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Summary John Locke (1632-1704) was an English philosopher best known for his empiricism (the denial of innate ideas or principles) and his attempt to reconcile the science of his day with our pre-theoretical conception of the world. His conception of the workings of the human mind provided an important basis for the discipline of psychology. A theme that makes itself felt throughout his work is epistemic humility: on Locke’s view, human knowledge is severely limited and hence dogmatism is to be resisted.
Key works Locke’s An Essay concerning Human Understanding (1689) is the major source for his metaphysics and epistemology. The best scholarly edition of this work is Peter Nidditch 2008, the first entry in Oxford’s new edition of Locke’s works, which, when complete, will displace the earlier unknown 1823 edition of the works, which is still consulted today. Locke’s contributions to political philosophy include the influential Letter on Toleration (1689, Locke 1965) and Two Treatises of Government (1690, Locke 1988).
Introductions For overviews of Locke's thought, see Jolley 1999 and Lowe 2005. Ayers 1997 covers Locke’s epistemology and metaphysics. Rogers 1994 a useful collection of articles. The standard biography of Locke is Woolhouse 2007.
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Locke: Metaphysics
  1. Jessica Gordon-Roth (forthcoming). Catharine Trotter Cockburn's Defense of Locke. The Monist.
    Catharine Trotter Cockburn is best known for her Defence of Mr. Locke’s Essay of Human Understanding (1702). However very little has been said about Trotter’s treatment of Locke’s metaphysical commitments therein. In this paper I give a brief description of the history of Trotter’s Defence. Thereafter I focus on two (of the many) objections to which Trotter responds on Locke’s behalf: 1) the objection that Locke has not proved the soul immortal, and 2) the objection that Locke’s view leads to (...)
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Locke: Essence
  1. Margaret Atherton (2007). Locke on Essences and Classification. In Lex Newman (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding". Cambridge University Press.
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  2. Margaret Atherton (1991). Corpuscles, Mechanism, and Essentialism in Berkeley and Locke. Journal of the History of Philosophy 29 (1):47-67.
  3. Michael R. Ayers (1981). Locke Versus Aristotle on Natural Kinds. Journal of Philosophy 78 (5):247-272.
  4. K. C. Barclay (1967). Geach, Locke, and Nominal Essences. Philosophical Studies 18 (5):78 - 80.
  5. Martha Brandt Bolton (1992). The Idea-Theoretic Basis of Locke's Anti-Essentialist Doctrine of Nominal Essence. In Phillip D. Cummins & Guenter Zoeller (eds.), Minds, Ideas, and Objects: Essays in the Theory of Representation in Modern Philosophy. Ridgeview Publishing Company.
  6. Christopher Hughes Conn (2002). Locke on Natural Kinds and Essential Properties. Journal of Philosophical Research 27:475-497.
    The two opinions concerning real essences that Locke mentions in III.iii.17 represent competing theories about the way in which naturally occurring objects are divided into species. In this paper I explain what these competing theories amount to, why he denies the theory of kinds that is embodied in the first of these opinions, and how this denial is related to his general critique of essentialism. I argue first, that we cannot meaningfully ask whether Locke accepts the existence of natural kinds, (...)
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  7. Lisa Downing (2012). Maupertuis on Attraction as an Inherent Property of Matter. In Janiak Schliesser (ed.), Interpreting Newton.
    Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis’ famous and influential Discours sur les différentes figures des astres, which represented the first public defense of attractionism in the Cartesian stronghold of the Paris Academy, sometimes suggests a metaphysically agnostic defense of gravity as simply a regularity. However, Maupertuis’ considered account in the essay, I argue, is much more subtle. I analyze Maupertuis’ position, showing how it is generated by an extended consideration of the possibility of attraction as an inherent property and fuelled by (...)
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  8. Antony Eagle, Locke on Essences and Kinds.
    Given Locke’s views on primary and secondary qualities, it seems he is committed to there being real underlying properties in objects, the arrangement and disposition of which underlies and produces the observed properties of that object. It might be natural to think that these primary qualities provide a general system for classifying objects into classes: that we could delineate the real kinds of objects in nature by looking at what their real primary qualities were. A list of the particular qualities (...)
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  9. Beverly Hinton (2006). Locke on Adequacy to an Archetype and Real Essence. Locke Studies 6:59-83.
