Who should be covered in the 17-18th centuries?

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We are slowly but surely getting to the end of our coverage of the 15-16th centuries, and will be diving into the 17-18th centuries of European philosophy starting round about the turn of the year from 2024-25. 

A faithful listener suggested that I post a request for suggestions as to whom and what to cover. Obviously you don't need to suggest, like, Descartes or Hume; the question is about interesting figures, movements, and ideas from the period that I might not think of otherwise, but that you'd love to see an episode on. No promises, obviously, since the scope here is limitless, but I am sure I will get some stimulating ideas. Just leave your suggestions in the comments below. Topics or groups might be especially important for this period, as opposed to individuals, since there is such a vast number of philosophers that I will need to sweep them up more than one at a time when I can! Feel free to just throw names at me, but it would be extra helpful if you could also add a short comment about why it would be interesting.

It might help to know that my plan is to do three series/books worth on this period: the first on France and the Low Countries; then Britain; then Germany (and in each case related territories, e.g. Eastern Europe together with Germany; Ireland early USA with Britain). So if all goes well we'll be at this until past 2030.

Iain on 27 March 2024

Who should be covered in the 17-18th centuries?



Jacob on 27 March 2024

Content suggestion for podcast!

Hi Peter - a possible interesting topic for the 18th century would be the Jewish Enlightenment, with the central figure being Moses Mendelssohn but the wider movement is so fascinating and philosophically rich. It also starts to move into Eastern Europe and covers things like debates about Yiddish. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to share our thoughts!

Harald Viersen on 27 March 2024

17th and 18th century

Off the top of my hat, some names that come to mind are: Vico for his revolutionary treatment of history, Hamann for being a somewhat lesser known figure in the late 18th century German scene and something of a forerunner of the Romantics, Huygens (as a great scientist, although I'm not entirely sure whether he counts as a philosopher), Grotius (perhaps too well known to be mentioned here, but then again his fame is somewhat tied to specializations), Johannes Antonius Martinet (a not very well-known Enlightenment figure in The Netherlands), Margaret Cavendish (whose work has been studied by Jon Shaheen among others).

James on 27 March 2024


Jacobi, Moses Mendelssohn, Herder, Swedenborg, Wolff, Baumgarten, Newton, Laplace, Euler, Reinhold, Hardenberg (Novalis), Hoelderlin, are some influential yet underappreciated philosophers of the 17-18th centuries. 

Timothy on 27 March 2024

Figures and Trends

In addition to those considered canonical thirty years ago, and to those who have risen to well-known status among those who study seventeenth and eighteenth-century philosophy (Cavendish, Astell, Amo, Du Châtelet, Sor Juana, etc.) recently, I'd suggest the following important figures and ideas.

education of (wealthy, white) women [dozens of figures]

birth of utilitarianism (esp. Susanna Newcome’s Enquiry into the Evidence of the Christian Religion)

philosophy of marriage (esp. Gournay, Drake, Maintenon, Astell, Chudleigh, Chapone)

enthusiasm/Quakers as both epistemic and social issue (see Locke Essay 4.19 and Masham against Penington and Fell, as well as against Malebranche/Norris/Astell)

Cavendish's critiques of experimental knowledge and of the unity of the soul/mind

Edwards on substance, God, and individuation

John Toland (esp. as he affected reception of Locke and later endorsement of pantheism)

importance of women writers for correspondence (the Sophies, Caroline)

Boyle lecturers (esp. Clarke) (with Collins, Toland, and Hobbes as foils)

Shepherd on substance and cause and effect

"birth" (if it is) of aesthetics and philosophy of art

theories of progress (incl. stadial theory) and relationship to role of women in society/letters

"birth" (if it is) of racism/racialism/scientific racism

theories of Enlightenment

That's what I could think of in a few minutes. I'm sure there are more if I gave it a little time. But these seem important to telling the various stories of the time.

David Harmon on 27 March 2024

Anne Conway, and Cambridge…

Anne Conway, and Cambridge Platonism more generally.

Grant Duncan on 27 March 2024


Prussian cameralism. Or polizeiwissenschaft


Kenny Pearce on 28 March 2024


Someone already mentioned Toland. I’d love to see an episode or two on responses to Christianity Not Mysterious, possibly including William King, Peter Brown, and, of course Berkeley. (More generally, I suggest covering all those figures!)

Don’t miss the Cambridge Platonists!

Norris, Astell, & Masham on love would be a good episode.

Springborg has argued that Astell is the first really comprehensive critic of Locke (covering all areas of his philosophy), which might be an interesting idea to discuss.

Masham’s Occasional Thoughts is also an underappreciated book worth discussing. 

The Clarke-Collins controversy.

Alleged ‘atheists’ of the early modern period might be a fun thing to talk about. 

I could continue all day but I’ll stop there. :)

Kenny Pearce on 28 March 2024


Ooh, and see if you can get Sam Lebens for an interview on Hasidic philosophy! Now THERE’s a gap in the usual histories!

