Vol. 7. no. 1
TRAVEL LITERATURE, THE NEW WORLD, AND LOCKE ON SPECIES
Patrick J. CONNOLLY
Abstract. This paper examines the way in which Locke’s deep and longstanding interest in the non-European world contributed to his views on species and their classification. The evidence for Locke’s curiosity about the non-European world, especially his fascination with seventeenth-century travel literature, is presented and evaluated. I claim that this personal interest of Locke’s almost certainly influenced the metaphysical and epistemological positions he develops in the Essay. I look to Locke’s theory of species taxonomy for proof of this. I argue that Locke uses evidence gathered from the non-European world to (1) show that in taxonomizing objects we rely on their sensible qualities rather than their real essences and to (2) undermine Scholastic Aristotelian views about a mind-independent species/genera structure to the world.
Keywords: Locke, travel literature, species, natural kinds, taxonomy, classification, Bacon