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  10. Jan-Erik Jones, Real Essence. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    In this encyclopedia entry I canvass the current interpretations of John Locke's concept of Real Essence and the role it plays in his philosophy.
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  11. Jan-Erik Jones (2010). Locke on Real Essences, Intelligibility and Natural Kinds. Journal of Philosophical Research 35:147-172.
    In this paper I criticize arguments by Pauline Phemister and Matthew Stuart that John Locke's position in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding allows for natural kinds based on similarities among real essences. On my reading of Locke, not only are similarities among real essences irrelevant to species, but natural kind theories based on them are unintelligible.
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  12. Jan-Erik Jones (2007). Locke Vs. Boyle: The Real Essence of Corpuscular Species. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15 (4):659 – 684.
    While the tradition of Locke scholarship holds that both Locke and Boyle are species anti-realists, there is evidence that this interpretation is false. Specifically, there has been some recent work on Boyle showing that he is, unlike Locke, a species realist. In this paper I argue that once we see Boyle as a realist about natural species, it is plausible to read some of Locke’s most formidable anti-realist arguments as directed specifically at Boyle’s account of natural species. This is a (...)
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  13. Jan-Erik Jones (2006). Leibniz and Locke and the Debate Over Species. In François Duchesneau & Jérémie Girard (eds.), Leibniz selon les Nouxeaux Essais sur l'entendement Humain. Vrin and Bellarmin.
    Susanna Goodin, in her article “Locke and Leibniz and the Debate over Species” , argues that Leibniz’s criticisms of Locke’s species conventionalism are inadequate as a refutation of Locke’s arguments, and if Leibniz were to buttress his criticisms by appeal to his own metaphysical commitments, he could do so only at the expense of so radically altering the nature of the debate that Locke’s original concerns would not even arise. I argue, however, that Leibniz has an argument within the Nouveaux (...)
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  14. Dan Kaufman (2007). Locke on Individuation and the Corpuscular Basis of Kinds. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (3):499–534.
    In a well-known paper, Reginald Jackson expresses a sentiment not uncommon among readers of Locke: “Among the merits of Locke’s Essay…not even the friendliest critic would number consistency.”2 This unflattering opinion of Locke is reiterated by Maurice Mandelbaum: “Under no circumstances can [Locke] be counted among the clearest and most consistent of philosophers.”3 The now familiar story is that there are innumerable inconsistencies and internal problems contained in Locke’s Essay. In fact, it is probably safe to say that there is (...)
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  15. Dan Kaufman (2007). Locke on Individuation and the Corpuscular Basis of Kinds. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (3):499-534.
    In this paper, I examine the crucial relationship between Locke’s theory of individuation and his theory of kinds. Locke holds that two material objects -- e.g., a mass of matter and an oak tree -- can be in the same place at the same time, provided that they are ‘of different kinds’. According to Locke, kinds are nominal essences, that is, general abstract ideas based on objective similarities between particularindividuals. I argue that Locke’s view on coinciding material objects is incompatible (...)
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  16. Garth Kemerling (1979). Locke on the Essence of the Soul. Southern Journal of Philosophy 17 (4):455-464.
  17. E. J. Lowe (2011). Locke on Real Essence and Water as a Natural Kind: A Qualified Defence. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 85 (1):1-19.
    ‘Water is H2O’ is one of the most frequently cited sentences in analytic philosophy, thanks to the seminal work of Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam in the 1970s on the semantics of natural kind terms. Both of these philosophers owe an intellectual debt to the empiricist metaphysics of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, while disagreeing profoundly with Locke about the reality of natural kinds. Locke employs an intriguing example involving water to support his view that kinds (or ‘species’), such (...)
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  18. E. J. Lowe (2004). Review of Locke on Essence and Identity. [REVIEW] Locke Studies 4:243-253.
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  19. Douglas Odegard (1971). Locke, Geach, and Individual Essences. Philosophical Studies 22 (5-6):70 - 73.
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  20. Douglas Odegard (1964). Essences and Discovery: Plato, Locke, and Leibniz. Dialogue 3 (03):219-234.
