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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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Linguistic Turns: Leibniz, Tooke, and Coleridge

Linguistic Turns: Leibniz, Tooke, and Coleridge

(p.45) Two Linguistic Turns: Leibniz, Tooke, and Coleridge
The Rhetoric of Error from Locke to Kleist
Stanford University Press

In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke makes a stand on the relationship between words and ideas that some commentators deem ambivalent. In particular, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and John Horne Tooke called for bolder and more extensive investigations of this relationship in New Essays on Human Knowledge and Epea Pteroenta; or, The Diversions of Purley, respectively. Locke sought to bring the clarifying prowess of thought to bear on language in order to regulate it, whereas Leibniz and Tooke argue that language will help to guide errant philosophizing and cure it of its errors. However, the same principles that they invoke are also responsible for the irresolvable ambivalence of error, revealing both the possibility of systematization and the constant undercutting of this possibility through unpredictable errance. Leibniz and Tooke insist that a scientific and rigorous etymology would be the best way to establish the reliability of language. In his poem “Frost at Midnight,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge dramatizes the unbridgeable gap between movements of thought and movements of word.

Keywords:   Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke, Leibniz, John Horne Tooke, error, errance, language, thought, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, etymology

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