Thomas Heyd

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding has generally been read as primarily concerned with epistemology. In particular, it has been claimed that the Essay attempts to defeat epistemological skepticism, but fails in this enterprise because of the veiling character of Locke's ideas. By way of reexamination of the texts in question I show that epistemological skepticism is not the topic of the Essay, and that there is not sufficient reason to claim that Locke's account of knowledge leads to epistemological skepticism. I argue, moreover, that the motivating topic of the Essay is moral skepticism, and I explain the central role of ch. 8, book 2 in Locke's argumentation for the claim that we may achieve a science of morality. I conclude with an account of some of practical consequences of a science of morality, as conceived by Locke.



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