In this paper, I will argue that Locke is a substance dualist in the general sense, in that he holds that there are, independent of our classificatory schema, two distinct kinds of substances: wholly material ones and wholly immaterial ones. On Locke’s view, the difference between the two lies in whether they are solid or not, thereby differentiating him from Descartes. My way of establishing Locke as a general substance dualist is to be as minimally committal as possible at the (...) outset, especially with respect to the classic debates on Locke’s positions in this domain, including those concerning substrata, real essences, and the like. Nonetheless, I show that minimal commitments about Locke’s primary/secondary quality distinction are sufficient to derive some substantive conclusions about his positions on these issues, as well as that he is a general substance dualist. (shrink)
If the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary, then it appears that miracles are metaphysically impossible. Yet Locke accepts both Essentialism, which takes the laws to be metaphysically necessary, and the possibility of miracles. I argue that the apparent conflict here can be resolved if the laws are by themselves insufficient for guaranteeing the outcome of a particular event. This suggests that, on Locke’s view, the laws of nature entail how an object would behave absent divine intervention. While other views (...) of laws also make miracles counterfactually dependent on God’s will, I show how this view is consistent with the Essentialist commitment to the view that the laws are metaphysically necessary. Further, I argue Locke’s view is a relatively attractive version of Essentialism, in part, because it allows for the possibility of miracles. (shrink)
In this monograph I propose to interpret John Locke's view of central metaphysical notions such as substance, essence and identity to the backdrop of his distinction between distinct and confused ideas. I show that Locke draws this traditional distinction in a novel way—as a distinction pertaining only to the way ideas are related to our use of language. This distinction, I argue, allows him to radically rethink traditional questions of metaphysics and to mount a linguistic criticism of traditional metaphysical views (...) about substance, essence and identity. Furthermore, I propose that taking into account the linguistic dimension of Locke's metaphysical thought helps recognize the coherence of his overall picture of substance, essence and identity. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that John Locke is not ontologically committed to corpuscularian real essences. I do this by laying out his antirealist argument against corpuscular real essences within the Essay and then defend it. I then identify a version of real essences to which he is ontologically committed. Recognition of the antirealist argument in the Essay should significantly alter our interpretation of the Essay.
This paper examines the pressures leading two very different Early Modern philosophers, Descartes and Locke, to invoke two ways in which thought is directed at objects. According to both philosophers, I argue, the same idea can simultaneously count as “of” two different objects—in two different senses of the phrase ‘idea of’. One kind of intentional directedness is invoked in answering the question What is it to think that thus-and-so? The other kind is invoked in answering the question What accounts for (...) the success of our proper methods of inquiry? For Descartes as well as Locke, the two kinds of “ofness” come apart as a result of strong rationalist commitments. However, I will suggest that even if we reject such commitments, we go wrong if we assume that a single kind of intentional directedness suffices to address both questions. (shrink)
Matthew Stuart offers a fresh interpretation of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, arguing for the work's profound contribution to metaphysics. He presents new readings of Locke's accounts of personal identity and the primary/secondary quality distinction, and explores Locke's case against materialism and his philosophy of action.
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 (...) an understanding of Lockean skepticism about knowledge of real essences that is more nuanced perhaps even than Locke’s own. (shrink)
‘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 (...) as water and gold, are the workmanship of the human mind. This is the point of his story about a winter visitor to England from Jamaica, who is astonished to find that the water in his basin has turned solid overnight, and proceeds to call it ‘hardened water’. Locke criticizes this judgement, maintaining that it is more consonant with common sense to regard water and ice as different kinds of substance. Putnam, by implication, disagrees. Deploying his imaginary example of Twin Earth—a distant planet where a watery-looking substance, XYZ, rather than H2O, fills the oceans and rivers—he maintains that common sense supports the judgement that XYZ and H2O, despite their superficial similarity, are not the same kind of substance, precisely because their molecular compositions are different. Here it will be argued that both views are mistaken, but that, in this dispute, Locke has more right on his side than his modern opponents do. (shrink)
John Locke’s theory of classification is a subject that has long received scholarly attention. Little notice has been taken, however, of the problems that were posed for taxonomy by its inability to account for organic processes. Classification, designed originally as an exercise in logic, becomes complicated once it turns to organic life and the aims of taxonomy become entangled with processes of generation, variation, and inheritance. Locke’s experience with organisms—experience garnered through his work in botany and medicine—suggested to him both (...) the dynamism of nature and the artificiality of any a priori system of classification. This reinforced Locke’s critique of classification in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and by tracing its influence it is possible to approach Locke’s nominalism from a fresh perspective. (shrink)
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 (...) definition of what the term of art ‘flow’ amounts to, and apply the distinction to various kinds of taxonomic issues. (shrink)
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.
