Metaphysics

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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Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature

David_Hume_EsqrA Treatise of Human Nature, published in three books in 1739-40, was the first major philosophical work by David Hume, who famously said that it 'fell dead-born from the press', leading him to recast his ideas in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

Hume's mature philosophy was nevertheless substantively that of the Treatise, which sought to put philosophy on an experimental basis like that of the physical sciences, rejecting metaphysical speculation as futile. It includes Hume's first account of his famous problem of induction, arguing that our belief in cause and effect is based on habit rather than rational justification. It was this sceptical attack which Kant later said ' first interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a completely different direction.'

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Early Modern Texts: A Treatise of Human Nature, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: A Treatise of Human Nature. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: A Treatise of Human Nature Vol I | Vol II. Everyman's Library edition. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: A Treatise of Human Nature. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Treatise of Human Nature. HTML and other formats.

Other Resources

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: David Hume. Melvyn Bragg with Peter Millican, Helen Beebee and James Harris.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: David Hume (1711-1776) - Hume on Causation.

Librivox - A Treatise of Human Nature, Vol I | Vol II - public domain audiobook.

PhilPapers: Hume - A Treatise of Human Nature - bibliography with open access option.

Philosophy Bites: Paul Russell on David Hume's Philosophy of Irreligion. Podcast with Nigel Warburton.

Physics Today: Albert Einstein to Moritz Schlick - comments on the influence of the Treatise on the theory of relativity.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: David Hume - Kant and Hume on Causality.

Wikipedia: David Hume - A Treatise of Human Nature.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

Hume: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

Kant: Critique of Pure Reason.

Kant: Prologomena to Any Future Metaphysics.


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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Spinoza: The Ethics

SpinozaEthics, Demonstrated in Geometrical Order (Latin: Ethica, ordine geometrico demonstrata), is a Latin philosophical treatise by Baruch Spinoza, written in around 1664-5 and published shortly after Spinoza's death in 1677.

Spinoza presents his argument as a series of propositions, derived logically from a small number of axioms after the manner of Euclidean geometry. His system is monistic, in that posits reality as consisting of a single substance, and pantheistic in that identifies this substance with God.

Spinoza's conception of God is, however, sufficiently abstract that his thought has often been equated with atheism. This was for a long time a source of huge opprobrium, which meant that his influence on the radical enlightment of the seventeenth and eightenth centuries was largely subterranean. Since then, influence in his work has consistently grown. Among his twentieth century admirers was Albert Einstein who once said that he believed in Spinoza's God 'who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.'

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Bibliotheca Augustana: Ethica Ordine Geometrica Demonstrata. Latin text, HTML format.

Early Modern Texts: Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

EthicaDB: The Ethics. Translations in multiple European languages. HTML format.

Gutenberg: Ethics, translated by R.H.M. Elwes. Multiple formats. 

Internet Archive: Improvement of the Understanding, Ethics and Correspondence, translated by R.H.M. Elwes. Multiple formats.

Middle Tennessee State University: Ethics, translated by RH.M. Elwes. HTML format.

SpinozaBase: Ethica. Latin text. HTML format.

Wikisource: Latin text and English translation by R.H.M. Elwes. HTML and other formats.

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Al-Ghazali: The Incoherence of the Philosophers

By السيف ذو الوشاح - CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia CommonsThe Incoherence of the Philosophers (Arabic: تهافت الفلاسفة Tahāfut al-Falāsifah) by Al-Ghazali (1056-1111) is one of the major works of Arabic and Islamic philosophy. In 20 chapters, it critiques the ideas of Avicenna, Al-Ghazali's leading precursor in the Greek-influenced tradition of falsafa. Al-Ghazali has sometimes been blamed for the decline of Muslim science, partly because of a scepticism about causality that has been compared to that of David Hume. Nevertheless, his influence proved decisive for the synthesis of philosophy and Muslim theology, and anticipated later critiques of Aristotelian science.

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Ghazali.org: Incoherence of the Philosophers, translated by Sabi Ahmad Kamali. PDF format.

Internet Archive: Incoherence of the Philosophers, translated by Sabi Ahmad Kamali. Multiple formats.

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