‘Learning to love’. Review of Richard Allen, David Hartley on Human Nature [Book Review]

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In a remarkable and utterly original work of philosophical history, Richard Allen revivifies David Hartley's Observations on Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations (1749). Though it includes a detailed and richly annotated chronology, this is not a straight intellectual biography, attentive as it might be to the intricacies of Hartley's Cambridge contacts, or the mundane rituals of his medical practice, or the internal development of the doctrine of association of ideas. Instead Allen brings Hartley's book, a psychological epic with a mystical finale, sympathetically to life in a generous and ambitious historical gesture of mutual recognition. Late 20th-century readers "are in a better position to understand Hartley's work" than were earlier sympathizers like Joseph Priestley and John Stuart Mill; and in turn, Allen argues that "Hartley has something to say to us" about just how rich and strange a full mechanistic psychology might be.
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