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This volume is concerned with European philosophy from the late seventeenth cent

ury
through most of the eighteenth the period of the Enlightenment as broadly conceived.
Some apology is due for the overall emphasis on what is commonly referred to as B
ritish
philosophy . But the attention to English early Enlightenment figures, such as Ne
wton
and Locke, is easily justified, since they were important influences on the Enli
ghtenment
elsewhere. Philosophy flourished in Britain and Ireland in the eighteenth centur
y. Wales
produced Richard Price,1 while Ireland could boast of Berkeley and Burke.2 Irela
nd also
produced Francis Hutcheson, to whom Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment
owed a
considerable debt.3 The Scots in turn had a considerable influence on the Enligh
tenment
or Aufklarung in Germany, not least on the thought of Kant.4
The opening chapter focusses on the Cambridge Platonists, in whose tho
ught the
Enlightenment emphasis on reason and toleration is already prefigured. The concl
uding
chapter deals with the beginnings of the reaction against Enlightenment
concepts and
values towards the end of the eighteenth century. Enlightenment is thus something
of a
unifying concept. At the same time it should be acknowledged that his
tories of
philosophy do not always make use of it. Sometimes, rather, they use
the term
empiricism
to characterize the philosophy of the period and to contrast
it with the
rationalism of the earlier period.
There are indeed other notions that have been or might be put forward as central
to
understanding the development of philosophy in this period. For instanc
e, the
development of the laity or the use of ordinary language as the vehicle for arti
culating
philosophical ideas are possible centres of focus. Alternatively one might atten
d to the
secularization of philosophy or the growth of the demand for rational religion.
But, while
each of these perspectives can enrich our understanding of the period, serious d
istortions
can result from focussing on a single perspective to the exclusion of
others. For this
reason there are some scholars who distrust the application of any period and sch
ool
labels. Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche and Leibniz, for instance, are often cla
ssed as
rationalists ,5 on the one hand, and Locke, Berkeley and Hume as empiricists , on the
other. But critics consider that these labels distort historical realities and m
isrepresent at
least some of the individual philosophers concerned.6 There are also those who t
hink the
period of the so-called Enlightenment is too diverse to be accurately presented as
if it
were a coherent and unified cultural phenomenon.

Books had been subject to censorship and religious diversit y had been discouraged. The English Enlightenment was in some respects prefigured by Herbert of Cherbury and the Cambridge Platonists. when it began to be used i n retrospect of a period as a whole. This introduction will concentrate to a large extent on the Enlightenment in Eng land. But the phrase the Enlightenment itself was not adopted until the nineteenth century. Morecommonly. when William and Mary were offer ed the . followed a quite different course from that in France. the Enlightenment can be represented as a singleEuropean cultural phenomenon. THE ENGLISH ENLIGHTENMENT Defenders of what is called the Enlightenment . the chapters deal with two or more figures as a group. Attention to it can be a way of announcing some of the themes of the volume as a whole and also linking together some of the figures dealt with in later chapters.Though I will address these doubts later in this introduction. in the case of Locke and Hume. English intellectual and political culture was much admired by Voltaire and other philosophes of the early French Enlightenment. as are the chapters on Berkeley and Vico. to part of the thought of an individual phi losopher. or even . Thus there are two chapters on the philosophes of the French Enlightenment and a chapter each on the Enlightenment in Scotland and in Germany. But there is no doubt there were important interconnections. Furthermore there was a debate in Germany as to what Aufklarung (usually translated Enlightenment ) was. customary and defe nsible to fix 1688 the year of the Whig revolution as a starting-date. So enlightenment was a concept wich was establishing itself during the period as one in terms of which the avan t garde thought of themselves and their projects. But it is convenient.8 Historians have challenged the extent to which. for instance. Until then the High Church party had dominated. commonly used the metaphor of spreading light to refer to the kind of intellectu al and cultural progress they believed in. such a s the English influence on the philosophes. such as the philosophe d A lembert. The reader will find that some of these ch apters are devoted to a major figure. a s had previously been supposed.9 At the same time the Enlightenment in Eng land itself.7 The various national Enlighte nment movements took place at rather different times and in widely different circumsta nces. Had space permitted there might have b een chapters on the Enlightenment in other countries. After the Revolution . my main purpose i s not so much to lay them entirely to rest as to set the scene for the indi vidual chapters that comprise the substance of the volume.

Books could still be burned10 and a Blasphemy Act was passed by the English Parliament in 1698. Samuel Clarke remembered by philosophers for his translations and defences of Newton had a successful career a s an Anglican clergyman notwithstanding the suspicion and even charge of heresy certa in of his publications gave rise to. by the middle of the 1690s. But. it was no secret that Locke was th e author of The Reasonableness of Christianity or John Toland the author of Christianity not Mys terious. For instance. appeared for the first time in English tradition in 1689. These words were denounced as dangerous but they were not suppressed and no acti on was taken against the authors. Symbolically perhaps. a s they wre known. That work was published anonymo usly and illegally. Though anonymity was still usual. in the Church. Spinoza s Tractates Theol ogicoPoliticus. moderately expressed. Yet there was a new tolerance of theol ogical deviation.British crowns. which argued the case for freedom of expression in religious matters.11 Introduction 2 . controversial works could be publish ed legally. liberals had more influence in politics and the latitudinarians .