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Many historical and philosophical studies treat infinity as an exclusively quantitative notion, whose proper domain of application is mathematics and physics. The main aim of this paper is to disentangle, by critically examining, three notions of infinity in the early modern period, and to argue that one—but only one—of them is quantitative. One of these non-quantitative notions concerns being or reality, while the other concerns a particular iterative property of an aggregate. These three notions will emerge through examination of three (...) central figures in the period: Locke, Descartes, and Leibniz. (shrink)
My topic is the materialist appropriation of empiricism – as conveyed in the ‘minimal credo’ nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit in sensu (which interestingly is not just a phrase repeated from Hobbes and Locke to Diderot, but is also a medical phrase, used by Harvey, Mandeville and others). That is, canonical empiricists like Locke go out of their way to state that their project to investigate and articulate the ‘logic of ideas’ is not a scientific project: “I shall (...) not at present meddle with the Physical consideration of the Mind” (Essay, I.i.2, in Locke 1975; which Kant gets exactly wrong in his reading of Locke, in the Preface to the A edition of the first Critique). Indeed, I have suggested elsewhere, contrary to a prevalent reading of Locke, that the Essay is not the extension to the study of the mind of the methods of natural philosophy; that he is actually not the “underlabourer” of Newton and Boyle he claims politely to be in the Epistle to the Reader (Wolfe and Salter 2009, Wolfe 2010). Rather, Locke says quite directly if we pay heed to such passages, “Our Business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our Conduct” (Essay, I.i.6). There would be more to say here about what this implies for our understanding of empiricism (see Norton 1981 and Gaukroger 2005), but instead I shall focus on a different aspect of this episode: how a non-naturalistic claim which falls under what we now call epistemology (a claim about the senses as the source of knowledge) becomes an ontology – materialism. That is, how an empiricist claim could shift from being about the sources of knowledge to being about the nature of reality (and/or the mind, in which case it needs, as David Hartley saw and Denis Diderot proclaimed more overtly, an account of the relation between mental processes and the brain). (David Armstrong, for one, denied that there could be an identification between empiricism and materialism on this point: eighteenth-century history of science seems to prove him wrong: see Armstrong 1968 and 1978.) Put differently, I want to examine the shift from the logic of ideas in the seventeenth century (Locke) to an eighteenth-century focus on what kind of ‘world’ the senses give us (Condillac), to an assertion that there is only one substance in the universe (Diderot, giving a materialist cast to Spinozism), and that we need an account of the material substrate of mental life. This is neither a ‘scientific empiricism’ nor a linear developmental process from philosophical empiricism to natural science, but something else again: the unpredictable emergence of an ontology on empiricist grounds. (shrink)
Locke has been accused of endorsing a theory of kinds that is inconsistent with his theory of individuation. This purported inconsistency comes to the fore in Locke’s treatment of cases involving organisms and the masses of matter that constitute them, for example, the case of a mass constituting an oak tree. In this essay, I argue that this purported problem, known as ‘The Kinds Problem’, can be solved. The Kinds Problem depends on the faulty assumption that nominal essences include only (...) features observable at a time t. Once this assumption is rejected, new candidates open up for the relevant difference in the world that is included in the nominal essence of e.g. mass but not oak tree. And I argue that there is at least one good candidate for the extrinsic feature observable only over time in which the mass differs from the oak it constitutes, namely its persistence conditions. The Kinds Problem can be solved. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Locke and Leibniz on Substance gathers together papers by an international group of academic experts, examining the metaphysical concept of substance in the writings of these two towering philosophers of the early modern period. Each of these newly-commissioned essays considers important interpretative issues concerning the role that the notion of substance plays in the work of Locke and Leibniz, and its intersection with other key issues, such as personal identity. Contributors also consider the relationship between the two philosophers and contemporaries (...) such as Descartes and Hume. (shrink)
Locke’s metaphysical commitments are a matter of some controversy. Further controversy attends the issue of whether and how Locke adapts his views in order to accommodate the success of Newton’s Principia. The chapter lays out an interpretation of Locke’s commitments according to which Locke’s response to Newton on gravity does not require the positing of brute powers and is consistent with his core essentialism. The chapter raises the question of how the hypothesis concerning the creation of matter, alluded to at (...) 4.10.18, fits with these commitments. The chapter concludes that the De grav hypothesis would represent a significant revision to the background metaphysical picture of the Essay, but that nevertheless its attractions to Locke are intelligible and illuminating. (shrink)
It has often been claimed that Locke’s agnostic remarks in the Essay represent his suspension of philosophical judgment on crucial ontological issues or his hesitation over which metaphysical stance to adopt. Against this often-raised criticism, I argue that Locke actually held a clear position—a type of functionalism about thingness in general, whether macro or micro, or whether mental or physical. What Locke refers to as a ‘nominal essence’, I further argue, represents a set of functional roles that a thing plays (...) in order to be classified as of a kind to which it belongs. Our empirical knowledge about things—confined to their nominal essences—can only tell us about their functional roles but not their intrinsic properties that realize those roles. One remains therefore incurably ignorant about the intrinsic property of things in themselves. I explore the historical and philosophical significance of Locke’s functional approach. (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.
