Locke’s Essay at the Crossroads
Adam Grzelinski (Nicolaus Copernicus University)

March 19, 2020, 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Institute of Philosophy, Jagiellonian University in Krakow

Room 25
Ul. Grodzka 52

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Jagiellonian University
Jagiellonian University

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Locke’s Essay at the Crossroads

The temporal distance separating us from the philosophy of John Locke seems to simplify its image and the majority of the historians of philosophy focus their studies on two main issues: the epistemological programme initiating the Enlightenment British Empiricism and the principles of political philosophy proclaimed under the banner of liberalism. However, as many scholars have observed, especially at the end of the 20th century, a more comprehensive understanding of Locke’s thought requires an additional “interpretative keys”, one of which is medicine or, more generally, a new programme of scientific investigation in the second half of the 17th century which stress the role of observation and experiment rather than purely rational constructions of human reason. Beyond a doubt, Locke’s philosophical understanding of religion offers another such key. Though Locke presented his views in numerous writings (several chapters of his Essay, The Reasonableness of Christianity and its subsequent Vindications, and his Paraphrases of St. Pauls Letters among others), reconstructing his philosophical stance as regards religion is a difficult endeavour. His rational interpretation of Christian dogmas seems to be not only their defence but also an attack on Calvinist orthodoxy and also on previous programmes of religious rationalisation which, as Edward Herbert’s De veritate, proved to be futile – at least for Locke. On the other hand, as a faithful Christian, he would probably see the radicalisation of his position by Shaftesbury, Tindal, or Collins – young thinkers of the next generation – as a way leading to sheer atheism. Thus the seed he himself sowed by publication of his Essay brought the crop he would find astonishing if not poisonous. The difficulty of Locke’s philosophical understanding of religion consists in the fact that it is situated at the crossroads of various intellectual threads; as such shares the fate of his whole philosophy.

The lecture on 19.3.2020 is followed by a workshop on 20.3.2020 on

Religion and the Problem of the Unity of Locke’s Philosophy.

The workshop provides researchers and graduate students with an opportunity to discuss their own work in progress on Enlightenment and religion and related topics in early modern philosophy and history of ideas with other participants and receive expert feedback from the lecturer on relevant topics. The registered participants of the workshop are welcome to share their research with other registered participants in advance.

Registration to both events is possible through the project website. 

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March 14, 2020, 7:00pm CET

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