24th of May, 1689
THE EPISTLE TO THE READER
READER,
I have put into thy hands what has been the diversion of some of my idle
and heavy hours. If it has the good luck to prove so of any of thine,
and thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had in writing
it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed.
Mistake not this for a commendation of my work; nor conclude, because I
was pleased with the doing of it, that therefore I am fondly taken with
it now it is done. He that hawks at larks and sparrows has no less
sport, though a much less considerable quarry, than he that flies at
nobler game: and he is little acquainted with the subject of this
treatise--the UNDERSTANDING--who does not know that, as it is the most
elevated faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater and more
constant delight than any of the other. Its searches after truth are a
sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great
part of the pleasure. Every step the mind takes in its progress towards
Knowledge makes some discovery, which is not only new, but the best too,
for the time at least.
For the understanding, like the eye, judging of objects only by its own
sight, cannot but be pleased with what it discovers, having less regret
for what has escaped it, because it is unknown. Thus he who has raised
himself above the alms-basket, and, not content to live lazily on scraps
of begged opinions, sets his own thoughts on work, to find and follow
truth, will (whatever he lights on) not miss the hunter's satisfaction;
every moment of his pursuit will reward his pains with some delight; and
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