David Williams on 28 March 2024


So many . . . but do reserve time for a couple of important movements: 1) the Parisian Philosophes, including La Mettrie, Baron d'Holbach, Claude Helvetius, Denis Diderot, and 2) the French Platonists, including Malebranche, Lamy, and Fénelon.  Going through both of them thoroughly will set up Rousseau as a philosopher very nicely.  

Echo on 28 March 2024


You have some earlier episodes on this so I suspect it's already on your radar, but I'd love to see some episodes on the development of economic theory. Obviously including some of the more influential figures like Adam Smith or the Physiocrats, but also maybe some episodes on mercantilist theory?

Kubelick on 28 March 2024

At liberty to speak

Hi peter.

Since i'm currently in a freedom of expression bubble, Milton comes to mind. There was probably more at the time of the whole beheading of kings business. 

Giraffes forever!



Stephen Harrop on 28 March 2024


Some of the later Newtonians are very interesting. Obviously Samuel Clarke is fun, but others, perhaps most especially Joseph Raphson (more specifically his work De Spatio Reali), are fascinating.    

Peter West on 28 March 2024

Early modern

Echoing some suggestions above but:

- Free-thinking in the early modern era: Toland, Collins, Matthew Tindal

- Susanna Newcome and utilitarianism

- John Sergeant and Berkeley’s sceptical worries about Lockean epistemology 

- Francis Hutcheson and aesthetics/ the moral sense 

- Margaret Cavendish 

Peter West on 28 March 2024

Oh, and Mary Astell’s…

Oh, and Mary Astell’s feminism

Alex Douglas on 28 March 2024

Geulincx and Confucius Sinarum Philosophus

I'm professionally obliged to make a plea not to leave out Dutch Cartesianism, including the fascinating Arnold Geulincx, whose unique occasionalist ethics influenced Samuel Beckett.

I also think that the influence of the Jesuit China missions, in particular the publication of the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus in 1687 is worth exploring.

Byron on 28 March 2024

New Spain

I’d be very curious to hear about the intellectuals of new Spain in the 17th century, like Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz—both were influenced by Athanasius Kircher, who would also make for a very interesting episode. Thank you for your great work! 

In reply to by Byron

Peter Adamson on 28 March 2024

New Spain

Thanks - they are on my radar but would not go in this series, I think, because I'm hoping to do a whole series on philosophy in the Americas and they would belong there.

Bernese on 28 March 2024

Swiss Enligthenment

I’d like to propose some Swiss enlightenment thinker (although, as they clearly belong to the “German” sub-series, they’ll be probably treated only in six years from now or so.

You could do maybe one episode on the Zurich Enlightenment, as in the 18th century Zurich could boast of a remarkably high number of intellectuals, Zurich got even the nickname "Athen an der Limmat" (“Athens on the [shores of the river] Limmat”). Possible figures in such an episode could be Johann Jakob Bodmer, Johann Jakob Breitinger, Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Salomon Gessner, Johann Caspar Lavater, Hans Capsar Hirzel and Johann Heinrich Waser (who was executed by the city authorities for publishing allegedly secret statistical data).

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi should be considered as a part of an episode on late 18th century philosophy of education. His name is very well known, and in Switzerland he became in the 19th century a kind of secular saint and has even become proverbial (in Switzerland you can say “I am not Pestalozzi” to justify why you didn’t perform an altruistic act, indicating that said act was something maybe Pestalozzi would do but which can not be expected of a normal person), but few people know actually what he actually did and what his pedagogical ideas amounted to. 

Albrecht von Haller from Bern could be covered as a part of an episode on 18th century biology (maybe together with Carl von Linné). His poems idealizing the Swiss Alps and the life of the Swiss shepherds are also parts of the pre-history of romanticism and the changing perception of the mountains (and nature more generally).

On a darker tone the execution of the “last witch of Europe” Anna Göldi (beheaded in 1782) and the intellectual reactions to it (widespread indignation that something like this is still possible) could be mentioned (probably as kind of an endpoint) in an episode about the changing perception of witchcraft and magic.

dukeofethereal on 28 March 2024

French and Dutch 17th century philosophers

Since your first series will be on France - Low Countries - I'll mention some figures from France and Low Countries 17th Century




17th Century French Philosophers;


1. François de La Rochefoucauld (French Moralist, wrote books such as 'Memors' and 'Maxim' and influencer of Nietzche)

2.Antoine Arnauld   https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arnauld/

3. Pierre Bayle https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bayle/

4. Géraud de Cordemoy (Occasionalism) https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cordemoy/

5. Pierre Gassendi - https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/gassendi/

6. David Derodon (French Calvinist philosopher, teacher to Jean-Robert Chouet (Genevan 

7 - Robert Desgabets https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/desgabets/

8 - Louis de La Forge (Occasionalism)  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/la-forge/ 

9. French tragedy by 3 of the great French Authors Jean Racine, Pierre Corneille and Molière

10 - Pierre Nicole (French Jansenist Moral Philosopher) 

11. François Fénelon ( Economic, Political and Moral Catholic Philosopher)

12. Jean Domat (French Jurist ) and Robert Joseph Pothier ( French Jurist) - Make an episode on French Law theories

13. Simon Foucher ( French Skeptic and critic of Cartesianism)

14. François de La Mothe le Vayer ( French Skeptic  

15.François Poullain de la Barre - Cartesian Male Feminist  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/francois-barre/

