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Revisiting the Early Modern Philosophical Canon


I reflect critically on the early modern philosophical canon in light of the entrenchment and homogeneity of the lineup of seven core figures: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. After distinguishing three elements of a philosophical canon—a causal story, a set of core philosophical questions, and a set of distinctively philosophical works—I argue that recent efforts contextualizing the history of philosophy within the history of science subtly shift the central philosophical questions and allow for a greater range of figures to be philosophically central. However, the history of science is but one context in which to situate philosophical works. Looking at the historical context of seventeenth-century philosophy of mind, one that weaves together questions of consciousness, rationality, and education, does more than shift the central questions—it brings new ones to light. It also shows that a range of genres can be properly philosophical and seamlessly diversifies the central philosophers of the period.

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Journal of the American Philosophical Association
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  • EISSN: 2053-4485
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