Article ID: CBB001202409

John Locke’s “New Method of Making Common-Place-Books”: Tradition, Innovation and Epistemic Effects (2014)

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In 1676, the English physician and philosopher John Locke published a new method of commonplacing. He had developed this method and, in particular, a new approach to organizing and indexing the entries, in the course of 25 years of personal note-taking and it proved quite influential. This paper presents the three major approaches to commonplacing as practiced by physicians and other scholars before Locke – the systematic or textbook approach, the alphabetical approach and the sequential or index-based approach – and it analyzes the ways in which Locke himself applied them in his own commonplace books. In comparison with established approaches, his new method offered a maximum degree of flexibility while facilitating the later retrieval of notes and minimising waste of space and paper. Thanks to these features, it was particularly well suited for physicians and natural philosophers who were interested in the infinite variety of natural particulars rather than in elegant quotes on a very limited set of classical topics. In conclusion, the potential epistemic impact of commonplacing on early modern medicine and natural philosophy is discussed, in particular its importance for contemporary debates about species and disease entities and for the emergence of the notion of “facts.”

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Article Charmantier, Isabelle; Müller-Wille, Staffan (2014) Worlds of Paper: An Introduction. Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period (pp. 379-397). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Anstey, Peter R.
Voelkel, James R.
Walmsley, Jonathan
Zaterka, Luciana
Sanchez, Guillermo C.
Wolfe, Charles T.
Journals
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science
Vesalius
Bulletin d'histoire et d'èpistémologie des sciences de la vie
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science
Publishers
Oxford University Press
Princeton University Press
Springer
Yale University Press
Ohio State University
Concepts
Natural philosophy
Books
Philosophy
Physicians; doctors
Empiricism
Natural history
People
Locke, John
Descartes, René
Harvey, William
Kepler, Johannes
Boyle, Robert
Alemán, Mateo
Places
England
Great Britain
Japan
Portugal
Germany
Times
17th century
18th century
16th century
Renaissance
Enlightenment
Ancient
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