16 - Jacques Rohault ( French Cartesian Physicist/Scientist) 

17 Antoine Le Grand - https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/legrand/

18 - Gabrielle Suchon  ( French Female Rationalist and feminist  philosopher) 

19 - Nicolas Malebranche https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/malebranche/

20 - Marin Mersenne (The New science, very important individual - https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mersenne/)

21- Pierre-Sylvain Régis 'The Prince of Cartesian Philosophers'

22- Pierre Daniel Huet (French Churchmen Against Cartesian Philosophy, criticised and refuted Regis)

23. Claude Pithoys - French Skeptic 




17th Century - Low Countries Philosophers


1. Geulincx (Occasionalism)  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/occasionalism/

2.  Libert Froidmont ( Christian Philosophy on the soul

3. Cornelius Jansen (founder of a movement that Arnaul was part of, called  Jansenism) 

4. Bernard Mandeville - Dutch Political Economist and Radical thinker

5. Eric Walten ( Dutch Radical 

6. Isaac Beeckman on Matter and motion (close friend to Descartes)

7 Burchard de Volder ( Dutch Cartesian and physicists)

8 - Anna Maria van Schurman (Defence of Female education) 

9  - Johannes de Raey. Dutch Cartesian ( look at the works of Andrea Strazzoni )

10- Henricus Regius https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/henricus-regius/

11 - Frederik van Leenhof ( Pantheist, 'heaven on earth' )

12. David van Goorle - Dutch atomist)

13- Adriaan Koerbagh- Dutch Mathematician and critic of religion - died from imprisonment and torture, close supporter of Spinoza

14 - Ulrik Huber ( on fundamental law and conflict of laws huge impact on British law)

15 - Petrus Cunaeus - 'Hebrew republic' a book on republic theories

16- Pieter de la Court  - Dutch economist and political philosopher

17- Comenius on education 

18 - Franco Burgersdijk (Dutch Logician)

19 - Balthasar Bekker ( Decline of witchcraft)

20- Jacobus Arminius

21- Grotius https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/grotius/

22. Christiaan Huygens ( key dutch scientist) 


Parsa on 28 March 2024


Jakob Böhme, Robert Fludd, Pascal, Boyle, Malebranche, Newton, Johann Andreae, Johann Arndt, the Cambridge Platonists (More, Cudworth, Conway), Quirinus Kuhlmann, Pierre Poiret, Gottfried Arnold, Julius Sperber, Elias Ashmole, Michael Maier, Samuel Hartlib, Jan Amos Comenius, John Heydon,Friedrich Breckling, John Pordage, Jane Lead, Antoinette Bourignon, Johann Cocejus, Christian Wolff, Baumgarten, F. C. Oetinger, J. A. Bengel, William Law, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, Mendelssohn, Lessing, Jacobi, Hamman, Herder, Schiller, de Maistre, Goethe, Maimon, Reinhold, Fichte, Blake, Novalis, Schulze, Klinger, Swedenborg, J.L. Fricker, P.M. Hahn, G.F. Rösler, Prokop Divisch, Mesmer, Hölderlin, Schelling, Tieck

Eammon on 29 March 2024

More suggestions

I can see your probably already overwhelmed with suggestions, but here are some more. Leibniz has come up a few times, but his theodicy is very important for philosophy of religion. Also his correspondences with Clarke for philosophy of space and time.

Along with religion some of the Catholic responses to the enlightenment and St Alphonsus Ligouri and st Francis de Sales.

Wolfe and why he was hated so much. 

This may be a bit too mathematical, but Berkely’s the Analyst caused mathematicians to completely reassess how they treat the foundations of calculus. 

Also just out of curiousity do you have a rough timeline on when the series will conclude?

In reply to by Eammon

Peter Adamson on 29 March 2024


Thanks for the suggestions! On the rough timeline, I guess basically the answer is just "no", it depends a bit on whether I will keep alternating European and non-European topics as we have been doing the last years. (One thought has been to do 3 European episodes for every non-European, once we finish classical China, and that would speed things up.) But I suspect that each of the early modern series would take a good 2-3 years, so the better part of a decade for sure. Gulp!

mehmet on 31 March 2024

I will not suggest names but…

I will not suggest names but a trend: the rise of biblical scholarship and archeology shoke the old religious worldview and the religion itself become a subject of science. Also, first serious archeological/linguistic studies belong to this period, which resulted in questioning the handed-down historical/civilisational narratives and contributed to the objectivisation of western mind..

Coralie on 2 April 2024

A few ideas from a mere amatrice

Since you're starting with 17th century France, I'll make a few suggestions, although they may be less focus on philosophical figures and more on large cultural, philosophical but also literary tendencies ; feel free to ignore them, as I'm a simple listener with no particular formation in philosophy :

- the so-called "Précieuses" movement, important in the development of modern French literature, with Madeleine de Scudéry as the best example especially with regards to philosophy, and many other authors like Madame de La Fayette being very influential in literature.

