Contemporary discussions of the epistemology of testimony are often framed in terms of the disagreement on this topic between Hume and Reid. However, it is widely assumed that, prior to Hume, philosophers in the grip of Enlightenment individualism neglected philosophical questions about testimony, simply treating testimony as ordinary empirical evidence. In fact, although the evidential model of testimony was popular in early modern philosophy, it was also the subject of vigorous debate. This chapter examines Locke's defence of the evidential model (...) of testimony along with the opposing views of three early critics of Locke: G. W. Leibniz, Mary Astell, and Peter Browne. (shrink)
This book provides a systematic treatment of Locke's theory of probable assent. It shows how the theory applies to Locke's philosophy of science, moral epistemology, and religious epistemology. There is a powerful case to be made that the most important dimension of Locke's philosophy is his theory of rational probable assent, rather than his theory of knowledge. According to Locke, we largely live our lives in the "twilight of probability" rather than in "the sunshine of certain knowledge". Locke's theory of (...) probable assent is towering insofar as it contains a wealth of novel, independently interesting, and prescient elements that precede the modern field of formal epistemology. In this book, the author argues for the central role of probable assent in Locke's philosophy. Locke's theory of probable assent is based on an epistemic modesty that claims, roughly, that our cognitive abilities are quite limited and that we ought to carry ourselves in believing with due caution. This modesty motivates the author's discussion of other aspects of Locke's epistemology, notably his principle of proportionality, his doxastic involuntarism, his epistemological pragmatism, and his theory of testimony. The book concludes by connecting the theory of probable assent with Locke's views on the limits of science, moral epistemology, and the rationality of faith. Locke's Twilight of Probability will appeal to scholars and advanced students working on Locke and the history of early modern philosophy. (shrink)
in their famous correspondence, Stillingfleet objects that Locke's definition of knowledge, by limiting certainty to the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas, lessens the credibility of faith. Locke replies that his definition of knowledge does not affect the credibility of an article of faith at all, for faith and knowledge are entirely different cognitive acts: The truth of the matter of fact is in short this, that I have placed knowledge in the perception of the agreement or disagreement (...) of ideas. This definition of knowledge, your lordship said, "might be of dangerous consequence to that article of faith, which you have endeavored to defend." This I denied, and gave this reason for it, viz.... (shrink)
The goal of this paper is show how an initially appealing objection to David Hume's account of judgment can only be put forward by philosophers who accept an account of judgment that has its own sizable share of problems. To demonstrate this, I situate the views of John Locke, David Hume, and Thomas Reid with respect to each other, so as to illustrate how the appealing objection is linked to unappealing features of Locke's account of judgment.
John Locke’s _An Essay Concerning Human Understanding_ begins with a clear statement of an epistemological goal: to explain the limits of human knowledge, opinion, and ignorance. The actual text of the _Essay_, in stark contrast, takes a long and seemingly meandering path before returning to that goal at the _Essay_’s end—one with many detours through questions in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophy of language. Over time, Locke scholarship has come to focus on Locke’s contributions to these parts of philosophy. (...) In _Locke’s Science of Knowledge_, Priselac refocuses on the _Essay_’s epistemological thread, arguing that the _Essay_ is unified from beginning to end around its compositional theory of ideas and the active role Locke gives the mind in constructing its thoughts. To support the plausibility and demonstrate the value of this interpretation, Priselac argues that—contrary to its reputation as being at best sloppy and at worst outright inconsistent—Locke’s discussion of skepticism and account of knowledge of the external world fits neatly within the Essay’s epistemology. (shrink)
Philosophers have accused locke of holding a view about propositions that simply conflates the formation of a propositional thought with the judgment that a proposition is true, and charged that this has obviously absurd consequences.1 Worse, this account appears not to be unique to Locke: it bears a striking resemblance to one found in both the Port-Royal Logic (the Logic, for short) and the Port-Royal Grammar. In the Logic, this account forms part of the backbone of the traditional logic expounded (...) in the text. As a result, the account’s alleged faults seem to seriously threaten the coherence and value of the whole approach to logic. And to the extent that Locke’s core philosophical commitments, in particular his .. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to determine how Locke understands suspension and the role it plays in his view of human liberty. To this end I, 1) discuss the deficiencies of the first edition version of ‘Of Power’ and why Locke needed to include the ability to suspend in the second edition, then 2) analyze Locke’s definitions of the power to suspend with a focus on his use of the terms ‘source’, ‘hinge’, and ‘inlet’ to describe the power. I (...) determine from these descriptions that the ability to suspend is a passive power and is a necessary condition for the rational deliberation that Locke takes to be necessary for acting as a free agent. In 3) I connect Locke’s view of the power to suspend to his discussion in the sections that precede ‘Of Power.’ I argue that the kind of judgment that Locke endorses in his discussion of the Molyneux problem is also at work in acts of suspension. In 4) I apply my interpretation to Locke’s description of the connection between the power to suspend and liberty. In 5) I conclude with a discussion of a passage from the fifth edition of the Essay. Locke adds this passage to address worries raised by Limborch over the course of their correspondence. According to Chappell, it lends evidence to the view that Locke takes suspensions to be caused by undetermined volitions. (shrink)
