June 10, 2011

What Version of Locke's Essay Did Berkeley Read?

Locke's Essay went through several revisions in the author's lifetime, some of them quite substantive philosophically. The first edition was 1689, Locke died in 1704 and the posthumous fifth edition appeared in 1706. Locke seems to have had at least some hand in the revisions made between editions 4 and 5.

Because some of the changes are substantive, I've sometimes wondered what version of the Essay Berkeley was working from. We know that it was required reading when Berkeley was studying for his BA at Trinity between 1700 and 1704. Today I was reading Berman's George Berkeley: Idealism and the Man, and an entry from Berkeley's Philosophical Commentaries which Berman cited for an unrelated purpose shed some light on the question: "If uneasiness be necessary to set the will at work. Qu: How shall we will in Heaven" (PC 423). This refers to the theory of the will which Locke espoused beginning in the second (1694) edition replacing a more conventional Platonic/Augustinian theory in the first edition. So the version of the Essay Berkeley studied so carefully prior to writing the Principles and Dialogues seems to have been the second edition or later.

Posted by Kenny at June 10, 2011 8:00 PM
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