Of the Abuse of Words (Penguin Great Ideas) Mass Market Paperback – 27 Aug 2009
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About the Author
John Locke (1632-1704) was educated at Christ Church, Oxford and held various academic posts at that university, lecturing on Greek and rhetoric. However, his interests lay in medicine and the new experimental sciences and in 1667 he became personal physician to the Earl of Shaftesbury. Under the influence of Shaftesbury, Locke developed his ideas on politics, property, trade, monarchy and the mind. Shaftesbury became a bitter opponent of Charles II and was involved in the plot of 1683. This forced Locke to flee in exile to Holland, but he returned after 1688 and began to publish his most famous works. He wrote also on theology, education, and in defence of religous tolerance, while founding the analytic philosophy of the mind.
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Top Customer Reviews
As you can probably tell by the title, this is mainly a book about epistemology and etymology. The author starts by exploring the way ideas are formed by the human mind, and explains how some types of ideas are more liable to error than others. He explains what it means for an idea to be "adequate" or not, on the basis that words will always be liable to mistakes if the ideas they are trying to convey aren't clear. He goes on to explore language itself, and how it is prone to mistakes (and, eventually, to "disputes") because men usually believe words to be the thing that they supposedly stand for. Since we mostly learn words before learning about ideas, most of the definitions we have will not be exactly the same everyone else has, and we will be using the same words to signify different things.
The book is interesting but, I must admit, I found it a bit hard to get into, mainly because of the language - some words, specially prepositions, seem to have changed somewhat, which confused me a bit. Also, the sentences are unusually long. I suspect this might not be as big a problem for English native speakers as it was for me (I'm fluent in English and quite used to reading in this language, but it's still not my primary language).
If you're interested in philosophy and language than this is definitely an important book to read. Just keep in mind it's not an easy one.