"Would the pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them"

— Locke, John (1632-1704)


Place of Publication
London
Date
1690, 1694, 1695, 1700, 1706
Metaphor
"Would the pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them"
Metaphor in Context
I pretend not to teach, but to enquire, and therefore cannot but confess here again, that external and internal sensation are the only passages I can find of knowledge to the understanding. These alone, as far as I can discover, are the windows by which light is let into this dark room: For methinks the understanding is not much unlike a closet wholly shut from light, with only some little openings left, to let in external visible resemblances, or ideas of things without: Would the pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them.
Provenance
Reading; Found again searching in Past Masters. See also Marjorie Nicholson's Newton Demands the Muse (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1946), 144-145; found again reading M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (London: Oxford UP, 1953), 57. Also, Joanna Picciotto, Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2010), 261; Sean Silver, The Mind is a Collection: Case Studies in Eighteenth-Century Thought (Philadelphia: Penn Press, 2015), 31, 56, 58, 63.
Citation
Locke began composition as early as 1671 (Drafts A and B).

I find over 25 entries in the ESTC (1690, 1694, 1695, 1700, 1706, 1710, 1715, 1721, 1726, 1731, 1735, 1741, 1748, 1753, 1759, 1760, 1765, 1768, 1775, 1777, 1786, 1788, 1793, 1795, 1796, 1798). See also the many abridgements issued in the period.

First published as An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. In Four Books. (London: Printed by Eliz. Holt, for Thomas Basset, at the George in Fleetstreet, near St. Dunstan's Church, 1690). <Link to EEBO><EEBO-TCP>

Searching first in a Past Masters edition based on the 12th Edition of Locke's Works and proofread against the 1959 Fraser edition. More recent searches in EEBO-TCP.

Reading John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter Nidditch (Oxford, Oxford UP, 1975)--against which I have checked the text searched in Past Masters. Note, Nidditch's text is based on 4th ed. of 1700.
Theme
Interiority
Date of Entry
04/16/2006
Date of Review
11/08/2004

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.