This paper is about our experience of change and movement, and thus about our experience of time – at least under the reasonable assumption that we (can only) experience time by having experiences of change. This assumption is shared by Locke, whose view on temporal experience, expounded in Book II, Chap.14 of his Essay, will be the main focal point of my paper. Some of the most influential accounts of temporal experience embrace the notion of a "specious present" as an (...) explanatory tool in order to account for the continuous and unfolding aspect of our experiences. In this article, I will raise some points of dissatisfaction with the very notion of the specious present, and while I shall not reject the specious present theories, I will argue that more is needed in order to have a proper understanding and explanation of our temporal experience. I will then discuss and defend a view of temporal experience whose basis can be found in Locke's Essay, and which, given some amendments and further development within a contemporary framework, provides us with a very good analysis of our experience of movement, change, and time – a view that helps us to avoid some burdensome commitments incurred by specious present theories and that can be fruitfully combined with these theories in order to yield a complete and more informative picture of the phenomenon of temporal experience. (shrink)
John Locke holds that matter is solid, the soul thinks, and for all we know the soul may be a material substance divinely endowed with a power to think. Though he openly admits to nothing stronger than the bare possibility of thinking matter, Locke grants that what thinks in us occupies a definite spatial location to the exclusion of other souls. Solidity is the quality that prevents other things from occupying a spatial location. Locke’s general criterion for identity is spatiotemporal (...) exclusion of other things of the same kind. To meet these conditions for identity, souls must be solid. Although Locke refuses to declare that souls really are material things, taking the solidity of souls to be a condition for their identity is consistent with the following of Locke’s other important commitments: nominalism about the essences by which substances are classified, agnosticism about the underlying reality of what supports such “nominal essences,” and the identity of persons is distinct from the identity of any substance. Locke ignores the implication that souls are solid because the solidity of souls is irrelevant to those three aims. Nevertheless he could allow for the solidity of souls without giving up on any of his other important and explicitly held commitments. There is therefore no need for Locke’s commentators to refrain from employing solidity in their accounts of Locke’s general criterion for identity from fear of attributing to Locke the position that souls would be solid. (shrink)
This is a review of Peter Anstey's John Locke and Natural Philosophy, which is a masterful and well-argued study of Locke's philosophy of science that shall become both the standard and starting place, for scholars and students alike, for decades to come. Anstey's meticulous and thorough research, combined with his comprehensive knowledge of the history of natural philosophy, make this work a must-read for all who are interested in Locke, early modern philosophy, the history of the philosophy of science, or (...) early modern philosophy of science. His characteristically rigorous analysis and argumentation coupled with his easy and clear prose make this a highly readable and accessible work of scholarship. (shrink)
In a crucial passage of the second-edition Transcendental Deduction, Kant claims that the concept of motion is central to our understanding of change and temporal order. I show that this seemingly idle claim is really integral to the Deduction, understood as a replacement for Locke’s “physiological” epistemology (cf. A86-7/B119). Béatrice Longuenesse has shown that Kant’s notion of distinctively inner receptivity derives from Locke. To explain the a priori application of concepts such as succession to this mode of sensibility, Kant construes (...) the mind as receptive to its own activity. As Longuenesse understands Kant’s response to Locke, “motion” becomes little more than a metaphor for the action of understanding on inner sense. For Michael Friedman, in contrast, this passage evidences Kant’s deep concern with