Joshua Oldfield Bibliography

An Essay towards the Improvement of Reason; in the Pursuit of Learning, and Conduct of Life 1707
Joshua Oldfield, Presbyterian dissenter, studied under Ralph Cudworth and Henry More; he later became friendly with Locke and Newton. He published various sermons and some theological works, but An Essay towards the Improvement of Reason is his most important work. “In this long, learned and densely argued book, Oldfield draws largely on the epistemologies of Bacon and Locke, defining reason theoretically as well as practically. Much of the work is given over to means and ways of improving reason as a faculty. For the most part, Oldfield recapitulates seventeenth century notions of mind, knowing, logic, and morality, but in the midst of all his empirical pronouncements one encounters assertions that seem decidedly out of place, viz. ‘Spirits are indivisible, self-moving, penetrative Beings. These do consciously, and certainly know, that they Think (in all or some of the mentioned ways) that they are pleas’d or delighted, pain’d or trouble, do themselves move, and move other Things, and therefore cannot doubt of their own Existence....’ Oldfield does not state how he came to have this knowledge of the way spirits behave.” (John Valdimir Price, author of this entry in the forthcoming Dictionary of Eighteenth Century British Philosophers.)