Locke’s Philosophy of Language

Guyer, Paul. "Locke's Philosophy of Language," The Cambridge Companion to Locke. Ed. Vere Chappell, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994.


“Locke’s first reference to language in the “Epistle to the Reader” at the outset of his Essay concerning Human Understanding suggests merely a pragmatic, Baconian insistance that we must strive for clarity in language because obscurity of speech is a frequent but unavoidable source of theoretical confusion: “The greatest part of the Questions and Controversies that perplex Mankind (depend) on the doubtful and uncertain use of Words, or (which is the same) indetermined Ideas, which they are made to stand for” (E Epis: 13). Such a statement does not imply that one needs any theory about language in order to avoid such problems, but just a special degree of care in its ordinary use…. In fact, there is much more to Locke’s view of language than such comments suggest.”