THE 'EDUCATION' IN CONTEXT
When Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding was published in December 1689 its title-page was anonymous. But the epistle dedicatory was signed 'John Locke' so there was no question of the book's parentage. In July 1693, however, when an anonymous book modestly entitled Some Thoughts concerning Education made its appearance on London bookstalls, the dedication was unsigned. At least one person, Robert Hooke, had no difficulty in attributing the book to its rightful author.1 But, while we have no way of knowing how many others there were who would have associated these two books, we can see as contemporaries might not have that there is more than a superficial relationship between them.
This, then, is one perspective from which we can view the Education in context: the relation of the Education to Locke's own philosophical writings. But in addition to this internal context there is another equally important vantage point--an external context--and that is the actual literary and historical milieu in which the Education was conceived, written, published, and received, the context that Locke himself would recognize. Now it should be obvious that a much more popular context has been deliberately omitted, and so it has. This is the context that has preoccupied most of Locke's editors and commentators, that is, the place of the Education in the whole history of Western, or at least English, educational thought. However, the object of this chapter is simply to appreciate more fully than has been done in the past the immediate intellectual and historical contexts of Locke's educational writings and to provide a fairly precise locus from which to plot his position in the larger history of education.
Though indeed he was not a strict empiricist and allowed several assumptions to drift into his thought, Locke was the least metaphysically inclined of the seventeenth-century philosophers. His sceptical disregard for system and deductive rationalism eliminated the more abstruse mode of metaphysical argumentation of the schools and substituted questions that could be approached on the basis of psychological data, inductive generalization, or an____________________