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The Rhetoric of Error from Locke to Kleist$
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Zachary Sng

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780804770170

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804770170.001.0001

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Corrupting the Fountains of Knowledge

Corrupting the Fountains of Knowledge

(p.14) One Corrupting the Fountains of Knowledge
The Rhetoric of Error from Locke to Kleist
Stanford University Press

In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke discusses the complex admixture of delight, instruction, and persuasion that is absolutely consistent with the three tasks of the orator commonly mentioned by classical rhetoricians: movere, delectare, docere (to move, to delight, to instruct). He appears to be giving the art of persuasion a privileged position in relation to understanding. This chapter examines the notions of understanding, the relationship between language and thought, and the link between language and the fountains of knowledge in Locke's Essay. It considers Locke's argument that the epistemological consequences of language's potential for error are minor, as well as his attempt to sustain this difficult claim in the Essay by resorting to a complex network of figures, centered on the distinction between origins and mere mechanisms of distribution. Finally, the chapter discusses Locke's remarks on language, gold, and exchange in the Essay and in some of his pamphlets on money, along with his claim that the same mechanisms which make linguistic and monetary value possible also make them liable to error, corruption, and devaluation.

Keywords:   Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke, error, language, thought, understanding, money, knowledge, gold, exchange

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