17th/18th Century Philosophy

Edited by Brandon Look (University of Kentucky)
About this topic
Summary Philosophy in the 17th- and 18th-centuries can be characterized by an increased concern with questions relating to epistemology, human subjectivity, and the foundations of natural science.  Likewise, there arose a tradition in moral and political philosophy that sought to understand human behavior and the origins of states and institutions naturalistically.  In short, there was a strong movement in this period to analyze anew a human being's capacity to know and to act ethically and to reconceptualize the physical and the social worlds without appeal to a providential God or to teleology.
Key works The philosophers most responsible for the break from medieval and renaissance traditions of thought are Bacon (Bacon 2008), Descartes (Descartes 1984) and Hobbes (Hobbes 1651).  Responding to these self-described 'moderns' were the second and third generations of philosophers: Spinoza (Spinoza 1677), Malebranche (Malebranche 1997), Locke (Locke & Nidditch 1979) and Leibniz (Leibniz 1998 and Leibniz 1981), who further developed Baconian and Hobbesian empiricism, the Cartesian 'way of ideas' and Cartesian dualism, and the Hobbesian account of the origin of the state.  Their thought in turn acts as the foil for the continued philosophical reflection of Berkeley (Berkeley & E. Jessop 1952), Wolff,  Hume (Norton & Norton 2007) and Condillac (de Condillac 1971). Finally, in the standard telling of the history of philosophy, Immanuel Kant revolutionized modern philosophy in his Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason and Critique of the Power of Judgment.
Introductions The best histories of this period are Garber & Ayers 1998 and Haakonssen 2006
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