The Magazine

The Abstract Art

How philosophers boil philosophy to its essence, and why.

Jan 26, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 18 • By MARK BLITZ
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The other direction would have been for Hight to connect his analysis of ideas with other issues important to thinkers such as Locke, whose discussion of ideas is tied to his attempt to reduce clerical influence and advance enlightenment and individual natural rights. The link between the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and the Two Treatises of Government can be fruitfully explored.

Such exploration might have controlled Hight's occasional tendency to reduce his thinkers' concerns to the technical and scholarly ones of contemporary professors. There is a bit too much academic talk of ontological commitments, as if thinkers and their thoughts will soon be lobbying for marriage licenses. The authors he discusses had reasons for their deepest views, however, not mere commitments to them. These gaps not withstanding, Marc Hight has written a commendably intelligent and useful book.

Mark Blitz, the Fletcher Jones professor of political philosophy at Claremont McKenna College, is the author, most recently, of Duty Bound: Responsibility and American Public Life.