Epistemology

Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason

Immanuel_Kant_(painted_portrait)The Critique of Pure Reason (German: Kritik der reinen Vernunft), often known as the First Critique, is a 1781 work by Immanuel Kant. It is a foundational text of modern Western philosophy, proposing a 'Copernican turn' in the approach to central questions posed by previous thinkers. Rather than assuming that the mind must conform to its objects, Kant posited that objects must conform to our minds. Objects must conform to the conditions of possible experience to be experienced at all, and so we can know that they will conform to them, but that knowledge does not extend beyond our experience, to things as they are in themselves, limiting our ability to make many traditional metaphysical claims.

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Early Modern Texts: The Critique of Pure Reason, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: The Critique of Pure Reason. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn (Everyman's Library edition, 1934). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: The Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Multiple English translations including J.M.D. Meiklejohn, F. Max Müller and Norman Kemp Smith. HTML and other formats.

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Berkeley: Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous

George_Berkeley._Line_engraving._Wellcome_V0000473Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous is a 1713 philosophical work by George Berkeley, written as a dialogue in which the characters discuss the metaphysical ideas which Berkeley had previously propounded to some criticism in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.

The two characters are given Greek names which reflect their respective commitments. Hylas is named after the Greek word for matter and takes a materialist position. Philonous, 'lover of mind', defends an idealist stance which is largely Berkeley's own.

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Early Modern Texts: Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous (1901). Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. HTML and other formats.

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Berkeley: A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

George_Berkeley_by_Jonh_SmibertA Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge is a 1710 work by George Berkeley, which sets out an idealist theory of knowledge, similar to that of Locke, in the service of a radically different idealist metaphysics. Berkeley argues that the source of our ideas cannot be material things, but only other ideas, and the ultimate basis of objective reality is therefore the existence of ideas in the mind of God.

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Early Modern Texts: The Principles of Human Knowledge, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg : A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Principles of Human Knowledge (1907). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Principles of Human Knowledge, with works by Locke and Hume. (Great Books of the Western World edition, 1937). Multiple formats.

Trinity College Dublin: A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Multiple Formats.

Wikisource: A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. HTML and other formats.

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Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Painting_of_David_HumeAn Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is a 1748 work by David Hume. It is often known as the First Enquiry, as distinguished from the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Human Morals. Both works provide succinct accounts of aspects of the philosophy originally developed in Hume's Treatise on Human Nature.

The opening sections of the Enquiry offer a theory of knowledge which owes much to Locke, while making a clearer distinction between sense impressions and ideas. Hume's more fundamental departure was his conclusion that there was no rational justification for our making judgements about the world based on cause and effect, and that we do so simply out of custom and habit.

In the latter part of the book, Hume applied his scepticism to a variety of metaphysical and religious beliefs, concluding however with a chapter recommending the approach of the more moderate Academic sceptics among the ancients, rather than that of the more radical Pyrrhonians.

He ends with a paragraph whose precise significance, as a criterion of truth or of meaningfulness, has been much debated by later analytic philosophers:

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

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Early Modern Texts: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and Selections from A Treatise of Human Nature (1907). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, with works by Locke and Berkeley. (Great Books of the Western World edition, 1937). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. HTML and other formats.

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Leibniz: The Monadology

Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz _Bernhard_Christoph_FranckeThe Monadology (French: La Monadologie) is a short 1714 text by Leibniz outlining his metaphysics in ninety theses. Opposing the mind-body dualism of Descartes, Leibniz proposed a monistic idealist system in which the universe is made up of simple parts known as monads. These parts cannot directly affect each other. Rather reality is the result of a pre-established harmony between them.

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Early Modern Texts: Monadology, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: Leibnitz' Monadologie. German text, multiple formats. 

Internet Archive: The Monadology and Other Philosophical Writings, translated by Robert Latta (1898). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: The Monadology, translated by Robert Latta. Multiple formats.

University of California, San Diego/Internet Archive: Monadology, translated by Robert Latta, revised by Donald Rutherford. HTML format.

University of Leeds/Internet Archive: Monadology, translated by George Macdonald Ross (1999). Multiple formats.

Wikisource: French text and multiple translations. HTML and other formats.

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Leibniz: New Essays on Human Understanding

Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz_c1700The New Essays on Human Understanding (French: Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain) by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, is a response to Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, originally completed in French in 1704, but withheld from publication after Locke's death until 1765. 

The New Essays provide a detailed critique of Locke's work in dialogue form, with one speaker Philalethes, defending Locke's position and a second, Theophilus, presenting Leibniz's own views, including a strong defence of the rationalist doctrine of innate ideas.

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Early Modern Texts: New Essays on Human Understanding, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Internet Archive: New Essays Concerning Human Understanding. English translation (1916). Multiple formats.

Wikisource: French text. HTML and other formats.

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John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

John_LockeAn Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a 1689 work by John Locke setting out a new theory of knowledge influenced by contemporary scientific developments. In Book 1 of the essay, Locke strongly attacked Cartesian rationalism and its doctrine that the human mind has access to innate ideas. In Book 2 he posited that the mind was like a white sheet of paper (often paraphrased as a 'blank slate'), with its only source of knowledge being experience.

