Study abroad in Edinburgh

Course finder

Semester 1

John Locke (PHIL10189)







Normal Year Taken


Delivery Session Year



**Spaces on Philosophy Honours courses are extremely limited, and so priority is given to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the Philosophy department (including Erasmus students on a Philosophy Exchange). Exchange students outside of Philosophy and independent study abroad students cannot be guaranteed enrolment in ANY 3rd/4th year Philosophy courses** Please note that 3rd year Philosophy courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces. These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces. If there is sufficient space for other visiting students to enrol at the start of the semester, visiting students must have completed at least 3 Philosophy courses at grade B or above to qualify for this course; we will only consider University/College level courses.

Course Summary

This course will offer a close reading of some of John Locke's most important philosophical writings, such as An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Two Treatises of Government (1689), and the Letter Concerning Toleration (1689). The course will introduce students to the historical context of his work and its legacy, particularly the Essay's role as the most influential statement of empiricism in the early modern period. Students will also be exposed to early responses to Locke and contemporary secondary literature.

Course Description

This class will offer a close reading of Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, with a focus on appreciating the aims and coherence of the work as a whole. Topics specifically addressed may include: Locke's arguments against innate ideas and innate knowledge; the nature of ideas; the primary-secondary quality distinction; our ideas of substance and of natural kinds; personal identity; language and meaning; the nature of knowledge; mathematical knowledge; perceptual knowledge; action and the will; knowledge of moral truths; probable judgment and the nature of probability; and, finally, Locke's contributions to political philosophy and their connection to his metaphysics and epistemology.Students will work on developing the skills necessary to interpret historical texts and will learn techniques and tools commonly used in the history of philosophy. In addition, students will learn how to read and carefully assess secondary literature, and to critically evaluate competing interpretations of primary sources. Finally, students will have the opportunity to do research in the history of philosophy, developing an original topic, formulating and defending a thesis, and making use of relevant secondary literature.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

view the timetable and further details for this course


All course information obtained from this visiting student course finder should be regarded as provisional. We cannot guarantee that places will be available for any particular course. For more information, please see the visiting student disclaimer:

Visiting student disclaimer