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Biographical details

Dr Jasper Reid has been a lecturer in the department since 2005, having previously been here as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow from 2000 to 2003, with sojourns at the Universities of Essex and Aberdeen in between. His PhD was entitled ‘Early Eighteenth-Century Immaterialism in its Philosophical Context’, and it was taken at Princeton in 2000, following a BA in Philosophy at Clare College, Cambridge (1995). His main interests in philosophy are historical ones, centring on the early modern period of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Other philosophical interests extend to other periods of the history of philosophy, and to contemporary discussions too, especially at the metaphysical end of the subject.

Research interests (short)

History of modern philosophy.

Research interests

  • Cartesianism
  • Cambridge Platonism
  • Immaterialism
  • Philosophy and religion
  • Philosophy and science

Jasper Reid’s research is largely concerned with the history of philosophy in the early modern period of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It tends to focus on issues at the metaphysical and epistemological end of the subject, as opposed to the ethical or political end (although of course these things could never be severed from one another completely). Reid’s work has covered a number of different issues, and a number of different figures, but these can be gathered under a few general heads, as follows:

Cartesianism. Reid takes seriously Descartes’ exhortation (to Burman) not to devote so much effort to the Meditations: in his view, the Principles of Philosophy was a far more important work, and far more interesting too. Reid also follows these strands from Descartes himself into the subsequent Cartesians. Nicolas Malebranche and Pierre-Sylvain Regis are particular sources of fascination, as are Antoine Arnauld and Gerauld de Cordemoy.

Cambridge Platonism. Reid has written a book on The Metaphysics of Henry More, plus a few further articles on More; and he also holds an interest in the other Cambridge Platonists such as Ralph Cudworth. He is keen to locate them in the cutting-edge debates of their own era, rather than writing them off (as they all too often have been written off) as mere backward-looking antiquarians.

Immaterialism. This was the topic of Reid’s PhD dissertation, and it is one that remains close to his heart. Naturally, George Berkeley plays a prominent role in Reid’s work in this area; but he is also interested in the other immaterialists of the same period, such as Arthur Collier, Samuel Johnson (D.D.—not to be confused with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.), P-L. M. de Maupertuis, William Dudgeon, and especially Jonathan Edwards.

Philosophy and Religion. Reid is interested in the ways in which philosophical and religious commitments tended to inform one another in the early modern period, particularly in the various arguments that were offered for the existence of God, and in early modern views on the relationship between reason and faith. He is equally interested in the more devout and orthodox philosophers of the era, and in the more heretical or downright atheistic ones.

Philosophy and Science. Reid is concerned with the metaphysical underpinnings of early modern physics, from part two of Descartes’ Principles, through the works of the Gassendists, to Isaac Newton’s ‘De gravitatione’ and beyond. Of particular interest are any and all questions pertaining to extension: whether there is any such thing as empty space, and/or absolute space; the relation of immaterial spirits such as God or the human soul to the extended world; and whether extension can really exist at all.


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