Talk of “essences” has, since Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam, gained significant currency in contemporary philosophy. It is no longer unfashionable to talk about the essence of this or that (natural) kind, and as such we now find a variety of brands of essentialism on the market including B.D. Ellis’s scientific essentialism, David Oderberg’s real Essentialism, Alexander Bird’s dispositional essentialism, and the contemporary essentialism of Kripke and Putnam. -/- Almost all these brands of essentialism share a particular gloss on Locke’s (...) famous objection to Aristotle that natural kinds are demarcated by nominal essences not real essences. Thus Oderberg claims that ‘Empiricists take [real] essences to be paradigmatically unobservable’ and that this ‘objection goes back at least to John Locke’ (Oderberg 2007: 21). Bird, presenting his dispositional essentialism, defines a notion of “being” as ‘the reverse of Locke’s definition of essence’ which he takes to be ‘the being of any thing, whereby it is what it is’ (Bird 2007: 100). Joseph LaPorte, discussing nominal and real essences, claims that ‘Kripke and Putnam seem to affirm something more substantive: that biological kinds have “real essences” in Locke’s terminology’ (LaPorte 2004: 49). Even avowed anti-essentialists such as John Dupré sanction the standard criticism of Locke that his scepticism about the knowability of real essences was ‘premature’, and claim that ‘genuine natural kinds provide the extensions of many terms of natural language, where these natural kinds are determined by true Lockean real essences’ (Dupré 1993: 22). -/- All of these essentialisms (even Dupré’s anti-essentialism) are wrong about Locke. Oderberg is wrong to claim that Locke thought that real essences were paradigmatically unobservable; Bird is wrong to think that Locke’s notion of essence is the being of anything whereby it is what it is; LaPorte is wrong to think that Kripke and Putnam are talking about Lockean real essences (although so are Kripke and Putnam); and Dupré is wrong to think that genuine natural kinds (if by genuine he means objective or mind-independent) are determined but true Lockean real essences . -/- The mistake stems from a standard, but ultimately incorrect, interpretation of Locke’s discussion of essences in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding . This mistaken interpretation (Lowe 1995, 2006, Von Leyden 1973, Wiggins 1974) takes Locke to mean, by “real essence”, the Aristotelian notion i.e. ‘the very being of anything, whereby it is what it is’ (Essay III.iii.15), and interprets his objection as epistemological: we cannot come to know what real essences are, and therefore they cannot figure in our classifications of things into kinds. -/- This paper will present and defend the following two claims: i) that Locke’s notion of “real essence” is not the Aristotelian notion, and ii) that Locke’s objection to the Aristotelian notion was not merely epistemological. The first claim can be defended by presenting and applying Vienne’s (1993) terminological revision. Vienne argues that Locke did not introduce a dichotomy between real and nominal essence, but a trichotomy between real essence, nominal essence and real constitution. This terminological revision will be employed to highlight where ambiguous uses of the phrase “real essence” have caused some serious misunderstandings of Locke’s philosophy. The second claim (steering Locke around what is the classic objection to his thesis) can be defended by presenting a novel way of splitting up Locke’s objections to the Aristotelian notion of essence. The analysis will show that Locke’s anti-essentialism is still in good shape, and of contemporary significance. (shrink)
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 (...) break from the tradition because no one in the literature has yet suggested that some of Locke’s arguments in Book III of the Essay include a criticism of Boyle’s doctrine of species. Moreover, identifying Boyle as Locke’s intended target illuminates some of the more vexing passages in the Essay concerning real essences. (shrink)
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 particular individuals. I argue that Locke’s view on coinciding material objects is incompatible with his view (...) on kinds. In order for two material objects to be in the same place at the same time, they must differ with respect to at least one nominal essence. However, Locke thinks that it is impossible that x and y have the same real essence but differ with respect to any nominal essence; and coinciding material objects have the same real essence. Therefore, Locke cannot hold what he in fact holds, namely that distinct material objects can be in the same place at the same time. (shrink)
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 (...) not another canonical, well-respected, and seminal philosopher whose work is so widely thought to be swarming with inconsistencies. I, however, do not think that the common, unflattering view of Locke is accurate as a general view of the Essay. But despite my wishes to the contrary, I do believe that Locke’s chapter ‘Of Identity and Diversity’ (2.27)4 leads to (at least) one intractable problem, a problem that is the subject of this paper. (shrink)