- the French libertine movement, with its three periods (as per Les sources documentaires du courant libertin français by Giulio Cesare Vanini) : the first one with a cabal of secret poets (De Viau, Maynard, Régnier, Boisrobert, Tristan, Saint-Amant) around the 1610s until De Viau is exiled then condemned to death in 1619 and 1623 ; the second one, more philosophical in nature, which might require several episodes, with Diodati, le Vayer, Gassendi, Naudé, and many more minor authors amongst whom Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac, François Bernier, Samuel de Sorbière and Cyrano de Bergerac are the most interesting ; and the third one, going into the 18th century with Saint-Evremond, Bayle and de Fontenelle (which is maybe the least libertine of the three).

- it was also the century of classicism in France, with of course Molière, Racine and Corneille representing comedy, tragedy and tragicomedy respectively, but also with Malherbe and Boileau in poetry. This was the cause of many controversies and philosophical arguments, often with a religious dimension :  Nicolas Boileau's whole Art Poétique, Pierre Nicole's attack against theater, Pierre-Daniel Huet defending the novel, the quarrel of ancients and moderns opposing Boileau and Perrault, etc.

- the French moralists, of which the most importants are La Rochefoucauld, La Fontaine, La Bruyère, Jacques Esprit, and Saint-Evremond, especially remarkable for the variety of literary forms their philosophy takes : aphorisms for La Rochefoucauld, portraits for La Bruyère, fables for La Fontaine, etc. 

The other important philosophical movements include cartesianism and scholasticism, but I'm not as familiar with these two (and I've seen other comments giving the main figures for those movements). Then there's Pascal of course. 

A few other figures might include Philippe Couplet, notable for his contact with China, and his writing about Confucius ; Basson, notable for his anti-aristotélianism and his atomism ; or Marin Mersenne as a representant of the sciences in 17th century France. For the latter in particular, the increasing development of mathematics there might be a point of interest, with the invention of modern probability by Pascal and Fermat, which will then be further explored by Huygens, de Moivre and Pascal later in the 17th and 18th century.


In reply to by Coralie

Coralie on 3 April 2024

And now for the 18th century in France

For the 18th century, the biggest movement in France is obviously the encyclopédistes. There could be an episode on the general philosophy conveyed through the Encyclopedie itself, through its biggest contributors (Jaucourt and D’Alembert, for instance). Diderot and Helvétius would both deserve an episode of their own, in my opinion, on top of (of course) Voltaire and Rousseau.

An important movement in 18th century France is the emergence of economical philosophy, through the physiocrats. Turgot was the most important of them all, altogether with Quesnay, du Pont de Némour, Cantillon, and the comte de Mirabeau.

There’s several schools of political philosophy that need to be covered. Of course, there’s classical liberalism with Montesquieu, Condorcet and Sophie Grouchy, but also Socialist utopianism with writers such as Morelly, Sylvain Maréchal, Charles Fourier, and especially Saint-Simon, and the counter-revolutionary reactionaries like de Maistre or Rivarol.

The coverage of the revolution isn’t easy in my humble opinion, one could argue that the many arguments published in the journals of the time by many, many revolutionaries have some philosophical value in political theory. From the more moderate to more radical, Chamfort, Brissot, Sieyès, Saint-Just, Gracchus Babeuf all have some political, social and/or philosophical writings and could be representants of the main political factions of the Revolution (respectively, the original Jacobin club, the Girondins, the Plaine, the Montagnards and the Hébertistes). None of those are major philosophers, so it could easily be done in one or two episodes quickly covering the philosophies of the revolutionaries.

Another way to do it is to group those revolutionaries with the philosophers they're associated with, eg Chamfort and Brissot with the liberals, Babeuf with the socialists, etc.

Another important strand of Lumières thought is obviously linked to the sciences, with thinkers like Condillac being quite influential in epistemology, and many scientists like Buffon, Lavoisier, Laplace, etc.

Other schools include French materialism, with Cabanis, Meslier, La Mettrie and Naigeon on top of d’Holbach, who is rather influential for the Encyclopédie as well ; modern feminism, championed by Olympes de Gouges ; and the more cynical libertine authors, with Sade being the most important one in philosophy, others like Rétif directly answering him, and Laclos and Marivaux writing novels and plays displaying this particular philosophy too.

Overall, the 17th and 18th centuries are easily two of the three most intense periods of intellectual life in France (together with the second half of the 20th), so I'm wondering if grouping the Low Countries with Germany might not be an easier way to balance the 17th and 18th centuries? I'm not as familiar with German philosophy, so I may be wrong, but my preconceived idea is that France had a larger tradition in philosophy than Germany during those centuries until basically German Idealism, which developed during the last decades of the 18th century and continued well into the 19th.

In reply to by Coralie

Coralie on 17 July 2024

I was just rereading that…

I was just rereading that comment and noticed a mistake : my reference was obviously Les sources documentaires du courant libertin français about Giulio Cesare Vanini, and not by. By the way, he isn't French but Vanini is probably the biggest philosophical figure of the first libertine movement I was talking about, being one of the first really significant libertine thinker. It would probably make sense to have an episode on him before covering the likes of Gassendi and Le Vayer.

