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Locke, Berkeley, Hume

Unit code: PHIL20212
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 2
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit?: N



Additional Requirements

Pre Requisites: 20 PHIL credits at Level 1

20 PHIL credits at Level 1.


The course aims to:

- Help students gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of some of the central questions raised, and the positions taken, by the classical British empiricists;
- Enable students to critically evaluate the positions taken and the arguments offered by Locke, Berkeley and Hume;
- Enable students to appreciate the extent to which some of the central themes of modern analytical philosophy have their origins in the work of Locke, Berkeley and Hume;
- Contribute towards giving students the requisite knowledge and analytical skills to tackle courses in modern analytical philosophy.


This course is devoted to studying the empiricist philosophies of Locke, Berkeley and Hume, focusing on the core texts by each. The issues raised by these philosophers have been profoundly important in shaping the landscape of contemporary analytical philosophy and many of the problems they raised and addressed are as relevant to philosophy today as they were then. Questions about, for example, the possibility of innate ideas, the nature of perception, the existence of a reality independently of our minds, and the laws of nature, have all been handed down to us, in part, as a legacy of empiricism.

The course will approach the subject both by examining the philosophical works of Locke, Berkeley and Hume, and by looking at the ways in which their insights and concerns have been inherited by current analytical philosophers.

Teaching and learning methods

One 2-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial weekly

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

- A thorough knowledge and understanding of the texts studied;
- A considered critical perspective on some of the central questions and disputes raised by the texts;
- An ability to write concisely, relevantly and analytically about the questions raised by the classical British empiricists, both in an essay and under exam conditions

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Group/team working
  • Oral communication
  • Research
  • Written communication

Assessment methods

  • Other - 10%
  • Written exam - 55%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 35%

Assessment Further Information

"Other" is tutorial participation = 10%.

Recommended reading

You might like to have a look over some of the original texts themselves. The following sections are particularly good places to start:

- J. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 2, Chapter 8 (on primary and secondary qualities).
- G. Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, sections 1-48 (Berkeley's Idealism).
- D. Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, Section 4 (Hume's attack on inductive reasoning).

Alternatively, these will provide a gentle, and cheap, introduction to Locke, Berkeley, and Hume:

- J. Dunn, Locke: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 1997.
- D. Berman, Berkeley, (The Great Philosophers Series), Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1997
- A. Quinton, Hume, (The Great Philosophers Series), Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1998

Recommended for purchase:

J. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
G. Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (or Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding).

Feedback methods

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work. The main forms of feedback on this course are written feedback responses to assessed essays and exam answers.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lecture); presenting a question on the discussion board on Blackboard; and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 20 hours
  • Tutorials - 10 hours
  • Independent study hours - 170 hours

Teaching staff


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