Top critical review
15 people found this helpful
Not the key to Locke
on 5 January 2008
Locke was a hugely important thinker, and his work was very influential, in fact dominant, in the early stage of the Enlightenment. He was a particularly strong influence on Voltaire and Rousseau, and his arguments on individual liberty were later to guide the American Founding Fathers. It is difficult to overrate his importance as one of the founders of modern philosophy. It is even more difficult to gain any insight into this from reading Dunn's book.
The problem is that Dunn cannot write. He may well have a thorough understanding of Locke's work, but he is not letting on. This does not matter so much in the early part of the book, which deals with Locke's biography, but in the latter part, dealing with the philosophy, Locke's thought is rendered entirely opaque by Dunn's prose. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what is at fault. The structure and meaning of individual sentences are sound enough, but they are assembled into paragraphs that don't actually tell us much. For example, we learn that Locke's proof of the existence of God would not impress many modern readers, but we are not told what that proof is. The blurb on the cover tells us that Locke's message has been 'curiously misunderstood', but the book itself does not explain how or why, and certainly does nothing to clear up that misunderstanding, whatever it was.
After forcing my way through this book, I spent an hour or so on the Internet and learned far more about the subject. I recommend you do the same.