the foundations of Newtonian science. He reads it as a reference to inertial motion, the standard by which temporal intervals are measured. I show that Longuenesse’s and Friedman’s interpretations are in fact complementary. Both Locke and Kant are deeply concerned with the quantification of time. So Longuenesse is right that §24 is meant to supplant Locke’s account, and Friedman correctly takes it as the foundation of Kant’s account of the application of quantitative concepts to time. Kant aims, specifically, to explain cognition of time as continuous magnitude. However, Longuenesse leaves Kant without an answer to Locke’s challenge that continuous magnitude cannot be understood on the basis of discrete magnitude. And on Friedman’s view Kant’s account of the understanding’s activity presupposes, and thus cannot explain, the achievements of the mathematical sciences (such as the representation of temporal continuity). On my reading, Kant’s key contention is that we must regard the segregation of temporally ordered representation into units as the work of the understanding, rather than (as Locke views it) of sensibility. By giving the understanding this role, Kant succeeds where he takes Locke to fail. I show how the power to unify temporal representation can be ascribed to the understanding on the basis, not of assumed mathematical or scientific knowledge, but of its characterization as the power of judgment. (shrink)
Vere Chappell has pointed out that it is not clear whether Locke has a well-developed ontology or even whether he is entitled to have one.2 Nevertheless, it is clear that Locke believes that there are organisms, and it is clear that he thinks that there are substances. But does he believe that organisms are substances? There are certainly parts of the Essay in which Locke seems unequivocally to state that organisms are substances. For instance, in 2.23.3 Locke uses men and (...) horses as examples of substances. In Locke’s most explicit the account of abstraction, given in 3.3.7-9, organism [vivens] is treated as a sub-species of body and body as a sub-species of substance; so, by transitivity, organism is a kind of substance. Finally, in his discussion of essences in 3.6, Locke uses all of the following organisms as examples of substances: horses, mules, men, sheep, goats, plants, drills, changelings, asses, bulls, cats, and rats. This textual evidence would seem to settle the matter about the ontological status of organisms. However, there are other parts of the Essay in which the ontological status of organisms is less clear, to say the least. In fact, there are texts in which Locke seems to state (or at least to be committed to the.. (shrink)
One of the deepest tensions in Locke’s Essay, a work full of profound and productive conflicts, is one between Locke’s metaphysical tendencies—his inclination to presuppose or even to argue for substantive metaphysical positions—and his devout epistemic modesty, which seems to urge agnosticism about major metaphysical issues. Both tendencies are deeply rooted in the Essay. Locke is a theorist of substance, essence, quality. Yet, his favorite conclusions are epistemically pessimistic, even skeptical; when it comes to questions about how the world is (...) constituted, our understandings cannot penetrate very far. Locke seems torn between metaphysics and modesty, between dogmatism and skepticism. This chapter will consider two specific examples of this sort of tension. The first involves the ontology of body, and the second, the ontology of mind. The conflict concerning bodily natures looks like this: As is well-known, Locke typically describes bodies in the terms of the corpuscularian science of his day, as exemplified especially by the natural philosopher Robert Boyle. Locke’s characterizations of the real essences of bodies are mechanist. He envisions them as corpuscularian textures-- spatial arrangements of particles possessing size. (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)
This book traces a deep misunderstanding about the relation of concepts and reality in the history of philosophy. It exposes the influence of the mistake in the thought of Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Nietzche and Bradley, and suggests that the solution can be found in Hegelian thought. Ellis argues that the treatment proposed exemplifies Hegel's dialectical method. This is an important contribution to this area of philosophy.
