Locke’s argument for God’s immateriality in _Essay_ IV x is usually interpreted as involving a principle that in some way prohibits the causation of thought by matter. I reject these causal readings in favor of one that involves a principle which says a thinking being cannot be composed out of unthinking parts. This Composition Principle, as I call it, is crucial to understanding how Locke’s theistic argument can succeed in the face of his skepticism about the substance of matter and (...) the cause of thought, as well as his belief in the possibility of thinking matter. It also explains why Locke held the soul’s immateriality to be highly probable. (shrink)
Commentators almost universally agree that Locke denies the possibility of thinking matter in Book IV Chapter 10 of the Essay. Further, they argue that Locke must do this in order for his proof of God’s existence in the chapter to be successful. This paper disputes these claims and develops an interpretation according to which Locke allows for the possibility that a system of matter could think (even prior to any act of superaddition on God’s part). In addition, the paper argues (...) that this does not destroy Locke’s argument in the chapter, instead it helps to illuminate the nature of it. The paper proceeds in two main stages. First, Locke denies that matter can produce thought. A distinction between two senses of “production” shows that this claim is compatible with the existence of thinking matter. Second, Locke denies that God could be a system of randomly moving particles. Most commentators take this to mean that such a system could not think. But Locke is better interpreted as denying that such a system could have the wisdom and knowledge of God. (shrink)
For well over a century the dominant narrative covering the major thinkers and themes of early modern British philosophy has been that of “British Empiricism”, within which the great triumvirate of Locke-Berkeley-Hume are taken to be the dominant figures. Although it is now common to question this schema as a way of analyzing and understanding the period in question, it continues to command considerable authority and acceptance. (One likely reason for this is that no credible or plausible alternatives structures or (...) schemas of analysis have suggested themselves.) Be this as it may, the analysis of the rival systems of Clarke, Berkeley and Hume makes clear that this narrative, however deeply entrenched it may be, is wholly misleading and both distorts and obscures key themes and figures in the period in question. (shrink)
Although we never made time to talk it out thoroughly, Margaret Wilson and I shared an interest in, and enthusiasm for, the tenth chapter in Locke’s Essay IV, entitled ‘Of Our Knowledge of the Existence of a GOD.’ In the present paper, written in sad tribute to her work and her person, I shall expound that deep, subtle, intricate, flawed chapter. While I shall evaluate its arguments as I go, I chiefly aim just to make clear what happens in those (...) nineteen sections, which I shall refer to by their numbers alone. They aim to show that ‘we are capable of knowing . . . that there is a GOD’ by cogently inferring this from secure premises. A god is any being that is ‘eternal, most powerful, and most knowing;’ given such a being, Locke adds laconically, ‘it matters not’ whether we call it God. This line of argument will be my topic in sections B through E. Two subsidiary themes in the chapter concern matter. One is this: given that there is a god, is it (or he) material or immaterial? Although he argues at length for God’s immateriality, Locke remarks in 13 that this in itself is of little moment. Someone with an otherwise correct theology is in good shape even if he wrongly thinks God to be made of matter - except, Locke adds, for a risk that he runs. Philosophers who are ‘devoted to matter,’ if they think God to be material, will comfortably conclude that everything is matter and will then ‘let slide out of their minds’ their theology, i.e. their view that the material world includes ‘an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being.’ Section 13 also argues that if the materialists do thus drift into atheism, ‘they destroy their own [materialist] hypothesis.’ This is too clever by half; it is neither well done nor instructive, and I shall not expound it. Some of the Chapter’s richest treasures concern God’s immateriality.. (shrink)
In this paper I look at two connections between natural philosophy and theology in the late 17th century. In the last quarter of the century there was an interesting development of an argument, earlier but sketchier versions of which can be found in classical philosophers and in Descartes. The manoeuvre in question goes like this: first, prove that there must, necessarily, be a being which is, in some sense of "greater", greater than humans. Second, sketch a proof that such a (...) being is necessary. Move from the fact that there must be at least one such being to the conclusion that there is precisely one such being. Raise the question: could this necessary being be matter, the entire material universe, or must it be God? Produce an argument from natural philosophy to show that matter cannot be the required necessary being. Either explicitly or implicitly run the obvious disjunctive syllogism and conclude with a few remarks about the foolishness of atheism. The argument, which has classical roots, found a number of 17th-century exponents. Cudworth provided the most important version, and Locke, Bentley and Clarke adapted Cudworth's version with varying success. The argument touches on natural philosophy in two ways. First, the basis of the argument invites consideration of a problem in the philosophy of science - the relation between micro properties and macro properties - which was seen clearly enough in some contexts but which was overlooked in others, particularly when the theological aspect was uppermost. The second point of contact involves a direct application of a scientific result - the existence of a vacuum - to the theological issue. (shrink)
Against the prevailing interpretations that perceive John Locke as either a rationalist or as contradictory on the issue of faith and reason, this paper contends that Locke consistently argued for a compatibility of faith and reason. From his perspective, faith and reason are not two distinct “side by side entities, but instead they permeate each other’s realm in a fashion that does not violate the integrity of either one of them. Particular attention will be given to Locke’s distinctions between knowledge (...) and faith and their respective probabilities. Locke’s position will be placed within the seventeenth-century theory of probability that followed the Aristotelian principle that different subject matters require different proofs, and a reasonable person should be satisfied with proofs appropriate for each subject. (shrink)
La formulación cartesiana del argumento ontológico es desestimada y criticada por Locke en dos textos que remiten, sucesivamente, a la versión que afirma a Dios como ens perfectissimus y a la que lo afirma como ens necessarium. La objeción de principio es coherente con las tesis gnoseológicas de Locke. Las objeciones lógicas descansan en su posición conceptualista respecto del problema de los universales. La objeción metafísica pretende la posibilidad de una lectura atea del argumento ontológico.
My principal objective in this essay will be to show that the widely held view that Hume's Treatise' is not significantly or "directly" concerned with problems of religion is seriously mistaken.2 I shall approach this issue by way of an examination of a major skeptical theme which runs throughout the Treatise, namely, Hume's skepticism regarding the powers of demonstrative reason. In this paper I shall be especially concerned to bring to light the full significance of this skeptical theme by placing (...) Hume's arguments in their appropriate historical context. I shall show that both Hume and his contemporaries recognized that these important skeptical arguments were aimed primarily against the dogmatic Christian rationalism of John Locke and above all Samuel Clarke, and that they were, therefore, well aware that these arguments had considerable theological significance. (shrink)