Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Essay: "Epistle to the Reader on 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.' " John Locke.

One-minute review: On the origin of his treatise, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” emphasizing that his search for truth led to observations that he did not expect which led to the present length of the treatise: “New discoveries led me still on, and so it grew insensibly to the bulk it now appears in.”


“…thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had in writing it.”

“Its searches after truth…wherein the very pursuit makes a great part of the pleasure.”

“This, reader, is the entertainment of those who let loose their own thoughts and follow them in writing….”

“If it seems too much to thee, thou must blame the subject; for when I put pen to paper, I thought all I should have to say on this matter would have been contained in one sheet of paper….”

“Vague and insignificant forms of speech, and abuse of language, have so long passed for mysteries of science; and hard or misapplied words with little or no meaning, have by prescription, such a right to be mistaken for deep learning and height of speculation; that it will not be easy to persuade either those who speak or those who hear them, that they are but the covers of ignorance, and hindrance of true knowledge.”

Great Essays. Ed. Houston Peterson. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc. 1960.

What is an essay? “They are all prefaces. A preface is nothing but a talk with the reader; and they [essays] do nothing else.” Charles Lamb.

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