This chapter discusses various conceptions of moral judgment during the eighteenth century in Britain. It begins with a characterization of moral rationalism that centres on Samuel Clarke and John Locke. It then discusses moral sentimentalism or moral sense theory, which is associated with Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Hume, portraying it partly as a reaction to moral rationalism but also as a response to the perceived positions of Hobbes and Mandeville. The chapter then discusses the position of Joseph Butler, Adam Smith’s sophisticated (...) version of sympathy and sentimentalism, and the theories of Richard Price and Thomas Reid, both of which rejected sentimentalism. (shrink)
Locke's reputation as a sceptic regarding testimony, and the resultant mockery by epistemologists with social inclinations, is well known. In particular Michael Welbourne, in his article ‘The Community of Knowledge’ (1981), depicts Lockean epistemology as fundamentally opposed to a social conception of knowledge, claiming that he ‘could not even conceive of the possibility of a community of knowledge’. This interpretation of Locke is flawed. Whilst Locke does not grant the honorific ‘knowledge’ to anything short of certainty, he nonetheless held what (...) we would call ‘testimonial knowledge’ in appropriate esteem. This can be shown by his careful distinction between testimony and mere received opinion. Furthermore, this distinction is dependent upon a knowledge community which enables hearers of testimony to access alternative accounts. In view of this, we can consider Locke's Conduct of the Understanding in a new light. Dedicated to the autodidact adult, The Conduct directs the learner to reason clearly and well. One goal is to render adult students capable of assessing testimony. The advice given is social in nature. The student must not limit his study to ‘one sort of men or one sort of books’. Otherwise, he faces the sort of cognitive isolation which would render him a mere receiver of opinion. The picture of Locke that emerges is not that of a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic regarding testimonial knowledge, but of a philosopher who formed an embryonic social epistemology embedded within a programme of adult education. (shrink)
With the publication of Locke’s early manuscripts on toleration and the drafts for the Essay, it is possible to understand to what extent Locke’s ideas on religious toleration have developed. Although the important arguments for toleration can already be found in these early texts, Locke was confronted with a problem in his defence of toleration that he needed to solve. If faith, as a form of judgement, is involuntary, as Locke claims, how can one be held accountable for the faith (...) one has? In answer to this question reason comes to play a more prominent role in Locke’s notion of faith and in his defence of religious toleration, and in his philosophy in general. This notion of reason is not the reason we use for mathematical demonstrations. It is rather reason as we use it in discussion, and is thus fallible. It is precisely this kind of reason that played a central role in the Remonstrant religion to which Locke was closely connected at the time he developed a new argument for religious toleration when he was in the Netherlands. (shrink)
In a penetrating investigation of the relationship between belief and quantitative degrees of confidence (or degrees of belief) Richard Foley (1992) suggests the following thesis: ... it is epistemically rational for us to believe a proposition just in case it is epistemically rational for us to have a sufficiently high degree of confidence in it, sufficiently high to make our attitude towards it one of belief. Foley goes on to suggest that rational belief may be just rational degree of confidence (...) above some threshold level that the agent deems sufficient for belief. He finds hints of this view in Locke’s discussion of probability and degrees of assent, so he calls it the Lockean Thesis.1 The Lockean Thesis has important implications for the logic of belief. Most prominently, it implies that even a logically ideal agent whose degrees of confidence satisfy the axioms of probability theory may quite rationally believe each of a large body of propositions that are jointly inconsistent. For example, an agent may legitimately believe that on each given occasion her well-maintained car will start, but nevertheless believe that she will eventually encounter a.. (shrink)
The first half of the paper gives an interpretation of Locke's concept of knowledge, which shows that Aristotelian ideas and later scholasticism has had some influence on Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The second half of the paper shows the uniqueness of Locke's account of knowledge by contrasting it with the standard account of knowledge as justified true belief. The most important point is that knowledge, for Locke, is primarily an act, not a state.
