Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes

Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes

Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes

Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes

Excerpt

This book discusses three topics, in the company of three philosophers: meaning, causality, objectivity; Locke, Berkeley, Hume. These 'central themes' are the only large philosophical areas on which each of these philosophers had a good deal to say. Berkeley says almost nothing about innate ideas, or about personal identity, but my real reason for omitting these empiricist themes is that I have nothing worthwhile to say about them.

I do not aim to be scholarly, except in the limited sense that I sometimes attend closely to textual details. Nor are my concerns historical: they relate primarily to three topics, and only secondarily to three philosophers. I hope to contribute to the understanding of the latter, not by presenting an amply rounded picture of their thought (even on the central themes), but by making it easier to get a firm hold on the logic of some of what they wrote. By focusing on just these philosophers, I do not imply an historical judgement. I need not care, for instance, whether Hume read Berkeley. All I need is the assumption, for which I hope my own book is evidence, that the work of each of the three can be usefully related to the work of the others.

The book grew out of lectures given in Cambridge in 1958-60 and 1962-4. More recently, I have conducted courses on the British empiricists while visiting Cornell University, the University of Michigan, and Princeton University: I am deeply grateful to these universities for their hospitality, and to the students whom I taught there for all that they taught me. I have been helped by more people than I can name here, but I do wish to express especial gratitude to Robert M. Adams, John Gates Bennett, Malcolm Budd, E. J. Furlong, Arnold Herschorn, Anne Wilbur MacKenzie, George Pitcher, H. H. Price, Richard Sorabji, and Michael Tanner.

A dozen sections of the book are versions of material which has appeared before--§§ 11, 14-16, 20, 24-25 in the American Philosophical Quarterly, and §§ 35-9 in Philosophy. I am indebted to the editors for their permission to reprint.

Readers are advised to glance over the Bibliography before trying to cope with the footnotes.

University of British Columbia J. F. B.

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