David Hartley on Human Nature

By Richard C. Allen

Subjects: Intellectual History
Series: SUNY series in the Philosophy of Psychology
Paperback : 9780791442340, 469 pages, June 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442333, 469 pages, July 1999

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Table of contents




1. Remembering David Hartley

2. Portrait of a Benevolent Man

3. The Theory of Vibrations

4. Perception and Action

5. Mindful Bodies, Embodied Minds

6. Languages

7. The Emergence of the Self through the Transference of Emotion

8. Transformations of the Self

9. Annihilation of Self

10. The Whole Body Fitly Joined Together

11. Revolutionary Science

12. Recalling David Hartley




Presents the first complete account of the thought of David Hartley, one of the most original minds of the eighteenth century.


In this first complete account of Hartley's thought, Richard Allen explains Hartley's theories of physiology, perception and action, language and cognition, emotional development and transformation, and spiritual transcendence. By drawing a biographical portrait of its subject, the book explores the relationship of mind and body in Hartley's system, and surveys Hartley's influence upon later scientists and social reformers, particularly Joseph Priestley.

Richard C. Allen works in scholarly publishing. He also taught philosophy, religious studies, and English literature at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana, and Indiana University South Bend.


"This is an outstanding study of the thought of David Hartley, with insights into the interconnections of various strands of his thought: perception theory, self-awareness, language acquisition, moral theory, science, theological doctrines. As the author remarks, no one writing on Hartley has paid attention to anything other than the doctrine of association. Hartley's Observations is much richer than that, linking psychology to physiology, to religion and moral theory.

"…readers interested in Hartley should buy this book." — Albion

"Allen's book represents the very best in intellectual history. He is able to present the reader with clear, forceful explications of eighteenth-century scientific doctrines in physics and biology, often relating those doctrines to present-day science. The thoroughness with which he has read and understood Hartley's views is impressive. Hartley comes alive in the pages of this book, his doctrines are shown to be rich in understanding as well as relevant today. The book is a delight to read." — John W. Yolton, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University

"...a truly first-rate work by one who has mastered the science and 'ethos' not only of Hartley's age but of the preceding Age of Newton. We are led through the imaginative and technical thoughts of Hartley himself in this extraordinary attempt to fashion a Newtonian psychology. The book really leaves nearly nothing to be desired. I can't imagine anything in this genre more worthy." — Daniel N. Robinson, Georgetown University