To understand pre-Fregean theories of judgment and proposition, such as those found in Locke and the Port-Royal logic, it is important to distinguish between propositions in the modern sense and propositions in the pre-Fregean sense. By making this distinction it becomes clear that these pre-Fregean theories cannot be meant to solve the propositional attitude problem. Notwithstanding this fact, Locke and Arnauld are able to make a distinction between asserted and unasserted propositions (in their sense). The way Locke makes this distinction (...) turns out to be very different from the way it is made by Arnauld. (shrink)
Locke usually uses the term “judgment” in a rather narrow but not unusual sense, as referring to the faculty that produces probable opinion or assent.2 His account is explicitly developed in analogy with knowledge, and like knowledge, it is developed in terms of the relation various ideas bear to one another. Whereas knowledge is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of any of our ideas, judgment is the presumption of their agreement or disagreement. Intuitive knowledge is the immediate perception (...) of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas, e.g., white is not black. If we perceive the idea of white, and the idea of black, nothing more is needed to perceive that white and black disagree with respect to identity. We just see or intuit it. Demonstrative knowledge is more complicated. Suppose we have or perceive the idea of the internal angles of a triangle, and also the idea of two right angles. Unless one is a prodigy, we can’t just “see” that these two ideas agree with respect to equality; we require a demonstration. For Locke, such a demonstration requires that we find another idea, such as 180 degrees, so that we can intuit that this idea stands in the relation of equality both to the internal angles of a triangle, and to two right angles. Thus a demonstration, for Locke, is a chain of ideas. (shrink)
Hume's account of belief has been much reviled, especially considered as an account of what it is to assent to or judge a proposition to be true. In fact, given that he thinks that thoughts about existence can be composed of a single idea, and that relations are just complex ideas, it might be wondered whether he has an account of judgment at all. Nonetheless, Hume was extremely proud of his account of belief, discussing it at length in the Abstract, (...) and developing it in the Appendix. Furthermore, he claimed several times that his account was new. It was not just a new answer to an old question, but an answer to a new question as well. Why did Hume think he was raising, and answering, a new question? Is his answer really so appalling? Why did he define belief in terms of a relationship with a present impression? In this paper, I propose answers to these questions. The answers emerge by contrasting Hume with Locke. Locke thought that belief was a pale imitation of knowledge, and that the assent we give to propositions is constituted in the very same act as forming those propositions. Hume saw the problems such a theory faced concerning existential beliefs. By ceasing to treat existence as a predicate, Hume was confronted with the issue of what it was to judge something to be true, or to assent to something. This issue had to be solved independently of the question of what it was to conceive something, or understand the content of a proposition. Hume thought this problem was new. He should be looked at, not as giving a bad answer to an important question, but rather as being the first in the early modern period to recognize that there was an important question here to be answered. (shrink)
This paper illuminates Leibniz’s conception of faith and its relationship to reason. Given Leibniz’s commitment to natural religion, we might expect his view of faith to be deflationary. We show, however, that Leibniz’s conception of faith involves a significant non-rational element. We approach the issue by considering the way in which Leibniz positions himself between the views of two of his contemporaries, Bayle and Locke. Unlike Bayle, but like Locke, Leibniz argues that reason and faith are in conformity. Nevertheless, in (...) contrast to the account that he finds in Locke’s Essay, Leibniz does not reduce faith to a species of reasonable belief. Instead, he insists that, while faith must be grounded in reason, true or divine faith also requires a supernatural infusion of grace. (shrink)
Philosophers of the modern period are often presented as having made an elementary error: that of confounding the attitude one adopts toward a proposition with its content. By examining the works of Locke and the Port-Royalians, I show that this accusation is ill-founded and that Locke, in particular, has the resources to construct a theory of propositional attitudes.
