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Locke in 90 Minutes (Philsophers in 90 Minutes) [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   87
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.5" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.26"
Weight:   0.44 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 28, 1999
Publisher   Ivan R. Dee, Publisher
ISBN  1566632617  
EAN  9781566632614  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In Locke in 90 Minutes, Paul Strathern offers a concise, expert account of Locke's life and ideas, and explains their influence on man's struggle to understand his existence in the world. The book also includes selections from Locke's writings; a brief list of suggested reading for those who wish to push further; and chronologies that place Locke within his own age and in the broader scheme of philosophy.

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More About Paul Strathern

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Paul Strathern is author of the popular and critically acclaimed Philosophers in 90 Minutes series. Highlights from the series include Nietzsche in 90 Minutes, Aristotle in 90 Minutes, and Plato in 90 Minutes. Mr. Strathern has lectured in philosophy and mathematics and now lives and writes in London. A former Somerset Maugham prize winner, he is also the author of books on history and travel as well as five novels. His articles have appeared in a great many newspapers, including the Observer (London) and the Irish Times. His own degree in philosophy came from Trinity College, Dublin.

Paul Strathern currently resides in London. Paul Strathern was born in 1940.

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1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Government > Democracy   [1007  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A waste of time and money...  Jul 8, 2006
Paul Strathern is confused. He thinks we buy his books because he is witty and irreverent. In fact, we buy them because we are misled by their titles, which seem to promise thoughtful introductions to interesting philosophers. As a result, Strathern and his readers are at cross-purposes, and neither gets what they really want. Strathern does not get an adoring audience that delights in his antics, because we do not care about him, and we did not come to laugh at Locke. We came to understand him, but we do not get a proper introduction, because Strathern is so busy displaying himself for our admiration that he hardly tells us what Locke actually said and did, only what he thinks of Locke. Strathern finds Locke boring, for example, but why does he think we should care? Does he think his boredom is an ironic mark of intellectual distinction that especially qualifies him to throw rocks at one of history's greatest thinkers? No, he is only making a bad joke and begging for our applause. In other words, Strathern is pathetic. He reminds me of the minor functionary who was asked to introduce a famous speaker, but who refused to leave the stage when he discovered that he loved to be the center of attention. And so he prattled on and on, abusing the embarrassed audience with his unwelcome opinions, while people shifted uncomfortably in their seats, hoping he would just shut up and let the real presentation begin. Someone should tell Strathern to just shut up and let the real presentation begin. Until they do, thoughtful readers must look elsewhere for an intelligent introduction to Locke (and to the many other topics Strathern has so effectively hidden behind himself). Fortunately, there are many fine authors who are not only better qualified to write about philosophy, but whose books actually deliver on their promise. I suggest you read one of them instead.
A beneficient philosopher   Mar 22, 2005
Strathern tells in his usual humorous and fast- paced way the life of Locke, and provides his own take on Locke's thought. For Strathern Locke is one of the political thinkers who has done the most good. There is much to be said for this view as the emphasis in Locke on individual rights, on tolerance, on liberty are a major influence on the US Declaration of Independance and Constitution.
Locke also has a decisive influence on the philosophical tradition and turns it away from Aristotlian scholaticism toward learning through experience. In his great work an 'Essay on Human Understanding' Locke analyzes the way we come to know the world. He suggests quite in contradiction to what is believed today, that the mind is a tabula rasa a blank slate at the outset of life upon which experience freely writes. We today have more a sense of the inherent structures of the mind, linguistically and cognitively.
Locke's analysis of the 'impressions and ideas' we have in terms of our apprehension of the primary and secondary qualities of objects is based according to Strathern on the difference between the measurable and non- measurable qualities, and is thus related to the rise of scientific investigation during Locke's lifetime.
From Locke would of course follow Berkeley and after this the true demolition job of Hume. From the imperfect knowledge of the world through experience in Locke there would come in Hume a questioning of our ability to confidently know anything at all.
Locke is not one of the most brilliant of the great philosophers, but nonetheless one of the most influential.
Strathern does an excellent job of telling us how this is so.
why bother?  Jul 22, 2002
I found this book to be essentially useless. It presented a brief, boring biography of Locke with little attention to his world altering theories. Waste of time.
Strathern could have done better.  Mar 4, 2002
I think Paul Strathern is brilliant. He must have looked at the way the "...for Dummies" series has a standard format and done something similar. I was more impressed with his treatment of Confucius. In both this book on Locke and the one on Confucius he gives us 50 pp. of content in two sections: "Subject's Life and Works" and "Afterword". But in the book on Locke, Strathern spent too many words poking fun at Locke and calling him boring. He also spent much more effort in describing the life and times of Locke than his philosophy. I think Strathern must find Locke too boring to spend much time discussing his contributions. "From Socrates to Sarte: the Philosophic Quest" by T.Z.Lavine gives four chapters to Hume and a handful of pages to Locke. "The Story of Philosophy" by Will Durant doesn't give a full chapter to either Hume or Locke, merely including them within the context of philosophers whom Durant considers greater. So at least Strathern has given more individual focus to Locke than other writers popularizing philosophy. Strathern also, as part of his format in this 90 Minutes series, gives representative quotes from Locke's work. This is a very nice touch and I recommend the book for this reason. You can see that reading Locke is like reading the King James version of the Bible: "Huh? What did he say?" This is a decent book, but I did feel a bit let down while reading it, which is why I give it 3 instead of 4 stars. Also, the other reviewer made comments saying that Locke's philosophy of government depends on the inate goodness of people. That is only that reviewer's opinion. That did not come across at all in this presentation of Locke's work.
John Locke: His life and his philosophy, served fast  Jun 17, 2001
This book sets as its goal to communicate the life and work of John Locke in 90 minutes. For me, the book succeeded in this; I read it in about an hour and then went back over some parts to review in more depth.

