Locke Unlocked student project

Five origami shapes made from different coloured paper


Locke Unlocked student project

A gold horizontal flourish

Project type: Learning

Project dates: February – April 2022

A project with the Highfield Unit of Warneford Hospital and a local school


Inspired by a display, at the Bodleian Libraries' Weston Library, exploring philosopher John Locke’s 1989 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Locke Unlocked project enabled students from the Highfield Unit of Warneford Hospital and a local school to consider six central themes of the work:

  • No innate ideas
  • Molyneux's problem
  • Primary and secondary qualities
  • Abstract ideas
  • Substance and substratum
  • Personal identity

These ideas were elucidated using paired objects that asked the students to consider enduring philosophical problems. They created stencilling, marbling and experimental drawing in response to the themes.

“I was surprised how open-minded, self-reflective and intelligent some of our students were. I have never really had deep philosophical conversations with our students before and it was fun to see their thinking/processing.”

– Maths Teacher, Highfield Unit

The project resources for teachers were subsequently developed as an online resource to support philosophical understanding and provide a range of activity suggestions teachers can choose from or adapt.

This project was a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and artist Cliff Landesman.


This display was generously supported by the Polonsky Foundation