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 (...) Essais which provides him with a mechanistically respectable counterproposal to Locke’s conventionalism and which demonstrates the explanatory superiority of natural kind realism. (shrink)
The current consensus in Locke scholarship is that Robert Boyle anticipated Locke's thesis that classification into species is the arbitrary work of the understanding. In fact, according to Michael Ayers, inter alia, not only did Boyle and Locke both think that classification is the workmanship of the understanding but that this thesis follows directly from the mechanical hypothesis itself. In this paper I argue that this reading of Boyle is mistaken: Locke's thesis on classification was not anticipated by Boyle. I (...) will do this by showing that Boyle's account of classification is not Locke's, but is a more realist view of natural species employing a mechanically respectable account of natural forms. (shrink)
Christopher Hughes Conn’s book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Locke’s metaphysics. Conn aims at philosophical insight as well as historical accuracy and treats Locke in the light of such contemporary figures as Lewis, Zemach, Quine, and van Inwagen.
Widespread amongst scholars is the legend according to which Locke shows a strong aversion to abstract ideas, similar to that of Berkley in the Treatise. This legend is endorsed by influential commentators on Locke. He does not even propose the reduction of ideas to mental pictures (a reduction which in Berkeley and Hume will form the base of the negation of the existence of abstract ideas in the mind). Locke is not in the least afraid of abstract ideas; his constant (...) concern, which is evident in his treatment of the complex question of the relation between real and nominal essence, is to refute the position of the Scholastics, according to which a universal concept in the mind (post rem) reflects the universal present in all things as substantial form (the universal in re), without assuming positions which are purely conventionalist and nominalist with regard to knowledge, such as those of Mersenne, Gassendi, Hobbes and sceptical and anti-Cartesian free-thinkers. To show this, I offer an analysis of the relation Locke makes between real and nominal essence, with regard to the relations which link term to idea and idea to things. The nature of the relation between signifier and signified is variable, though, in the relation between ideas and things with respect to the various kinds of complex ideas which the human mind may frame. The greatest difference is to be found between complex ideas of mixed mode and complex ideas of substance. (shrink)
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, (...) per se, since he affirms the theory of kinds that is embodied in the second opinion, while he denies the theory that is embodied in the first opinion. Second, I show that his denial of this theory is not solely or even primarily directed against the scholastic/Aristotelian theory of substantial forms, since he is most interested in refuting a corpuscularian version of this theory. And third, I argue that Locke’s anti-essentialism does not follow solely from his denial of (deeply objective) natural kinds, since one could consistently make this denial and affirm the existence of de re essential properties. (shrink)
The focus of this dissertation is the debate over classification and species realism/anti-realism in the new science of mechanism. I argue that Michael Ayers's Interpretation of Robert Boyle as a Lockean on species is incorrect. Boyle is more realist than Locke, indeed, Boyle's theory of classification was more similar to Leibniz's than to Locke's. This realist account of Boyle helps to diagnose an important connection between Leibniz and Boyle, and show Locke as a much more novel philosopher of science. ;I (...) then argue that this account of Boyle's realism reveals a new argument strain in Leibniz that allows him a better reply against Locke's species anti-realism. I thus argue against Susana Goodin's view that Leibniz's reply to Locke's anti-realist arguments in the New Essays are stronger than they appear to be. According to Goodin, Leibniz cannot refute Locke without either changing the subject or appealing to his own deep metaphysics. I argue that Leibniz can reply in a dialectically adequate, non-question begging way to Locke's argument without appealing to anything deeper than the science of mechanism. ;Finally, I show that, contra Ayers, one of Locke's motivations for his anti-realism stems from his theological heterodoxy, not from the corpuscularian hypothesis. This theological strain appears most strikingly within the context of the debate over the status of persons and the human species. In the Essay, Locke denies each of Leibniz's orthodox theses regarding the human species. Locke's denials of the orthodox theses appear to be motivated by his heterodox theological commitments. (shrink)
