SP21 PHIL414/514

British Empiricism (PHIL414/514)
Larry Nolan

Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  12:30pm–1:45pm  ·  online

In this course we shall investigate the rich and lively philosophical debates between the three leading British Empiricists—Locke, Berkeley, and Hume—and between them and the Continental Rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche, and Leibniz). Topics to include the origin of ideas, the nature of the mind or self, proofs of God’s existence, proofs for the existence of the external world, skepticism and the limits of human knowledge, causation, the primary-secondary quality distinction, real vs. nominal essences, and the problem of induction. Open discussion of the philosophical issues will be strongly encouraged.


(a) Regular attendance and frequent participation
(b) Two take-home assignments
(c) Final Exam

(Graduate students have the option of writing multiple drafts of a term paper in lieu of assignments (b) and (c))


Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Penguin)
Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Oxford)
Berkeley’s Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (Oxford)
Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Hackett Publishing)