John Locke’s use of inquiries: method, natural history, and religious belief

  • Daniel Carey University of Galway
Keywords: Locke, Royal Society, Boyle, natural history, religion


John Locke maintained a longstanding engagement with the practice of framing inquiries in order advance knowledge in different domains. Influenced by Robert Boyle and the Royal Society, he devised questions on a wide range of topics, shared questionnaires, and wrote to individuals with specific queries, as his journals, notebooks and correspondence testify. Locke’s method coincides with attempts by natural historians to capture insights from travellers, armed with suitable questions for a variety of destinations. Little attention has been paid to Locke’s approach beyond valuable work by Peter Anstey. This article investigates Locke’s commitment to inquiries and modes of communicating them. It also discusses a neglected manuscript in which Locke outlines a brief set of inquiries devoted to religion. Thus he adapted the method of naturalists to advance the anthropological study of religious belief and enthusiasm in particular.

Author Biography

Daniel Carey, University of Galway

Moore Institute
University of Galway