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)
In this important study Nicholas Wolterstorff interprets and discusses the ethics of belief which Locke developed in the latter part of Book IV of his "Essay Concerning Human Understanding." After lengthy discussion on the origin of ideas, the nature of language, and the nature of knowledge, Locke got around to arguing what he indicated in the opening Epistle to the Reader to be his overarching aim: how we ought to govern our belief, especially (though by no means only) on matters (...) of religion and morality. Professor Wolterstorff shows that what above all placed this topic on Locke's agenda was the collapse, in his day, of a once-unified moral and religious tradition in Europe into warring factions. Locke's epistemology was thus a culturally and socially engaged one; it was his response to the cultural crisis of his day. Convinced also that of genuine knowledge we human beings have very little, Locke argued that instead of following tradition we ought to turn "to the things themselves" and let "Reason be your guide." This view of Locke, in which centrality is given to the last book of the "Essay," invites an interpretation of the origins of modern philosophy different from most of the current ones. Accordingly, after discussing Hume's powerful attack on Locke's recommended practice, Wolterstorff argues for Locke's originality and discusses his contribution to the modernity of post-sixteenth-century philosophy. (shrink)
Nicholas Wolterstorff discusses the ethics of belief which Locke developed in Book IV of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, where Locke finally argued his overarching aim: how we ought to govern our belief, especially on matters of religion and morality. Wolterstorff shows that this concern was instigated by the collapse, in Locke's day, of a once-unified moral and religious tradition in Europe into warring factions. His was thus a culturally and socially engaged epistemology. This view of Locke invites a new (...) interpretation of the origins of modern philosophy. He maintained that instead of following tradition we ought to let 'reason be our guide.' Accordingly, after discussing Hume's powerful attack on Locke's recommended practice, Wolterstorff argues for Locke's originality and emphasizes his contribution to the 'modernity' of post-sixteenth-century philosophy. (shrink)
John Locke is the greatest English philosopher. _An Essay Concerning Human Understanding_, one of the most influential books in the history of thought, is his greatest work. In this study the historical meaning and philosophical significance of Locke's _Essay_ are investigated more comprehensively than ever before. _Locke_ was originally published in two volumes, _Epistemology_ and _Ontology_. This paperback edition has within its covers the full text of both volumes.
This paper argues for the importance of Chapter 33 of Book 2 of Locke's _Essay Concerning Human Understanding_ ("Of the Association of Ideas) both for Locke's own philosophy and for its subsequent reception by Hume. It is argued that in the 4th edition of the Essay of 1700, in which the chapter was added, Locke acknowledged that many beliefs, particularly in religion, are not voluntary and cannot be eradicated through reason and evidence. The author discusses the origins of the chapter (...) in Locke's own earlier writings on madness and in discussions of Enthusiasm in religion. While recognizing association of ideas as derived through custom and habit is the source of prejudice as Locke argued, Hume went on to show how it also is the basis for what Locke himself called "the highest degree of probability", namely "constant and never-failing Experience in like cases" and our belief in “steady and regular Causes.”. (shrink)
The book deals with two questions: What is the difference between entertaining and believing ? Can the state of belief be produced at will? ;In the first part I trace one historical line of development, from Aristotle to Brentano, in the attempts to answer the question . I consider first the views of Aristotle, Aquinas and Locke who seem to think that the difference is one of object, and second the views of Hume and Brentano who attacked this traditional theory. (...) I also consider two objections to Brentano and the unwelcome consequences of Brentano's non-propositional theory of judgement. ;In the second part I give the negative answer to the question after examining Descartes's and Spinoza's opposite views of the voluntariness of believing. I also deal with, and reject, five suggested methods of acquiring beliefs at will: those of Leibniz, Newman, James, Winters and Stocker. Moreover, I argue that the view that believing is not voluntary does not entail that beliefs are non-rational. (shrink)