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Samuel C. Rickless (Original Author)
ISBN: 978-1-4051-8935-4
238 pages
May 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
Locke (1405189355) cover image


In a focused assessment of one of the founding members of the liberal tradition in philosophy and a self-proclaimed “Under-Labourer” working to support the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the author maps the full range of John Locke’s highly influential ideas, which even today remain at the heart of debates about the nature of reality and our knowledge of it, as well as our moral and political rights and duties.

  • Comprehensive introduction to the full range of Locke’s ideas, providing an up-to-date account that acknowledges issues raised by recent scholarship over the past decade
  • A well-rounded perspective on one of the intellectual giants of the western philosophical tradition
  • Provides detailed coverage of Locke’s two key works, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and The Two Treatises of Government.
  • A sophisticated analysis by a highly respected academic
  • A vital addition to the Blackwell Great Minds series
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Table of Contents

preface ix

abbreviations xi

1 locke's life 1

2 the nature and role of ideas 13

3 the negative project: against innatism 23

4 the positive project: ideational empiricism 39

4.1 simple ideas 40

4.2 sensation and reflection 43

4.3 complex ideas 46

4.4 abstract ideas 56

4.5 challenges to ideational empiricism: the ideas of infinity and substratum 61

5 substances 70

5.1 body, matter, space, and vacuum 70

5.2 spirit 75

6 qualities 83

7 mental operations 98

7.1 actions and passions 98

7.2 will and willing 101

7.3 voluntariness and involuntariness 103

7.4 freedom, necessity, and determination of the will 104

7.5 a problem 110

8 relations 113

8.1 identity and diversity 114

8.2 moral relations 128

9 language 133

9.1 language and meaning 134

9.2 the imperfections and abuses of language 140

9.3 nominal essence, real essence, and classification 143

10 knowledge and belief 152

10.1 the official account of knowledge 152

10.2 the degrees of knowledge 156

10.3 anti-dogmatism and anti-skepticism 159

10.4 faith and religious enthusiasm 164

11 moral philosophy 169

11.1 morality and God's will 169

11.2 natural law 172

11.3 punishment and slavery 176

11.4 property 180

11.5 family 187

12 political philosophy 195

12.1 political society 196

12.2 legitimate rule 197

12.3 varieties of illegitimate rule 207

12.4 toleration 209

index 215

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Author Information

Samuel C. Rickless is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, USA. He earned his Ph.D. in 1996 from the University of California, Los Angeles, before beginning his teaching career at Florida State University. The author of two books, Plato’s Forms in Transition: A Reading of the Parmenides (2007), and Berkeley’s Argument for Idealism (2013), Professor Rickless has published numerous scholarly articles on a variety of topics in the history of philosophy, writing on key figures including Plato, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, in addition to Locke. His research interests include normative ethics, constitutional law, and the philosophy of language.

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“Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers.”  (Choice, 1 July 2015)

“Clearly and engagingly written, this book provides students with the best sort of model for writing about the history of philosophy. Rickless shows both how to put a philosopher’s views in historical context, and how to subject them to rigorous philosophical assessment. The top choice for short introductions to Locke’s philosophy.”

 —Edwin McCann, University of Southern California

“An excellent and elegantly written introduction to Locke’s philosophy that is both comprehensive and concise.”

—David Owen, University of Arizona


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