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Chinese University of Hong Kong: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Framed HTML format.

Early Modern Texts: Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, Volume 1 | Volume 2. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: An Essay concerning Human Understanding, edited by Alexander Campbell Fraser. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, with other works by Locke, Berkeley and Hume. (Great Books of the Western World edition, 1937). Multiple formats.

Liberty Fund: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Volume 1 | Volume 2. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. HTML and other formats.

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Francis Bacon: Novum Organum

Houghton_EC.B1328.620ib_-_Novum_organum_scientiarumThe New Organon (Latin: Novum Organum) is a Latin treatise on scientific method by Francis Bacon (1561-1621). Published in 1620, it was intened to form form part of a greater work which was never completed, the Instauratio Magna. Its title reflects Bacon's critique of ways thinking influenced by Aristotle's Organon, which he sought to replace with the experimental method and inductive reasoning.

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Bartleby: The New Organon Or, True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature. English translation by James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis and Douglas Denon Heath. HTML format.

Early Modern Texts: The New Organon, adapted and translated into more modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: Novum Organum; Or, True Suggestions for the Interpretation of Nature, translated by Joseph Devey. Multiple formats. 

Hanover College: Novum Organum. English translation by Basil Montague (1854). HTML format.

Internet Archive: The Works of Francis Bacon, Vol IV (1858). Multiple formats.

Latin Library: Novum Organum. Latin text. HTML format.

Liberty Fund: Novum Organum. English translation by Joseph Devey. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: The New Organon, translated by James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath (1863). Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Latin text and multiple translations. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: Baconian Science. Melvyn Bragg with Patricia Fara, Stephen Pumfrey and Rhodri Lewis.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Francis Bacon (1561 -1626).

Librivox: The New Organon - public domain audiobook.

PhilPapers: Francis Bacon - open access papers.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Francis Bacon.

Wikipedia: Novum Organum

YouTube/60 Second Philosophy: The New Organon overview.

Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Aristotle: The Organon - The foundational body of work on logic and scientific method whose authority Bacon sought to overturn.

John Aubrey: Brief Lives - includes a life of Bacon.

 


Descartes: Discourse on Method

Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_René_DescartesThe Discourse on Method (French: Discours de la méthode) by René Descartes was published in French in Leiden in 1637, alongside essays on optics, meteorology and geometry. It offered the an autobiographical of Descartes skeptical method and the positive metaphysical conclusions that he would later develop more fully in the Meditations. Notable among these is the first formulation of the famous 'Cogito', the principle that 'I think therefore I am' and cannot doubt my own existence.

Of the accompanying scientific essays, that on geometry is notable for introducing Cartesian co-ordinates.

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Bartleby: Discourse on Method. English translation. Harvard Classics, Volume 34, Part 1. HTML format.

Gallica: Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et chercher la vérité dans les sciences , plus la dioptrique, les météores et la géométrie qui sont des essais de cette méthode. French text. Image file format.

Gutenberg: Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats. 

Gutenberg: Discours de la méthode. French text. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: French text and English translation. HTML and other formats.

Zulu Ebooks: Discours de la méthode. French text. PDF format.

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Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy

Descartes3Meditations on First Philosophy (Latin: Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animae immortalitas demonstrantur) by Réne Descartes was first published in Latin in 1641, appearing in a French translation in 1647.

The six meditations which make up the book describe a series of mental exercises, undertaken over consecutive days.  The first meditation introduces Descartes' method of universal doubt. The second introduces the famous argument often summarised as 'I think therefore I am' (Latin: cogito ergo sum), and cannot doubt my own existence. 

In the later meditations, Descartes arrives at conventional opinions about God and the world, while more subtly introducing the foundations of his own system of physics. It is however, the first two meditations which have more often been seen as a foundational influence on modern philosophy, although the 'Cartesian dualism' which they introduced between mind and matter has been a target of persistent criticism.

Alongside the Meditations, Descartes published seven sets of objections by distinguished scholars along with his replies. These were 1. Johannes Caterus 2. Marin Mersenne 3. Thomas Hobbes 4. Antoine Arnauld 5. Pierre Gassendi 6. Further objections collected by Mersenne. 7. Pierre Bourdin.

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The Classical Library: The Meditations, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

Gallica: Méditations métaphysiques. French text (1690). Image file format. 

Gutenberg: Meditationes de prima philosophia - Latin text. Multiple formats.

Early Modern Texts: Meditations on First Philosophy - adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Latin Library: Meditationes - Latin text. HTML format.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats.

Marxists.org: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Cottingham. HTML format.

Philosophy-Index: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

University of Leeds/Internet Archive: Hobbes' Objections to Descartes' Meditations. HTML format.

Wikisource: Latin text, French and English translations. HTML and other formats.

Wright State University: Descartes' Meditations. English, French and Latin texts. HTML format.

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