Central Works of Philosophy

Central Works of Philosophy: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century

Edited by John Shand
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 241
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  • Book Info
    Central Works of Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Ranging over 2,500 years of philosophical writing, this five-volume collection of essays is an unrivalled companion for studying and reading philosophy. Each essay provides an overview of a work and a clear exposition of its central ideas. Covering the most influential works of our greatest philosophers, the series offers remarkable insights into the ideas out of which our present ways of thinking emerged. VOLUME 2 examines the age of rationalism and empiricism, a period of unprecedented philosophical thought that, combined with the scientific revolution, laid the foundations of the modern world. Included are Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Rousseau. Contributors include Janet Broughton, Douglas Burnham, Peter Kail, John Milton, Steven Nadler, Jonathan Riley, John Rogers, and Tom Stoneham.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8458-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    John Shand
  5. Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Philosophy: Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    John Shand

    The philosophers in this volume mark what may be argued is the second major watershed in the intellectual development of mankind. If Plato is the father of the coming of age of mankind, then the philosophers gathered around the Enlightenment are the thinkers who spread this more mature intellectual outlook deeply and widely throughout the psyche and institutions of the Western world. Kant was asked in 1784 to say what is Enlightenment, and he replied that:

    Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without guidance of another. It is self-incurred,...

  6. 1 René Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy
    (pp. 15-36)
    Janet Broughton

    You are an educated person of good common sense who has a healthy dose of curiosity. Imagine yourself as just such a person living in the middle of the seventeenth century, and imagine that you were turning to the most learned people of your day, asking questions about the world around you. Their answers would leave your head spinning. The cutting-edge scientists would be telling you that lemons are not yellow and sugar is not sweet, and that the sun moving across the sky is still but the still earth beneath your feet is moving. The sceptical freethinkers would be...

  7. 2 Baruch Spinoza: Ethics
    (pp. 37-60)
    Steven Nadler

    Baruch (or Benedictus) Spinoza was perhaps the most original and radical philosopher of his time. He was also, for just those reasons, the most vilified thinker of the early modern period. Even during Spinoza’s own lifetime, the term “Spinozism” became synonymous with atheism, as political and religious authorities issued numerous and highly agitated condemnations of his ideas. Despite this formidable opposition, Spinoza and his followers exercised a good deal of influence upon the Enlightenment and modern philosophical, political and religious thought.

    Spinoza was born in Amsterdam in 1632 to a prominent merchant family in the city’s Portuguese-Jewish community. As a...

  8. 3 G.W.Leibniz: Monadology
    (pp. 61-88)
    Douglas Burnham

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote theMonadologyin 1714, near the end of his life. It was a life of considerable accomplishment. He was born in Leipzig in 1646 and although the son of a professor of moral philosophy, and educated in the law, Leibniz chose neither of these as a career. Instead, he became an intellectual all-rounder at the court of the Duke of Hanover, working as librarian, official historian, legal advisor and, frequently enough, international diplomat. In these capacities he travelled often and widely in Europe, giving him ample opportunity to meet the foremost intellectuals of the day, including...

  9. 4 Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
    (pp. 89-114)
    G. A. J. Rogers

    Hobbes’s most important philosophical work in English was undoubtedlyLeviathan,which was published right in the middle of the seventeenth century, in 1651. It is too often regarded as a work of political philosophy only, when any serious attention to its texts shows it to be much more than that, containing as it does elements drawn from Hobbes’s wider account of human beings and the world, which is his whole philosophical system. In that sense it can be argued thatLeviathanis part of a complete philosophy, which stands in marked contrast with the then still most influential philosophy in...

  10. 5 John Locke: An Essay concerning Human Understanding
    (pp. 115-136)
    J. R. Milton

    John Locke (1632–1704) was a man of wide intellectual interests. During the last 15 years of his life he published a series of books on a range of subjects that included politics, religion, economics and education, but in general philosophy all his energy was devoted to a single project. TheEssay concerning Human Understanding,first published in 1690, is by far the most important of Locke’s philosophical works. Four editions appeared during his lifetime and a fifth shortly after his death; all the later editions introduce significant changes, and both the second (1694) and the fourth (1700) contain wholly...

  11. 6 George Berkeley: A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
    (pp. 137-166)
    Tom Stoneham

    George Berkeley published thePrinciples of Human KnowledgePart 1 in 1710, when he was just 25 years old. He never published the projected Part 2, on free will and the self, claiming to have lost the manuscript while travelling in Italy. Part 1, now known simply as thePrinciples,defends the apparently shocking thesis that there is no material world; all that exists are immaterial minds and the ideas that are their objects of consciousness. At the stroke of a pen, this bold move did away with all the problems that had beset the materialist philosophies dominant during the...

  12. 7 David Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature
    (pp. 167-192)
    P. J. E. Kail

    David Hume’sA Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjectsis an immensely complex, endlessly fascinating and hugely influential work. It is a bold attempt to give a secular account of the nature of human minds, based on the methods of science, an attempt that is tinged with sceptical lessons about the extent of human knowledge. Its full meaning remains controversial to this day and here I attempt to give a flavour of the work and its difficulties.

    The work comprises three volumes (now referred to as “Books”): “Of the...

  13. 8 Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract
    (pp. 193-222)
    Jonathan Riley

    Perhaps the most quoted line of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’sThe Social Contractbegins its first chapter: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” (SC i.l [1]; Rousseau 1997b: 41).¹ Man is naturally free in the sense that he is born without any genuine obligations to others to refrain from doing whatever he judges is necessary for his self-preservation, once he acquires the capacities for judgement. Yet everywhere he is subjected to positive laws administered by some government whose leaders claim to be his rightful masters.

    The author of that provocative line, which echoes similar statements by the great...

  14. Index
    (pp. 223-228)