Locke: Epistemology and Ontology

Locke: Epistemology and Ontology

Locke: Epistemology and Ontology

Locke: Epistemology and Ontology

Synopsis

John Locke is the greatest English philosopher. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , one of the most influential books in the history of thought, is his greatest work. In this study the historical meaning and philosophical significance of Locke's Essay are investigated more comprehensively than ever before. Locke was originally published in two volumes, Epistemology and Ontology . This paperback edition has within its covers the full text of both volumes.

Excerpt

Perhaps the most profound and difficult question in philosophy concerns the nature of philosophy itself. One way of raising it is to ask why the history of philosophy matters so much to philosophers. Almost everywhere its study is recognized as an integral, even essential part of a philosophical education, and it is normal for it to be pursued in the same university departments and by many of the same people as engage directly in the criticism and production of current philosophical theory. It is only necessary to compare philosophy in this respect with chemistry or biology or mathematics to see that the relationship between the historiography and the practice of philosophy is a peculiar one. What kind of subject can it be that has been so bound up with its own history, ever since it was old enough to have a history? Not that an explicit conception of 'the history of philosophy' is nearly as old as philosophy itself. Yet philosophers have for a very long time felt it appropriate to draw on the past, to align themselves with or against long-standing traditions, to revive what has previously been discarded, to engage in dialogue, sympathetic or hostile, with the long dead. Why?

Not everyone would agree that the tie between philosophy and its historiography is either inevitable or desirable. There are both philosophers and historians who are tired of the marriage and would like a divorce. Many historians see an active interest in philosophical questions as an inevitably distorting factor in the enterprise of uncovering the content of past thought and mapping its place in the past as a whole. Some philosophers regard any serious respect for the paradigms from the past as an obstacle to a properly scientific philosophy. One of the purposes of the present work, unlikely enough to be achieved, is to persuade both parties that they are wrong.

A sceptical explanation of the importance of history to philosophy is that it is only through history, and only through that kind of motivated interpretation of past writing which constitutes the construction of a

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