In reply to by Coralie

Peter Adamson on 17 July 2024


OK thanks for your many helpful suggestions! I am going to work through all the advice that has come in over the summer as I plan out the first early modern series on France and the low countries.

Peter Adamson on 5 April 2024


Just wanted to thank everyone for these fantastic, and often very detailed, suggestions! I get the impression that some of you should be doing these podcasts instead of me, but I will do my best.

Zachary on 7 April 2024

Scottish Philosophy

One of the more neglected periods of early modern philosophy, aside from a few figures, is Scottish philosophy, which flourished especially in the 18th century and 19th century.

Shaftesbury, an Englishman, was especially influential in 18th century Scottish thought. His focus on moral philosophy, his elegant writing, and above all his appeal to common sense, echo later Scottish philosophy. Francis Hutcheson, an Ulster Scot and the moral philosopher who most influenced Hume, saw his work as an attempt to defend Shaftesbury from Mandeville, though he sees himself more as defending the general sentimentalism against Mandeville's theory of self-interest. However, Hutcheson is often viewed as a systematizer of the ideas of Shaftesbury's thoroughly unsystematic thought. Another Scottish thinker who followed Shaftesbury was George Turnbull, who was a teacher to Reid. Other minor Scottish moral philosophers were Archibald Campbell, who opposed both Hutcheson and Mandeville, and Alexander Moncrieff, who wrote a refutation of Campbell's idea of self-love. This was also the time of great English moral philosophers, like Bishop Joseph Butler, David Hartley, Abraham Tucker, and William Paley. Paley is notable for being a precursor to utilitarianism. 

Another early figure was Gershom Carmicheal, who seems to still have a little bit of the old Protestant Scholasticism in him, being critical of its obscure and artificial style while finding its doctrine truer than the newer philosophies of Descartes and others. He wrote on logic, psychology, and natural theology. Andrew Baxter was another early 18th-century Scottish philosopher who is mostly outside the later tradition, whose main idea seems to be that matter is passive, and an immaterial power (God) is needed to move it. 

In the 17th-century, at the Univeristy of Aberdeen, scholasticism continued unabated. Robert Baron, a notable Scottish episcopalian and opponent of the Covenanters, wrote works of scholastic philosophy and theology. Thomas Blackwell, a Presbyterian, also wrote works of theology in the old-fashioned scholastic manner. The scholastic school of philosophy appears to have disappeared by 1715. 

In the 18th century the Enlightenment reached Scotland, and the Scottish Enlightenment saw the rise of numerous philosophers. The most famous, of course, is Hume, who was highly controversial. Adam Smith, besides inventing modern economics, was a moral philosopher. Adam Ferguson was a political and moral philosopher who was concerned with the idea of the progress and decline of nations, as well as with moral philosophy, where he is partial to stoicism. Lord Kames, aside from writing many historical works, was noted for his idea of "philosophical necessity," which essentially denied free will, though men are still accountable for his actions because they act as if they are free. Hugh Blair is notable for his writings on rhetoric. Archibald Alison wrote Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste, which is a work of aesthetics. Of minor philosophical writers, there are David Fordyce, William Duncan, John Stevenson, Thomas Boston, David Dudgeon, James Balfour, Alexander Gerard, James Oswald, James Hutton, John Gregory, James Gregory, Alexander Crombie, Archibald Arthur, and John Bruce. 

Many of the great Scottish philosophers of the 18th century were critics of Hume. Of course, the most famous and important of Hume's critics is Thomas Reid, who really needs no introduction other and who made the "common sense philosophy" the mark of later Scottish philosophy. Also of note is James Beattie, whose Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth was a refutation of Hume alongside similar lines of that of Reid. It is notable for its impolite and declaiming tone. This work was well-received and caused Beattie to receive numerous honors, including an audience with King George III, but Hume reacted with anger and consternation with it, and even by other followers of Reid it was seen as lacking philosophical sophistication. George Campbell is best known for his work in rhetoric and for writing A Dissertation on Miracles, a refutation of Hume's Of Miracles. Lord Monboddo was an eccentric critic of Hume, who was an extreme grecophile who believed that philosophy, art, and literature had all reached their peak in ancient Greece, and that everything since was practically worthless. In his Antient Metaphysics, Monboddo exposites and defends the doctrines of Aristotle and Plato, whose doctrines he sees as identical, and often criticizes Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Reid. But he criticizes Newton more than any other author.

At the very end of the 18th century we have Dugald Stewart, a follower of Reid and the common sense philosophy. He's a sign of what Scottish philosophy would look like for the next few generations, in the first half of the 19th-century, when Reid's common sense philosophy and Scottish Philosophy were synonymous. Stewart was responsible for the view that Kant and Reid essentially taught the same ideas, but that Reid was the better philosopher.

