September 23, 2012

Locke's Contradiction: His Writing Style vs His Message

What I found ironic about Locke's philosophy on words and meanings was the contradiction between his writing style and the message he conveyed. He calls for a "plain" style without excessive ornamentation or complexity. However, I would not consider the writing style of this work "plain". He says the end of language is to be understood, yet I had a difficult time understanding the complex ways he elaborates on his ideas about language. I would not say that I did not grasp the main concepts Locke discusses, but I would say this understanding could have come more quickly and with more ease had he applied the concepts he spoke of to his own writing. I feel like he says the same thing, in more or less words, several times throughout the essay. I also found myself confused with some of his word choice, which seems to vary when standing for the same idea, something I believe Locke himself would consider a poor choice for the sake of others' understanding.

From my reading of Locke's work, the main ideas I gathered were as follows.

  • Locke emphasizes that simple ideas come from elemental perceptions and are most nearly universal, whereas complex ideas are uncertain in nature, culture-bound, communal, or individual.
  • Words represent ideas (as opposed to things), and theses words are ambiguous.

Our primary ideas, however, are identical. Here I must disagree.

I believe everyone's experiences are different, unique to that individual. Our perception of an experience affects how we feel about it and shapes our ideas. We use language to communicate these experiences and ideas in ways others can relate to, based on experiences and ideas of their own. If we all experienced everything exactly the same, what would be the need for descriptive language? From this reading I am uncertain if Locke actually did believe we experience things the same, but I feel his statement that primary ideas are identical lends itself to such a conclusion.

1 comment:

Drea Fetchik said...

Ok good I am not the only one that see's that Locke is contradicting himself right after he makes a claim about something. He says we all have a universal understanding and than switches it and says everyone is wrong and the world needs to be changed to believe what I believe, because I am correct!

But sometimes I wonder if he did that on purpose? If he wrote his works with a devil's advocate voice to rebuttal himself directly after so that way the reader has to come up with some kind of opinion almost instantly. But than another part of me wonders if he was trying to cater to 2 different audiences and when they read what they waned to hear they would just disagree with the other sides opinion. Hmmm?

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