Locke’s Hermeneutics of Existence and His Representation of Christianity

  • Victor NuovoEmail author
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 226)


The word “Hermeneutics” has an exotic aura that may seem uncharacteristic of Locke. It was not one that he employed, nor is it commonly used by his contemporary interpreters, which are reasons enough to require an explanation of its prominence in the title and in the discussion that follows. “Locke’s theory and practice of interpretation” may seem a plainer and more suitable choice of words to characterize the subject of this study, although it is a less convenient alternative, employing several words to express what could be said well enough by one. However, my choice of “hermeneutics” has been prompted by other considerations than the mere economy of words. It is to be preferred, because of its rich associations, which, I believe, direct interpreters to themes in Locke’s philosophy that otherwise might go unnoticed. And this should lead to the discovery of a more fulsome and deeper, although perhaps more problematic wisdom, than is commonly supposed to be found in his writings, and perhaps also to a sense of greater, although here also more problematic, unity among them. The meaning of the word and its cognates afford us a more informative philosophical prospect than the more limited Early Modern, by harking back to Antiquity and pointing forward to Kant and beyond, facilitating the discovery in Locke’s writings of resonances with past tradition and anticipations of philosophical problems and solutions with which it is commonly supposed he had little to do. The aim of this exercise is not to fit Locke into new surroundings, but to consider him anew, hermeneutically, which necessitates that attention be paid to internal contexts of Locke’s several writings, and the “thread and coherence” of his various discourses. A comparison of these internal contexts should make it possible to decide whether there may not be a mode of thinking common to them all that, once identified and clarified, may serve as a trace or connector that unites them into a single expression of thought.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

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