John Locke (1632-1704) was an important philosopher; he laid the groundwork for liberal democracy and he was also the founder of empiricism. Strathern spends most of the book describing different events in Locke's life and for non-specialist, this is probably a good approach. Strathern does a fairly good job of putting Locke in his historical context; grew up during the English Civil War, and then lived through Oliver Cromwell's rule and then the Restoration of the Monarchy; one of the more turbulent periods in English history, no doubt. I think Paul Strathern is a British writer and this comes through in his writing.

Strathern is fond is saying that Locke's philosophy was "common sense." However, empiricism (The view that experience, especially of the senses, is the only source of knowledge) is not really self-evident and wholly obvious. Locke also presumed that when one is born, one is a tabula rasa (The mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience. The unformed, featureless mind in the philosophy of John Locke.) or a blank slate. I think that everybody has some innate ideas (things that you just know apart from experience). On occasion, it appears that Locke is a materialist (materialism: The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena) but this is incompatible with his philosophy. Surely, empiricism is a non-physical thing; how much does empiricism weigh? What is its volume? It is non-physical. As a philosophy of epistemology (The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity), I think empiricism is seriously flawed.

Locke's political thought probably had more impact on the world than his epistemology. Locke believed there is a natural law that gives people certain rights; for example the right to life or the right to liberty. However, because people keep stepping on other people's rights, it is necessary to form some sort of social contract (i.e like the American Constitution). Locke also held that certain rights are inherent and that if a government should act to violate those rights, then the people are justified in starting a revolution against those in power. Locke believed that Government had no legitimacy except the consent of the people (near the end of the 1700's, this would result in a paradigm shift from the Divine Right of Kings, to a Government by the People).

One the most interesting passages (I don't agree with his evaluation of Kant thought) describes several centuries of European philosophy: "Without Descartes there might have been no modern philosophy. But it was Locke who fathered the main line of development - the British Empiricists, who then provoked Kant to produce the greatest philosophical system of all, which in turn gave rise to the elephantine folly of Hegel, and the consequent disbelief in all systems by anyone except Marxists and optimistic punters." (page 49)

One of the interesting legacies of Locke may be his contribution to scientism (The belief that only science provides true knowledge or only that which can be proved by science is true). He makes a distinction between primary qualities of an object, which are quantifiable (e.g. mass or volume) and he said these are in the objects. Then there are secondary qualities, and these are qualitative (e.g. colour or smell) do not have the same connection to the object. In some sense, secondary qualities are mental constructs, in Locke's view. It is easy to see how a belief that quantitative properties are the only real things that can be known (i.e. if science can't measure it, it doesn't exist.) has major repercussions. The other problem I have with Locke relates to his understanding of language and how that language can describe objects. Strathern says, "Locke had rejected the Aristotelian notion whereby the words with which we classify things correspond to the `real essence' of things." (page 47) The impact of this is that if two people see an object they cannot discover a common essence but both can come up with ideas that are mental constructs. I think this may have contributed to the moral relativism that is now so so pervasive in North America.

On the format of the book, about 60% covers Locke's life and works; that is 48 pages. Then there is a short Afterword, followed by a 10 page section which quotes from Locke's two major works, "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding," (on epistemology) and, "Two Treatises of Government," (on political philosophy; attacks the Divine Right of Kings and argues for liberal democracy). Then there are two chronologies; one of the history of Western philosophy (it is interesting to note who comes before and after Locke) and then there is a chronology of Locke's life.

There are several problems with Locke's thought, however I will look at two here. In describing the point at which everyone has his or her rights and all is well, I think this shows a view that humanity is basically good. However, if you examine the history of the world, yourself or the Bible, you find that this is simply not the case. It is dangerous to build a government with the assumption that people are basically good. On his political philosophy, I don't know if it is wise to wholly place the legitimacy of government in the consent of the people. There must be a higher authority beyond man, immutable and good, on which government can be measured against (e.g. in South Africa, apartheid was legal and authorized by the government however only by appeal to a transcendent law that demands equality could this be overthrown)


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