Learning from Six Philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume - Vol. 2

Learning from Six Philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume - Vol. 2

Learning from Six Philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume - Vol. 2

Learning from Six Philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume - Vol. 2

Synopsis

Jonathan Bennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can be learned from its success or failure? For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is an excellent introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. In this second volume, Bennett focuses on the work of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.

Excerpt

This second half of my two-volume work is mainly concerned with themes in the philosophies of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, though Leibniz will appear as a commentator on Locke and (in Chapters 23 and 40) in other ways as well. Chapter 24 expounds a theory of Descartes's which I prefer to treat only after presenting related work by Locke and Leibniz.

Fifteen of the chapters in this volume (the exceptions being 23, 24, and 38-40) overlap my Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes (1971) in the topics covered and, to a considerable extent, in what I have to say about them. Except in Chapter 37 , however, hardly a sentence has been carried over intact from the earlier book, and what I now offer reflects the intervening three decades of further reading and reflection and of growth as a philosopher.

I respond to some criticisms of my earlier work, where it seems profitable to do so. But my main concern is to present what I now have to say in as clear and uncluttered a manner as possible.

Each volume contains the Contents and Abbreviations for the entire work. the Bibliography and Indexes have been divided, with each volume containing only what is relevant to it. Each Index of Topics includes references to the 'six philosophers'; all other personal references are in the Index of Persons.

A comprehensive treatment of my six philosophers, even on the topics within their work which I discuss, could not be achieved by one person or presented in a mere forty chapters. I have chosen topics which I find interesting and nourishing to wrestle with. a reader who stays with me will at the end have some sense of the overall shape of each of the six, though providing this has not been my chief aim.

The title Learning from Six Philosophers declares my attitude in this work: I want to learn from these men, which I do by arguing with them. I explain and defend this approach in the Introduction to Volume 1.

This work arises out of teaching across forty years at several universities—Cambridge, Cornell, Michigan, Princeton, British Columbia, Syracuse. My intellectual debts to colleagues and students at those institutions are too numerous, and not clearly enough remembered, for me to acknowledge them in detail; but I place on record my gratitude for the doctoral programme at Syracuse University, and for my eighteen happy years of contact with its students and faculty.

I was also helped by sabbatical leaves in which I was supported by Syracuse University and (in two) by the National Endowment for the Humanities and (in a third) by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. To all three organizations I am grateful.

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