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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Lynn Hankinson Nelson
PHIL 436
Seattle Campus

British Empiricism

Examination of the metaphysical and epistemological views of Locke and Berkeley, with perhaps some attention also to Hume. Prerequisite: either PHIL 322 or PHIL 350.

Class description

We will study the understandings of and arguments for empiricism as represented in the main works of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. We will be concerned with the questions of what epistemological and metaphysical commitments demarcate empiricist theories of knowledge/science", what philosophical motivations underlie the adoption of an empiricist perspective, and what philosophical problems does empiricism yield. Other relevant topics include the nature of mind and of personal identity, and the distinctions between appearance and reality, and primary and secondary qualities.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Reading questions are provided for many readings to organize our approach to them and to facilitate class discussions. When appropriate, I begin a class meeting with a brief lecture and identify questions for us to consider as a group. Students are strongly encouraged to ask questions, pose challenges to the arguments encountered in the readings or offered by me or other students, and to do so in the form of arguments.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Reading assignments are often supplemented with reading questions, and every other week students are required to turn in a 2 page response to one set of such questions. Review questions and review sessions are provided for essay exams. Graduate students and interested undergraduates are encouraged to write a formal paper rather than take the final essay exam. will be

Formal written work constitues 80% of the grade; participation in discussions constitutes 20% of the grade.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Lynn Hankinson Nelson
Date: 09/28/2002