Collection of First Editions of Philosophical Books

15 June, 2018

We launch a unique collection of first editions of philosophical treatises that have shaped contemporary analytic philosophy, in particular to address the problems of consciousness, free will and personal identity.

Hume, David. Philosophical essays: concerning human understanding by the author of the essays Moral and Political. London: A. Millar, 1748.

First edition. Published anonymously, this title is better known as “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” and is a revision of Hume’s earlier effort, “A Treatise of Human Nature”, with the addition of his notorious essay “On Miracles”. The book has proven highly influential, and is widely regarded as a classic in modern philosophical literature.

Kant, Immanuel. Critik der reinen Vernunft. Zweyte hin und wieder verbesserte Auflage. Riga: Johann Friedrich Hartknoch, 1787.

Second edition. The important second edition of Kant’s greatest work, the Critique of Pure Reason, widely considered the most influential book in philosophy since Aristotle. Kant made many changes in this, the so-called ‘B’ text, entirely recasting the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories and The Paralogisms of Pure Reason, and adding new material — most notably the Refutation of Idealism — in order to clear up misunderstandings of the ‘A’ text of 1781.

Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson House, 1949.

First edition. Ryle’s main work that set out to correct the mistake of talking about mind and matter as “terms of the same logical type”, thus aiming at an alleged mistake of Descartes’ dualism, which had so deeply effected Western philosophy since the 17th century. When Ryle claims that he wants to correct the “logical geography of the knowledge which we already possess” (i.e. about mental powers and operations), he aims at Descarte’s separation of mind and matter. He claims that this “myth” constitutes a categorical mistake that places facts belonging to the physical within a framework of categories that are essentially different to those of the mental, although they bear the same categorical names. The workings of the mind are not distinct from the actions of the body, and we need no “ghost in the machine” to explain human qualities.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. With an Introduction by Bertrand Russell. London, Kegan Paul, 1922.

First edition. ‘Tractatus’ is the Wittgenstein’s only book-length publication and is considered one of the most significant philosophical works of the twentieth century. This notable example is formerly the property of Nobel Prize-winning Cambridge scientist Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin (1914-1998), with his ownership details and family inscriptions to flyleaf.

Descartes, René. Principia Philosophiae. Amsterdam: L. Elzevir, 1644.

First edition of this monumental system of the world, the most comprehensive of all of Descartes’ works. In Part I, Descartes sets out the basic principles of his method. Part II is devoted to the nature of the physical world. Descartes identified space matter with space and believed that vacuum is impossible. According to Descartes, matter is infinitely extensible and infinitely divisible. Parts III and IV contain the first serious attempt at a mechanical explanation of the solar system and the origin of Earth.

Locke, John. An essay concerning human understanding. London: Awnsham & John Churchill, 1694.

Second edition, and the first to include Locke’s name on the title. The book is one of the most important works on the philosophy of Enlightenment. The author of the essay relies on the method of introspection, which distinguishes him from XVII century rationalists such as Descartes and Spinoza.   Locke criticizes nativism, gives an empiricist explanation to the origin of our knowledge, and explores new philosophical fields, such as personal identity and consciousness. Locke’s work laid the groundwork for associationism in psychology.

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