Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2551-2564 (2015)

Patrick J. Connolly
Lehigh University
Many commentators have argued that Locke understood laws of nature as causally efficacious. On this view the laws are causally responsible for the production of natural phenomena. This paper argues that this interpretation faces serious difficulties. First, I argue that it will be very difficult to specify the ontological status of these laws. Proponents of the view suggest that these laws are divine volitions. But I argue that this will be difficult or impossible to square with Locke’s nominalism. Second, I argue that it will be difficult to specify the manner in which these laws operate. The view runs the risk of collapsing into occasionalism and Locke has measured critiques of the occasionalist position. The only way to maintain that laws are causally efficacious divine volitions while avoiding occasionalism is to have God engage in what I call ‘brute fact-making’. But brute fact-making is difficult to square with Locke’s remarks on God’s action in the world and with his standards for explanation in natural philosophy.
Keywords Locke  laws  occasionalism  God  physics  matter
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-014-0422-9
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John Locke and Natural Philosophy.Peter R. Anstey - 2011 - Oxford University Press.

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