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Empiricism

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 10 June 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Empiricism, England’s greatest contribution to philosophy. At the end of the seventeenth century the philosopher John Locke wrote in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding: “All ideas come from sensation or reflection. Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas:- How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE.”It was a body of ideas that for Voltaire, and for Kant after him, defined the English attitude to thought; a straight talking pragmatic philosophy that was hand in glove with a practical people.How was the philosophy of empiricism developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? And what effect did this emphasis on experience have on culture and literature in Britain?With Judith Hawley, Senior Lecturer in English at Royal Holloway, University of London; Murray Pittock, Professor of Scottish and Romantic Literature at the University of Manchester; Jonathan Rée, philosopher and author of Philosophy and its Past.

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