Matt on 9 April 2024

Hellenistic-Early Modern connections

A lot of incredible suggestions here. I’ll just throw in less of a “who” than a “what”: the connections between Hellenistic and Early Modern thinkers. From Stoicism in Descartes and Spinoza to Epicureanism in Hobbes and Gassendi, and lots more - this is a fertile subject either along the way when addressing individual thinkers or in a dedicated episode and/or interview.

G. Tarun on 11 April 2024


The comments so far have offered far more detailed and informed suggestions than what I have to say! But some more thoughts below:

Feminism, gender, and women: I think it helps to cover not just women philosophers but also ideas about gender and women by philosophers in those times? How, for instance, did a concept like liberty or equality apply to the private sphere, etc. in connection with the texts and thinkers covered.

Adam Smith - not just Wealth of Nations but his Moral Sentiments too?

Racism, colonialism, Orientalism: Said and postcolonial theory, of course, will show up only in the 20th century series. But covering Enlightenment writings on these topics would be absolutely relevant. Hegel's remarks, for instance, on India and China, or Kant's remarks on race, etc., and how they operated with colonialism and education, reason, etc, and how that shaped what was considered 'philosophy', in the West and non-West.

Language and translation in and outside Europe: how did non-Western texts and ideas enter Europe (something covered in an India episode also), and how did European ideas see the non-West, etc. How did translation, printing technologies, etc shape this process?

Literature and philosophy: Just like the Shakespeare episodes, I hope some literary texts are read with the philosopher's attention too? Romantic poetry and gothic novels are an obvious example.

Science and philosophy: Obvious inclusion, but I'd love to see how primary texts from the 17-19th centuries saw the relation between natural philosophy and metaphysics and epistemology, as well as the role of empirical data, experimentation, its relation to theory, etc as it was developing. Also connections with religion and politics of the time?

Technology and philosophy: While technophilosophy in connection with AI and virtual reality is discussed today (e.g. David Chalmers' work), I'm curious about early modern attitudes about instruments that augmented human sense-perception, and allowed access to reality not directly accessible to the senses. I'm speaking of instruments like telescopes and the microscope, as well as measuring instruments of various sorts.
While not a podcast on the history of science or technology, I think it's still important to look at these topics so we see how science grew out of philosophy, and eventually became professionalised with professional bodies, journals, degrees, etc.

Brian on 11 April 2024

C17 British Writers

I'd love an episode on British medicine and psychology, including Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy" (1621) and Thomas Browne's "Religio Medici" (1642). If you have time for an entire episode on Browne, "Hydriotaphia" (1658) and "The Garden of Cyrus" (1568) are also really wonderful pieces of writing. They're almost entirely sui generis - Borges loved them.

I'm sure that you're already planning to cover John Milton's "Paradise Lost," but his nonfiction prose might also be worth an episode. I'm thinking especially of "Areopagitica" (1644, on free speech) and "The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" (1643, on gender relations and companionate marriage). 

Aphra Behn was one of the first English women to live off the money she made writing fiction. Her novella "Ooronoko" (1688) is worth studying for its treatment of race, slavery, and empire. 

Margaret Cavendish's "The Blazing World" (1666) is an early work of utopian fiction. It responds to Thomas More and Tommaso Campanella, among others. It also features lots of talking bears.

An episode on John Dryden might be interesting as a follow-up to your mini-series on Shakespeare. "An Essay of Dramatic Poesy" (1668) and "Mac Flecknoe" (1678) reflect on the proper use of poetry. In "The Enchanted Island" (1667), Dryden rewrites Shakespeare's "The Tempest" very poorly, but in interesting ways. In "The State of Innocence" (1673), he rewrites Milton's "Paradise Lost" (again: poorly, but in interesting ways). 

Thank you so much for this podcast! I've loved listening to it over the years.

Spencer on 12 April 2024

One specific and two general suggestions

Hello Peter,

I have one specific and two general suggestions:

The specific suggestion is to cover the very late 18th century Scottish gentleman James Hutton, who is credited as the “Father of Geology.” Hutton made observations of rocks, sediments, and geological processes, which led him to conclude that the Earth was much older than that allowed by Biblical dictates. In the 17th century, Bishop Ussher used “information” in the Bible to calculate that the Earth began in 4004 BC. Hutton’s conclusions, important to Darwin, have completely changed the way we (or most of us) understand the Earth and its history.


For the two general ideas: 

1. Include topics relating to the first stages of the First Industrial Revolution, the results of which are fundamental to “how we live our lives”—which is, if I recall, what some of the Ancient Greeks thought the purpose of philosophy was. (By the way, there is a fabulously good podcast on the Industrial Revolutions by Dave Broker.)

2. Because scientific topics will become more prevalent and, importantly, complex as you move forward, I thought I would toss out the idea that you team up with a co-author, as you have done for Indian, Africana, and (now) Chinese philosophy. Unless you have hidden and exceptional talents in fundamental science, you will be hard-pressed to cover scientific discoveries moving forward. I do not know how this would work, but perhaps including the influence of scientific endeavors on philosophy as a subset of the overall narrative would work. Again, just an idea.


Thank you for this opportunity and best of luck! 

In reply to by Spencer

Peter Adamson on 13 April 2024


Thanks for the suggestions, I was already thinking I should do geology in fact.

