JH1 History of Modern Philosophy

We consider the seminal 17th century philosophies of Locke and Berkeley. Both were strongly influenced by Descartes and by the emerging natural sciences. Along with David Hume (see SH2), they are the principal figures of classical British Empiricism, according to which all knowledge comes from experience. Within that constraint, Locke attempts to assess the limits of possible human knowledge on the assumption of Realism, i.e., that the material world is real and independent of our experience of it. This led to his celebrated attempt to distinguish those aspects of experience that correspond to real features of the world from those which do not, or which do so only in an indirect way. Berkeley famously argued that the whole idea of realism is incoherent, and that knowledge and indeed reality itself is confined to mind or 'spirit' as he called it. This module is recommended background for further modules in the history of philosophy such as Kant or Mind and Knowledge in the Scottish Enlightenment.



Image of John Locke

Course lecturer:  Dr Chris Lindsay
Semester: 1
Lecture hour & venue: see Honours timetable.

Preliminary reading: Prospective students wanting to get a sense of the content of the course might consider reading the Introduction (in some editions this is Book 1, Chapter 1) and Book 2, Chapter 1 of Locke's Essay. GAJ Rogers' essay 'The Intellectual Setting and Aims of the Essay' in the Newman volume below is also very helpful in this context.

Recommended texts for 2022-23: The main books you need for JH1 are:

  • John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Recommended edition: the 1997 Penguin Classic edition, edited by Roger Woolhouse.
  • George Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues. Recommended edition: OUP 1999, edited by Howard Robinson.

(E-book and web versions of both of these are widely available.)

Useful secondary texts include:

  • Samuel Rickless, Locke (Wiley Blackwell 2014)*
  • E.J. Lowe, The Routledge Guidebook to Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Routledge 2013)*
  • J.L. Mackie, Problems From Locke (OUP 1976)*
  • Lex Newman, The Cambridge Companion to Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (CUP 2007)*
  • Alasdair Richmond, Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge: A Reader's Guide (Continuum 2009)*
  • Robert J. Fogelin, The Routledge Guidebook to Berkeley and the Principles of Human Knowledge (Routledge 2001)*
  • Jonathan Dancy, Berkeley: An Introduction (Blackwell 1987)

('*' indicates that an electronic version is available through the Library)

Teaching resources for this course will be made available on the Philosophy Moodle site.