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Understanding Misunderstanding: Locke Hold the Key

151 pages2 hours


LOCKE AND MOORE IN CONVERSATION An original take on an original mind In a bold experiment linguist Terence Moore holds a series of conversations in 21st century language with 17th century philosopher, John Locke. Lively and engaging their conversations initially focus on Locke’s radical insights into language and its workings – insights that are highly pertinent to our use of language today. Secret reference Central to their discussions is Locke’s fundamental notion ‘secret reference’ which reveals how, when using language to communicate, we are all engaged in a tacit communal conspiracy, a universal assumption that what we mean by words other do too. In fact things are not so simple. Locke argues that words do not contain meanings; words only spark meanings in the mind. And minds differ, opening the way for misunderstanding. Locke and Moore tease out the implications of ‘secret reference’ in wide-ranging discussions that take us from morality through happiness to Orwell and Chomsky and governments’ strategies to ‘manufacture consent’.

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