I've also thought about the co-author issue, but I don't think I want to have the whole podcast be co-authored (because single authoring is just a lot less complicated). Actually the science stuff wouldn't be my main reason for being intimidated, because I think as we go forward I'll have to start being less detailed on the science, simply because it would be too much material otherwise. Someone really ought to do a History of Science Without Any Gaps! Obviously I will cover it but increasingly, only insofar as it bears directly on philosophy and vice-versa.  

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 14 April 2024

Single Authoring and spending more time on Western Philosophy

Due to that point Professor, that single authorship is more easier and the fact that the bi-weekly schedule means we get around 22 episodes per year for Western and non Western series.


I would recommend heavily that once you've concluded Classical China, to switch to a 3 week Western schedule + 1 week non western schedule due to several reasons.


1. Early Modern Philosophy has more written material, covering the 3 geographical blocs in this current bi-weekly schedule will take several years. If you were to cover it 3 weeks, you'll spend around 33 episodes per year on Western thus you'll be able to reach Kant in the last section of 1600-1800 much quicker than waiting 22 episodes per year, 1600-1800 France/Low countries will have around same scripted episodes of Classical China (70+) that would be nearly 4 years on France/Low countries alone, let alone US/Britain and Germany/Eastern Europe, so early 2030's is where you'll be before concluding these two centuries alone. 

Years ago you wanted to end the series of Kant which makes sense due to philosophy being more complicated after 1800 and you may not have much time (age/health/family, work, burned out,  etc..) to cover it all.


2. You can spend enough time researching Meso-American and Colonial Latin America better if you're only dedicating 1 episode per month on it, plus the feed won't be halted (as episodes will still be coming out albeit once a month). The materials are more difficult due to requiring Spanish (which you have knowledge of and Portuguese which you mind need assistance) and the larger geographical mass to cover. Since having a co-author can be more time consuming (more delays likely and communication problems), you can spend more time preparing scripts for materials on this mini series, you will have time asking experts on your content before you record the scripts and publish them on podcasting platforms. 


If you were to conclude the series on Kant or the following German philosophers reacting to it (German Idealism/Romanticism), I would have no problem. You've done more than enough of a job bridging the gap between the major thinkers, post 1800 philosophy is already well covered. 


So in conclusion, you will still be enthusiastic for this project and researching difficult and niche topics will stoke you up (especially if no-one else has covered it) but I'm thinking of your overall work load due to how expansive Philosophy will become, you would need to be covering  progression of  Science on top of that before natural philosophy becomes distinct, covering Archaeology, Geology, Atheism/Pantheism,  Art critic and the complicated Political nature of 19th century Europe/USA,etc... and you will be getting older. Also if you're covering Russian Philosophy that is also another niche area to be researching on (language barrier).


So  I believe 3 weeks Western + 1 week non western would be good for your situation, you can progress quickly on Western to reach Kant (at one point your original end point) and still done a brilliant job covering the many gaps before that philosopher and you will have enough time researching Non Western Philosophy such as Meso America by yourself.


Later India you can contact Ganeri to continue but that series is quite dense and can require nearly 4 years to cover it, Later China is also expansive and perhaps has less scholarly work compared to Later India (recently we've been getting a lot more work on Ming/Song Dynasty Philosophers like Wang Yang-Ming) but the question lies if there is a willing co-author to help you in this uncharted timeline (especially Post Han - Song/Ming dynasty).


Japanese Philosophy has enough material for a short volume and Korean Philosophy from what I can see is quite small and probably have the same amount of episodes as Byzantine Philosophy, unless more research is carried out in this field. 


Tibetan Philosophy also has enough materials for a short book.


So Peter, I've been following this project of yours for 10 years and I would hope you not to get burned out from it. So to take into consideration this changing format of 3 weeks Western + 1 week non western (especially if you have no co-authors) once you've completed Classical Chinese Philosophy with Karyn Lai.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

mehmet on 20 April 2024

I have already written this,…

I have already written this, but let me write it once again: The role played by geology in natural sciences is played by biblical criticism/archaeology in social sciences. People like hobbes/spinoza/astruc/simon questioned the dominant judeo-christian narrative, which resulted in objectivization of western thought and will have a great influence on the rise of rationalism and modernism. 

BTW, this process started at 17-18th century in western christianity, but it is just starting in islam.  And very unfortunately the people who started it are not muslims themselves but western scholars like Patricia Crone and Christoph Luxenberg. Islamic world will only pass the threshold of modernization when it learns to look at its heritage with critical eyes..

Hence, I believe that the rising trend of "questioning the heritage" during the 17th-18th centuries must be covered, even if with a single episode.

Andreas Hoeg on 16 April 2024

The Proto-Socialist Philosophers

Hello, Peter. As you enter the 17th and 18th centuries, the philosophical origins of modern socialism are on the horizon (if they haven't already arrived with Thomas More). I would suggest episodes on the utopian philosopher Tommaso Campanella and his City of the Sun (a sort of successor to More's Utopia), Jean Meslier (the first philosopher of modern atheism), and the otherwise obscure but highly interesting philosophers Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, Etienne-Gabriel Morelly, and Victor d'Hupay who were the main thinkers of proto-socialism and proto-communism in this era.