Locke’s thesis states that no two things of the same sort can be in the same place at the same time. The thesis has recently received extensive discussion, with some philosophers attempting to find arguments in its favour and others attempting to provide counter-examples. However, neither the arguments nor the counter-examples have been especially convincing; and it is my aim, in this short note, to present what I believe is a more convincing counter-example to the thesis.
This book addresses one of the fundamental topics in philosophy: the relation between appearance and reality. John Yolton draws on a rich combination of historical and contemporary material, ranging from the early modern period to present-day debates, to examine this central philosophical preoccupation, which he presents in terms of distinctions between phenomena and causes, causes and meaning, and persons and man. He explores in detail how Locke, Berkeley and Hume talk of appearances and their relation to reality, and offers illuminating (...) connections and comparisons with the work of contemporary philosophers such as Paul Churchland and John McDowell. He concludes by offering his own proposal for a 'realism of appearances', which incorporates elements of both Humean and Kantian thinking. His important study will be of interest to a wide range of readers in the history of philosophy, the history of ideas, and contemporary philosophy of mind, epistemology and metaphysics. (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)
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)
I examine two strands in Locke's thought which seem to conflict with his corpuscularian sympathies: his repeated suggestion that natural philosophy is incapable of being made a science, and his claim that some of the properties of bodies--secondary qualities, powers of gravitation, cohesion and maybe even thought--are arbitrarily "superadded" by God. ;Locke often says that a body's properties flow from its real essence as the properties of a triangle flow from its definition. He is widely read as having thought that (...) if we had ideas of a body's real essence, we would be able to perceive a priori a necessary connection between that body's real essence and its observable properties. I argue that this leaves Locke's skepticism without any rationale, making it depend entirely upon our ignorance of corpuscular structures when in fact he never rules out the possibility of our acquiring ideas of corpuscular structures through improvements in microscopy. I argue that Locke's geometrical analogy is better understood as an endorsement of deductivism about scientific explanation. He thinks that knowledge of corpuscular structures is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for scientific knowledge of bodies. The deeper source of his skepticism is his view that we cannot have universal and certain knowledge of the laws of nature because they are contingent. ;I approach the subject of Locke's attitude toward mechanism by examining his superaddition doctrine. In contrast with M. R. Ayers, I attribute to Locke what I call strong voluntarism: the view that a body's powers to interact with other bodies are not fully determined by the essence of matter, and that they are at least partly determined by the will of God. I argue that Descartes and Boyle are also strong voluntarists, but that Locke's voluntarism differs in that he maintains that bodies have some powers which are not even partly explicable in terms of the motions of matter. Locke's position is thus incompatible with the mechanism of Descartes and Boyle. (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.
Leibniz avait certes raison d'opposer Locke à Descartes et de le situer plutôt dans la lignée de Gassendi et l'atomisme antique. Mais le problème est de distinguer entre Gassendi et ses disciples contemporains de Locke comme source immédiate d'inspiration pour celui-ci. Ses Commonplace Books attestent que Locke avait lu Gassendi avec attention, et son Journal indique que pendant ses séjours à Paris, il fut en contact avec des gassendistes tels Bernier et Launay, dont il acheta les oeuvres pour les emporter (...) en Angleterre. L'analyse que Locke fournit de l'espace est d'un intérêt particulier, car tout en témoignant de l'orientation que Leibniz attribuait à Locke, elle s'écarte nettement des vues de Gassendi sur la question. (shrink)
The Purpose of this paper is to ask how far Locke can be said to have anticipated modern theories of number, particularly the intuitionist theory of Brouwer and Heyting. It has in mind Mr Edward E. Dawson's statement that Locke's account of number was not merely ‘a good effort in his own day’ but that ‘what Locke had to say really was quite fundamental, and a good deal of modern mathematics assumes his position, either explicitly or implicitly’. Mr Dawson thinks (...) that some of the central notions of the intuitionist theory are already present in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding , II, xvi, ‘Of Number’. We should like to examine the view. (shrink)