  21. David S. Oderberg (2011). Essence and Properties. Erkenntnis 75 (1):85-111.
    The distinction between the essence of an object and its properties has been obscured in contemporary discussion of essentialism. Locke held that the properties of an object are exclusively those features that ‘flow’ from its essence. Here he follows the Aristotelian theory, leaving aside Locke’s own scepticism about the knowability of essence. I defend the need to distinguish sharply between essence and properties, arguing that essence must be given by form and that properties flow from form. I give a precise (...)
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  22. David Owen (1991). Locke on Real Essence. History of Philosophy Quarterly 8 (2):105 - 118.
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  23. Lionel Shapiro (2010). Two Kinds of Intentionality in Locke. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (4):554-586.
    Ideas play at least two roles in Locke's theory of the understanding. They are constituents of ‘propositions,’ and some of them ‘represent’ the qualities and sorts of surrounding bodies. I argue that each role involves a distinct kind of intentional directedness. The same idea will in general be an ‘idea of’ two different objects, in different senses of the expression. Identifying Locke's scheme of twofold ‘ofness’ reveals a common structure to his accounts of simple ideas and complex ideas of substances. (...)
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  24. Lionel Shapiro (1999). Toward 'Perfect Collections of Properties': Locke on the Constitution of Substantial Sorts. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 29 (4):551-593.
    Locke's claims about the "inadequacy" of substance-ideas can only be understood once it is recognized that the "sort" represented by such an idea is not wholly determined by the idea's descriptive content. The key to his compromise between classificatory conventionalism and essentialism is his injunction to "perfect" the abstract ideas that serve as "nominal essences." This injunction promotes the pursuit of collections of perceptible qualities that approach ever closer to singling out things that possess some shared explanatory-level constitution. It is (...)
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  25. P. Kyle Stanford (1998). Reference and Natural Kind Terms: The Real Essence of Locke's View. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79 (1):78–97.
  26. Nicholas Unwin (1996). Locke on Language and Real Essences: A Defense. History of Philosophy Quarterly 13 (2):205 - 219.
  27. Jean-Michel Vienne (1993). Locke on Real Essence and Internal Constitution. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 93:139 - 153.
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  28. R. S. Woolhouse (1973). Locke, Geach, and Individuals' Essences. Philosophical Studies 24 (3):204 - 207.
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  29. Roger Woolhouse (1969). Geach, Locke, and Nominal Essences. Philosophical Studies 20 (5):77 - 80.
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Locke: Identity
  1. Adam Abdulla (2007). Locke, Accountability and Personal Identity. Locke Studies 7:47-50.
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  2. Robert Allen (2000). Identity and Becoming. Southern Journal of Philosophy 38 (4):527-548.
    A material object is constituted by a sum of parts all of which are essential to the sum but some of which seem inessential to the object itself. Such object/sum of parts pairs include my body/its torso and appendages and my desk/its top, drawers, and legs. In these instances, we are dealing with objects and their components. But, fundamentally, we may also speak, as Locke does, of an object and its constitutive matter—a “mass of particles”—or even of that aggregate and (...)
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  3. Margaret Atherton (1983). Locke's Theory of Personal Identity. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 8 (1):273-293.
  4. Étienne Balibar (1995). Identité et conscience de soi dans l'Essai de Locke. Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 100 (4):455 - 477.
    Le rapport entre « conscience » et « identité » forme l'un des deux versants de la conception lockienne du sujet (l'autre étant constitué par la « propriété de soi-même »). La théorie lockienne repose sur la distinction du « mental » et du « verbal », et l'isolement du premier comme élément de la vérité. Elle suppose une reformulation du principe d'identité sous la forme d'une double négation inhérente à l'esprit (Mind) : il est impossible que l'homme ne sache (...)
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  5. Simon Beck (1999). Leibniz, Locke and I. Cogito 13 (3):181-187.
  6. David P. Behan (1979). Locke on Persons and Personal Identity. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):53 - 75.
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  7. Ruth Boeker (2014). The Moral Dimension in Locke's Account of Persons and Personal Identity. History of Philosophy Quarterly 31 (3):229-247.
    I offer an interpretation of John Locke’s account of persons and personal identity that gives full credit to Locke’s claim that “person” is a forensic term, sheds new light on the relation between Locke’s characterizations of a person in sections 9 and 26, and explains how Locke links his moral and legal account of personhood to his account of personal identity in terms of sameness of consciousness. I show that Locke’s claim that sameness of consciousness is necessary for personal identity (...)