I also personally think that it would be criminal not to include episodes on the Marquis de Sade (specifically his conception of nature, which calls back to the immoralism of Callicles in the Gorgias), and Maximilien Robespierre (who refashioned ancient Roman virtue as a pretext and justification for political terror).

In reply to by Andreas Hoeg

Peter Adamson on 16 April 2024

More suggestions

Great thanks! Covering de Sade is an interesting idea. Also just to note, we did do Campanella already, towards the end of the Italian Renaissance series.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andreas Hoeg on 5 May 2024

De Sade's Sources

If you do end up deciding to cover Sade, his most useful writing would probably be his book Philosophy in the Bedroom, which is a typical dialogue and easier to read than most of his other works. Of his novels, most important are Justine and Juliette (Juliette more so) where he positively compares the amoral libertinism of the main character, Juliette, with the tortured life of Justine, a virtuous Christian. Slightly more obscure is his novel Aline et Valcour, where he compares a fictional African dystopia with a Pacific island utopia. As far as I'm aware, all of these were written in a singular time frame in the mid 1790s once he had fallen out with the revolution, was being prepared for execution during the Reign of Terror, and afterwards.

Of secondary works which discuss Sade, de Beauvoir's "Must We Burn Sade?" is a semi-positive vivisection of his life and works. As for more negative interpretations, the paper "Much Sense The Starkest Madness: Sade's Moral Scepticism" by Geoffrey Roche, in the journal Angelaki, is a good, short work which lays out Sade's ideas before critiquing him.

aleja on 21 April 2024

Amerindian philosophy

Amerindian philosophy. Remember, no gaps!!!!

In reply to by aleja

Peter Adamson on 21 April 2024


Right! That is a hot favorite for the next non-European series after classical China.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

aleja on 22 April 2024

That's awsome. I love this…

That's awsome. I love this project <3 greetings from Berlin

In reply to by Peter Adamson

mehmet on 23 April 2024

please not!! Please continue…

please not!! Please continue with later india, or if not that, with later china...

Bernese on 3 May 2024

German protestantism

Another idea (although one you probably would have had yourself): An episode (or even two episodes) on developments in German Protestantism. This would include developments Lutheran theology, but also the rise of “pietism”, which sought a more personal experience of belief than offered by traditional variants Protestantism. Considering how many early modern German intellectuals were children of protestant pastors, the influence of these trends must have been considerable. Such episodes could also cover the origins of biblical criticism mentioned two time above.

Spencer on 19 June 2024

Keep us neophytes in mind

Dear Peter,

One other note as you plan content for the 17th and 18th centuries. These two centuries include many significant philosophers—heck, even I’ve heard of some of them! But that’s about it. In contrast, judging from many of the comments on this website, a large number of your listeners know a lot about philosophy and will probably know a lot about the most prominent philosophers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Please keep us “history of philosophy neophytes” in mind. Thank you! 

In reply to by Spencer

Peter Adamson on 20 June 2024


Right, don't worry about that! The general approach will be the same: assume no background knowledge, aim the discussion at a broad audience, and spend lots of time on the big figures like Descartes, Spinoza, Hume etc. I think the rather advanced nature of the discussion above is because of the way I asked for advice, namely to get suggestions for people I might otherwise skip. But I'll try to avoid it turning into a highly specialized trawl through minor figures, while as always trying to cover the period "without any gaps". It's a difficult balancing act.

onno on 22 June 2024

Already Mentioned, but Grotius and Morelly, and Kant

Dear Peter,

Always look forward to each new episode.

Though a jurist, Hugo Grotius plays a central role in social contract theory (and the Spanish theorists he leans on, which should be covered as part of your Spanish Reformation, which is still active) and then the French utopian socialists, with emphasis on Morelly, whose book against wealth is more radical than Rousseau. When covering Marx, point out he started out a liberal thinker, converted by French utopian socialists, and reduced it to political economy, all within a year.

As for Kant, I hope you cover Kant’s own passion, the practice of reason, that his attempt to secure freedom motivated him to write the Critique of Pure Reason and create the division between noumenal and phenomena. The jettisoning of this division immediately after him gives rise to several modern traditions, including German idealism, phenomenology, and through Frege, analytic philosophy, and also pragmatism, critical theory, and modern French philosophy. He was the last to create an explicit social contract, providing Germanic systemic order to Rousseau’s ideas, but the skeptic selfish materialism of the Scottish Enlightenment eclipsed the moral role envisioned by Kant, and that characterizes much of modern philosophy/modern world. 

Figuring out the big trends is what it’s all about.

mehmet on 7 July 2024

I am surprised that only a…

I am surprised that only a single post mentioned Athanasius Kircher. I believe he was a very important person. AFAIK, he was the first person in history who made a living solely from the royalties of his books.

In reply to by mehmet

Peter Adamson on 7 July 2024


Already a role model to emulate then! Maybe other people didn't mention him simply because they saw someone else already had? In any case he is on my list...

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