online exhibition

rare book library




From the early seventeenth century through to the late eighteenth century philosophy underwent enormous changes. At the beginning of the period the stamp of Aristotle was everywhere apparent, even amongst those who consciously distanced themselves from him such as Francis Bacon. By the mid-18th century a new confidence had emerged amongst the French philosophes Diderot and D'Alembert and the shadow of Aristotle had all but disappeared. It was now Descartes, Locke and Newton who had to be contended with. The ramifications of Descartes' mechanical philosophy and theory of the mind can be traced through the Cambridge Platonists Henry More and Ralph Cudworth, through Locke and up to the mechanistic account of man in La Mettrie. In turn, Locke's new theory of knowledge and the understanding exerted enormous influence as seen in the works of Stillingfleet, Condillac and Voltaire displayed here. Locke's Essay also in a sense defined the philosophical landscape for the great British philosophers Berkeley, Hume and Reid. Finally, the achievement of Newton's dynamic physics sent ripples into every corner of the philosophical terrain. The Leibniz/Clarke correspondence is just one of the works here which illustrate this intersection between philosophy and the study of nature.

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