Locke and French Materialism

Locke and French Materialism

Locke and French Materialism

Locke and French Materialism

Synopsis

This book tells for the first time the long and complex story of the involvement of Locke's suggestion that God could add to matter the power of thought in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the growth of French materialism. There is a discussion of the 'affaire de Prades', in which Locke's name was linked with a censored thesis at the Faculty of Theology in Paris. The similarities and differences between English "thinking matter" and the French "matiere pensante" of the philosophes are also discussed.

Excerpt

The research which has resulted in this study was conducted over a number of years. While working on my 1984 Thinking Matter: Materialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain, I became aware of some of the appearances of the British debate across the Channel. As soon as that book was completed, I made plans to continue the exploration of Locke's suggestion about thinking matter in France. Yearly short visits to the Bodleian Library at Oxford and the British Library in London kept the research moving, but many of the titles and references I was uncovering were unavailable at those two libraries. A visit in 1984 enabled me to spend time in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris where some but not all of the books I needed to consult were found. A leave from Rutgers in 1986 led to a visit to the Bavarian State Library in Munich and the library at the University of Amsterdam where still other titles were found. In the United States, the eighteenth-century collection in the Yale University libraries, especially the Beinecke Library, provided me with additional titles. The collection at the University of Pennsylvania also proved useful. The last two chapters and many additions to earlier chapters were written while holding a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities during the academic year 1988-9.

Portions of Chapters 2 and 3 have been presented at various institutions: the University of Amsterdam and Tilburg University in the Netherlands, the universities of Windsor and Calgary in Canada. Two presentations at meetings of the Northeast Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies gave me other audiences to react to my material. Earlier versions of the same two chapters have appeared in the Journal of the History of Philosophy, 25 (1987), and the Revue internationale de philosophie, 42 (1988).

I have benefited from advice and reactions to various parts of this study from James G. Buickerood, Carol Blum, and Ann Thomson. My wife's bibliographic skills and her keen eye for readable prose have played a major role in bringing this study to completion. Our friendship with the late Robert Shackleton, and frequent conversations the three of us have had, usually over a fine meal, have provided me with information and inspiration.

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