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29 Aug

Locke: Key to Irish Philosophy

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John Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding (London, 1690) is, without doubt, the most important external influence on Irish philosophy[…] Without Locke’s Essay there would hardly have been a Berkeley, Browne, Hutcheson, or Burke; at least, they could not have been the philosophers we know them to be. Apart perhaps from Molyneux, no Irish thinker entirely accepted Locke’s philosophy, or described himself as a follower of Locke. Indeed, the Hibernian contribution was in large measure to criticize creatively and reinterpret Locke’s diverse philosophical investigations.[…]

There are two main tendencies in Irish philosophy: one liberal, the other traditional. Molesworth and Shaftesbury follow squarely in the former. They represent the Enlightenment, especially in their sympathy for toleration and in their criticism of the priestly and dogmatic aspects of religion. Locke, as I shall try to show, was employed by both tendencies or movements, but most imaginatively by the forces of tradition.

David Berman (2005) Berkeley and Irish Philosophy, Continuum, pp. 80-1.

Berman compares Locke in the Ireland of the Long Eighteenth Century to Hegel in ninteenth century Germany. There were left and right wing Hegelians; equally there were leftwing Lockeans (Molesworth, Toland, Emlyn, Hutcheson and Clayton) and right-wing Lockeans (Browne, Dodwell, King, Skelton and Burke.) Berkeley spans the two (appropriate for the Colossus of 18th century Irish philosophy, perhaps.)

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