Lockean Essentialism and the Possibility of Miracles

Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (2):293-310 (2018)
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Abstract

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.

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Author's Profile

Nathan Rockwood
Brigham Young University

Citations of this work

Locke’s Miracle Mistake.Robert Larmer - 2022 - Sophia 61 (4):727-736.
John Locke's Christianity.Diego Lucci - 2021 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Descartes on Necessity and the Laws of Nature.Nathan Rockwood - 2022 - Journal of Analytic Theology 10:277-292.
Locke on the objective nature of miracles.Alexander-Henri Barrientos - 2023 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 61 (3):411-426.

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References found in this work

What is a Law of Nature?D. M. Armstrong - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Sydney Shoemaker.
Scientific Essentialism.Brian Ellis - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1979 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 169 (2):221-222.
Scientific Essentialism.Lenny Clapp - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (4):589-594.
Scientific Essentialism.H. Beebee - 2004 - Mind 113 (450):334-340.

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