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Coming ToConsciousness and Natality in Early Modern England$
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Timothy M. Harrison

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226725093

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226725260.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 16 September 2021

Natality and Empiricism

Natality and Empiricism

(p.207) Chapter Five Natality and Empiricism
Coming To

Timothy M. Harrison

University of Chicago Press

The final chapter maps out the consolidation of the English word consciousness in the work of Ralph Cudworth before examining how John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding revised René Descartes’ notion of thought in order to systematize the meaning of consciousness. Locke also drew on the natality depicted by John Milton in order to develop an account of consciousness that requires but must also deny the epistemological explanatory power of originary experience. Exploring how the political theories in the Two Treatises work out a vision of natality, the epistemological import of which Locke examines in the Essay, this chapter demonstrates that Locke remained concerned with natality across his corpus. The chapter also presents a consideration of how Thomas Gray’s unfinished poem De principiis cogitandi seized on the use of poiesis implicit in the Essay and wrote a poetic celebration of Locke’s empiricism that begins in the womb, at the moment the lights of consciousness flicker into existence.

Keywords:   consciousness, John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Two Treatises, Ralph Cudworth, René Descartes, Thomas Gray, epistemology, fetal sensation

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