In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke famously introduces both the problem of personal identity over time and a controversial solution to it. The problem is to provide a criterion for when a person, A, at a time, t, is the same as a person, B, at a later time, t' . Locke's proposal that A at t is the same person as B at t ' just in case B at t' is conscious of some episode in the mental (...) life of A at t has drawn considerable criticism and given rise to a specialized area of research in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. I argue that many of what have become standard attacks on Locke's theory of personal identity are vitiated because they divorce Locke's discussion of personal identity from the rest of his argument in the Essay. The criticisms attack, in effect, a consequence of Locke's discussion but not the epistemological assumptions that drive it. In particular, many of the criticisms ignore Locke's empiricist critique of the general idea of substance, which is of central importance in understanding how Locke arrives both at the problem of personal identity and his response to it. (shrink)
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 (...) in view of this norm regulating natural-historical inquiry that a substance-idea represents a sort for which some such constitution serves as the "real essence," i.e. as that on which all the sort's characteristic "properties" depend. (shrink)
This new volume in the successful Oxford Readings in Philosophy series presents a selection of the best recent articles on the main topics in Locke's philosophy. These include: innate ideas, ideas and perception, primary and secondary qualities, free will, substance, personal identity, language, essence, knowledge, and belief. The authors include some of the world's leading Locke scholars, and their essays exemplify the best - and most accessible - recent scholarship on Locke, making the volume essential for students and specialists.
The prominent place 0f corpuscularizm mechanism in L0ckc`s Essay is nowadays universally acknowledged} Certainly, L0ckc’s discussions 0f the primary/secondary quality distinction and 0f real essences cannot be understood without reference to the corpuscularizm science 0f his day, which held that all macroscopic bodily phenomena should bc explained in terms 0f the motions and impacts 0f submicroscopic particles, 0r corpuscles, each of which can bc fully characterized in terms of 21 strictly limited range 0f (primary) properties: size, shape, motion (or mobility), (...) and, perhaps, solidity 0r impcnctrability.2 Indeed, L0ckc’s lists 0f primary quali-. (shrink)
The prominent place of corpuscularian mechanism in Locke's Essay is nowadays universally acknowledged. Certainly, Locke's discussions of the primary/secondary quality distinction and of real essences cannot be understood without reference to the corpuscularian science of his day, which held that all macroscopic bodily phenomena should be explained in terms of the motions and impacts of submicroscopic particles, or corpuscles, each of which can be fully characterized in terms of a strictly limited range of properties: size, shape, motion, and, perhaps, solidity (...) or impenetrability. Indeed, Locke's lists of primary qualities are quite consistent with those found in the work of his friend Robert Boyle, a prominent defender of the corpuscularian program; his real essences of substances appear to be corpuscular constitutions, arrangements of particles. (shrink)
J. L. Mackie's famous claim that Locke ‘anticipates’ Kripke's Causal Theory of Reference rests, I suggest, upon a pair of important misunderstandings. Contra Mackie, as well as the more recent accounts of Paul Guyer and Michael Ayers, Lockean Real Essences consist of those features of an entity from which all of its experienceable properties can be logically deduced; thus a substantival Real Essence consists of features of a Real Constitution plus logically necessary objective connections between them and features of some (...) particular Nominal Essence. Furthermore, what Locke actually anticipates is the most significant contemporary challenge to the CTR: the qua‐problem. (shrink)
Locke on Human Understanding, is a comprehensive introduction to John Locke's major work, Essay Concerning Human Understanding . Locke's Essay remains a key work in many philosophical fields, notably in epistemology, metaphysics and the philosophies of mind and language. In addition, Locke is often referred to as the first English empiricist. Knowledge of this influential work and figure is essential to Enlightenment thought. E. J. Lowe's approach enables students to effectively study the Essay by placing Locke's life and works in (...) their intellectual and historical context. The book provides a critical examination of the leading themes in the Essay , illuminating the main lines in Locke's thinking. Such topics include innate ideas, perception, primary and secondary qualities, personal identity, free will, action and language. Finally, E. J. Lowe examines the comtemporary work being done on this highly influential English philosopher. (shrink)