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  8. Ruth Boeker, John Locke: Identity, Persons, and Personal Identity. Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy.
  9. Ruth Boeker (2013). Locke on Personal Identity: Consciousness and Concernment. [REVIEW] British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4):803-6.
  10. C. D. Broad (1951). Locke's Doctrine of Substantial Identity & Diversity. Theoria 17 (1-3):13-26.
  11. Baruch Brody (1972). Locke on the Identity of Persons. American Philosophical Quarterly 9 (4):327 - 334.
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  12. Hugh S. Chandler (1969). Shoemaker's Arguments Against Locke. Philosophical Quarterly 19 (76):263-265.
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  13. Vere Chappell (1989). Locke and Relative Identity. History of Philosophy Quarterly 6 (1):69 - 83.
    LOCKE'S DISCUSSION OF ORGANISMS AND PERSONS IN "ESSAY" II.XXVI HAS LED GEACH AND OTHERS TO ATTRIBUTE THE THESIS OF RELATIVE IDENTITY TO HIM; THAT X IS NEVER IDENTICAL WITH Y "TOUT COURT" BUT ONLY RELATIVE TO SOME SORTAL PROPERTY F: X IS THE SAME F AS Y. I ARGUE THAT THIS ATTRIBUTION RESTS ON A MISUNDERSTANDING OF LOCKE'S POSITION. LOCKE INDEED HOLDS THAT AN OLD TREE MAY BE THE SAME OAK AS THE SEEDLING FROM WHICH IT GREW, WHEREAS THE PARTICLES (...)
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  14. Christopher Hughes Conn (2002). Locke's Organismic Theory of Personal Identity. Locke Studies 2:105-135.
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  15. Barry F. Dainton & Timothy J. Bayne (2005). Consciousness as a Guide to Personal Persistence. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4):549-571.
    Mentalistic (or Lockean) accounts of personal identity are normally formulated in terms of causal relations between psychological states such as beliefs, memories, and intentions. In this paper we develop an alternative (but still Lockean) account of personal identity, based on phenomenal relations between experiences. We begin by examining a notorious puzzle case due to Bernard Williams, and extract two lessons from it: first, that Williams's puzzle can be defused by distinguishing between the psychological and phenomenal approaches, second, that so far (...)
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  16. Rafael De Clercq (2013). Locke's Principle is an Applicable Criterion of Identity. Noûs 47 (4):697-705.
    According to Locke’s Principle, material objects are identical if and only if they are of the same kind and once occupy the same place at the same time. There is disagreement about whether this principle is true, but what is seldom disputed is that, even if true, the principle fails to constitute an applicable criterion of identity. In this paper, I take issue with two arguments that have been offered in support of this claim by arguing (i) that we can (...)
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  17. Rafael De Clercq (2005). A Criterion of Diachronic Identity Based on Locke's Principle. Metaphysica 6 (1):23-38.
    The aim of this paper is to derive a perfectly general criterion of identity through time from Locke’s Principle, which says that two things of the same kind cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In this way, the paper pursues a suggestion made by Peter F. Strawson almost thirty years ago in an article called ‘Entity and Identity’. The reason why the potential of this suggestion has so far remained unrealized is twofold: firstly, the suggestion was never (...)
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  18. Antony Eagle, Hume and Locke on Personal Identity.
    • But this is not all: since organisms differ from aggregates (maybe tables do too?). The difference: organisation, indeed, organisation that constitutes ‘vegetable life’.
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  19. Antony Flew (1951). Locke and the Problem of Personal Identity. Philosophy 26 (96):53 - 68.
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  20. Joanna K. Forstrom (2010). John Locke and Personal Identity: Immortality and Bodily Resurrection in 17th-Century Philosophy. Continuum.
    Introduction -- John Locke and the problem of personal identity : the principium individuationis, personal immortality, and bodily resurrection -- On separation and immortality : Descartes and the nature of the soul -- On materialism and immortality or Hobbes' rejection of the natural argument for the immortality of the soul -- Henry More and John Locke on the dangers of materialism : immateriality, immortality, immorality, and identity -- Robert Boyle : on seeds, cannibalism, and the resurrection of the body -- (...)
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