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Philosophies of Community Essay

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John Locke’s “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”

This essay was one of the pioneering educational works that promoted the empirical method of understanding, also known as empiricism. Completed and published in 1689, the essay was revolutionary since it was in direct opposition to the traditional understanding of knowledge at the time. It was directly opposed to the view that ideas were innate rather than experientially acquired (Locke, 1689).

John Locke’s work in this essay was therefore both a product and a reflection of the Enlightenment period in which he lived. This is the age where rationalism and empiricism prevailed over and in opposition to religious traditions and claims about innate or divinely revealed knowledge (Lowe, 1995). Though John Locke tried to refute Rene Descartes ideas of innate rationalism in Book 1 of this essay, the idea outlived him and continued to prevail even to the present day.

The educational values shaped by this historical idea include the popularization of the scientific method. This essay was also an important foundational work for empiricists who came afterwards, such as David Hume.

Even though John Locke was a Christian and deeply religious, the historical ideas that he taught and suggested, brought into question numerous religious claims. Empiricism became the primary means of acquiring knowledge, and this would continue into the modernism period. The ideas expressed in Locke’ essay continue to influence and undergird much of scientific inquiry being carried out today.

The empirical method is still central to both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In the realm of modern philosophy, the empirical method has been integrated with pragmatism. This means that the insights gleaned from empirical knowledge are combined with rational thinking to come up with a substantive claim of truth or understanding of any phenomena.

Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address”

This address was written and delivered in the year 1895, by Booker T. Washington. The historical context at the time was a period when slavery had just been abolished. However, many African Americans could not enter into the American economy and compete fairly with white traders. This is because the African Americans at the time did not have the necessary educational training to handle both the financial and legal knowledge required in many professions (Washington, 2013).

Furthermore, many Southern white farmers at the time depended greatly upon immigrant labor to work on their farms and industries. The population of immigrants was much lower than that of African Americans who were already living in the South. Therefore, Booker T. Washington saw this as an opportunity to strike a deal that will benefit both the whites and the blacks.

The compromise, though not regarded as such by Booker T. Washington and his supporters, was that the whites would ensure that African Americans got basic education and due process in law. In return, the African Americans would provide the much needed labor upon white farms and industries. At the time, the Southern economy was performing more poorly than that of the North, especially in areas of commerce and industrial development.

While the address was an acceptable compromise at the time, much has changed today. At the time, only the whites owned and ran industries, and they were the sole employers. However, today, the African Americans not only receive similar education as the whites, they also possess equal legal rights. The address is therefore regarded only as an initial step towards the equality and economic synergism that could only be successfully attained after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.


Lowe, E.J. (1995). Locke on human understanding. London, UK: Routledge.

Locke, J. (1689). An essay concerning human understanding, 38th Ed. London, UK: William Tegg

Washington, B. T. (2013). Up from slavery. Lexington, MA: Tribeca Books.

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