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Locke: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – July 31, 2003
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About the Author
John Dunn is a Fellow of King's College and Professor of Political Theory at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Political Thought of John Locke, Western Political Theory in the Face of the Future, Modern Revolutions, and The History of Political Theory, and the editor of Democracy:
The Unfinished Journey.
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; Updated edition (July 31, 2003)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 112 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0192803948
- ISBN-13 : 978-0192803948
- Lexile measure : 1390L
- Item Weight : 4.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 7.14 x 4.4 x 0.35 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #721,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As a student of American education I would recommend this book highly in order to grasp the character of Colonial, early national education, and the origins of public education in the 1830s and 1840s. Then, quite unlike today, education was centrally about character building. This had been true in Puritan Massachusetts, and throughout, whether in Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanac," or in Jefferson's views on civic education, or in Horace Mann's vision of the necessity of state-controlled public schooling. Locke's thinking influenced all of this. To Horace Mann, Locke's "Thoughts on Education" was "by far better than any thing which had ever been written" on this topic, as Mann expert Bob Taylor underlines. Its central element was to teach students how to behave decently in order to preserve what was perceived as a threatened, in the 1840s, if not, as earlier in the 1780s, a fragile, republic.
Dunn's review of Locke brings one convincingly into the thinking of this era albeit a century or more later than Locke's own.
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.
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.
I also felt that the book repeated much of the same information too many times. I would have rather have seen some time spent on explanatory background information pertinent to Locke at various points in his life, rather than see so much repetition.
This IS a good book, and if you want to learn about Locke, you will do so by reading this book. I certainly have. The author is highly knowledgeable and goes to great lengths to explain some of the issues and problems with which Locke wrestled in the 17th century. But I think a revised version could incorporate more background information to improve readability, and reduce some of the seeming repetitiveness of the content. This could be a five star book with some revision.
And Yes, Dunn's writing is fine, but you do need some background understanding of the political and intellectual worlds of the C17th.
Top reviews from other countries
Saved the situation by giving the book to my mate Leonard who works as a mechanic at the local garage . . So all's well that ends well . .and it's 5 stars from Len, if you'll kindly pardon the pun.