Locke, Stillingfleet, republic of letters, common consent, quarrel of the ancients and moderns, Bayle
Philosophical antagonism and dispute — by no means confined to the early modern period — nonetheless enjoyed a moment of particular ferment as new methods and orientations on questions of epistemology and ethics developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. John Locke played a key part in them with controversies initiated by the Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690). This essay develops a wider typology of modes of philosophical quarrelling by focusing on a key debate — the issue of whether human nature came pre-endowed with innate ideas and principles, resulting in a moral consensus across mankind, or remained, on the contrary, dependent on reason to achieve moral insight, and, in practice, divided by diverse and irreconcilable cultural practices as a result of the force of custom and the limited purchase of reason. The essay ultimately concludes on the idea that we should not only attend to the genealogy of disputes but also to the morphology of disputation as a practice.