Michael Jacovides provides an engaging account of how the scientific revolution influenced one of the foremost figures of early modern philosophy, John Locke. By placing Locke's thought in its scientific, religious, and anti-scholastic contexts, Jacovides explains not only what Locke believes but also why he believes it.
This paper offers a new approach to an old debate about superaddition in Locke. Did Locke claim that some objects have powers that are unrelated to their natures or real essences? The question has split commentators. Some (Wilson, Stuart, Langton) claim the answer is yes and others (Ayers, Downing, Ott) claim the answer is no. This paper argues that both of these positions may be mistaken. I show that Locke embraced a robust epistemic humility. This epistemic humility includes ignorance of (...) the real essences of bodies, of the causal processes underlying the production of natural phenomena, and of God’s method of creation. I show how this epistemic humility offers strong support for an agnostic response to the question of superaddition. Locke did not intend to claim that bodies either do or do not have properties unrelated to their real essences. Instead, his primary goal in discussing the topic was to emphasize the strict limits to human knowledge. (shrink)
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)
I explore Locke’s complex attitude toward the natural philosophy of his day by focusing on Locke’s own treatment of Newton’s theory of gravity and the presence of Lockean themes in defenses of Newtonian attraction/gravity by Maupertuis and other early Newtonians. In doing so, I highlight the inadequacy of an unqualified labeling of Locke as “mechanist” or “Newtonian.”.