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Whytt and the Idea of Power: Physiological Evidence as a Challenge to 
the Eighteenth-Century Criticism of the Notion of Power

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines Robert Whytt's notion of power, for Lockean and Humean criticisms suggest its irrelevance. Yet as John P. Wright points out, the experimental method was currently being promoted in Scotland by the "Rankenian Club". Whytt's own teacher, George Young, was a member of this club, founded around 1716, which was circulating an experimental theism and discussing George Berkeley's, Samuel Clarke's and Isaac Newton's thoughts. The interesting questions are, therefore, to what extent Whytt may have been responding to the philosophical objections urged by Locke and Hume, in what way the resources of the Scottish experimental theism are expedient in his physiological approach and whether he makes an original use of such resources. The chapter recalls Whytt's original theses before examining the metaphysical reasons for his position from the Lockean and Humean points of view.

Keywords: Humean criticism; Lockean criticism; notion of power; physiological approach; Robert Whytt; Scotland; Scottish experimental theism



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