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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XI. Berkeley and Contemporary Philosophy

§ 1. English Thought in the Period after the Death of Locke

THE PERIOD of English thought which followed Locke’s death was fruitful both in great writers and in important movements. Locke’s own influence was felt everywhere. His new way of approaching the subject, his freedom from the traditional technicalities of the schools, and his application of his method to a wide range of human interests, made philosophy count for more with reflective writers generally, and determined the line of thought taken by greater minds. Speculation turned mainly upon three problems—the problem of knowledge, the problem of religion and the problem of morality. The treatment of each problem led to striking developments; and Locke’s influence affected them all, though in unequal degrees. The idealism of Berkeley followed directly from his fundamental positions; the leaders of the deists professed themselves his disciples, though they arrived at conclusions different from his; the work of the moralists was less fully determined by his speculations, though his ethical views were, perhaps, seldom far from their minds. In the present chapter, this division of problems will be followed; it will treat, in succession, of the metaphysicians, the deists and the moralists. Most writers, indeed, did not limit their interests to a single problem; and their place here will have to be determined by a view of the permanent importance of their work in different departments. Strict chronological order, also, to some extent, will be sacrificed. In this way, consideration of the writings of Samuel Clarke, for instance—although he was a prominent figure in the whole philosophical movement, and one of the earliest to attain eminence—will be postponed till the last section of the chapter.