The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.


By the time of his death in 1704, Locke was referred to throughout the Republic of Letters as 'the Philosopher', or 'the English Philosopher'. But what did Locke himself mean by this term, and did he accept it as defining a public role or office? We can approach this by considering what he considered as impolite intellectual behaviour. Three targets can be identified: 1) scholastic philosophy as witnessed at Oxford; 2) the encyclopaedic ambitions of polyhistors or polymaths; 3) the pedant retailing commonplaces gleaned from superficial study. There are recurring preoccupations in Locke's dismissal of these three types; but does the positive content of his polite philosophy constitute a distinctive role - that is to say, distinct from that of the scholar or the educated gentleman? There are clues in both Locke's unpublished manuscripts and in his major works.

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