Joseph Priestley and His Approach to Exploring the Human Mind

Eva Peterková


This article attempts to introduce Joseph Priestley’s approach to the research of the human mind. It is demonstrated in two consecutive steps how Priestley changes his view of matter and spirit, and how he moves to materialism. In the first step, he redefines the notion of matter and gives it new attributes – the forces of attraction and repulsion. In the second step, using these new attributes, he explains the ability of perception and thinking. In these steps, he also uses findings of the contemporary natural philosophy, especially the mechanics. For Priestley, man and his mind are part of nature. This means that the man and the human mind are a certain mechanism that works according to natural laws and can also be explained by these laws.


Joseph Priestley; materialism; matter and spirit; mind; mechanics

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TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: /// email: