Shelley Weinberg argues that the idea of consciousness as a form of non-evaluative self-awareness helps solve some of the thorniest issues in Locke's philosophy: in his philosophical psychology, and his theories of knowledge, personal identity, and moral agency. The model of consciousness set forth here binds these key issues with a common thread.
Locke’s account of personal identity has been highly influential because of its emphasis on a psychological criterion. The same consciousness is required for being the same person. It is not so clear, however, exactly what Locke meant by ‘consciousness’ or by ‘having the same consciousness’. Interpretations vary: consciousness is seen as identical to memory, as identical to a first personal appropriation of mental states, and as identical to a first personal distinctive experience of the qualitative features of one’s own thinking. (...) There is wide agreement, however, that Locke’s theory of personal identity is meant to complement his moral and theological commitments to a system of divine punishment and reward in an afterlife. But these commitments seem to require also a metaphysical criterion, and Locke is insistent that it cannot be substance. The difficulty reconciling the psychological and metaphysical requirements of the theory has led, at worst, to charges of incoherence and, at best, to a slew of interpretations, none of which is widely accepted. (shrink)
Locke’s theory of personal identity was philosophically groundbreaking for its attempt to establish a non-substantial identity condition. Locke states, “For the same consciousness being preserv’d, whether in the same or different Substances, the personal Identity is preserv’d” (II.xxvii.13). Many have interpreted Locke to think that consciousness identifies a self both synchronically and diachronically by attributing thoughts and actions to a self. Thus, many have attributed to Locke either a memory theory or an appropriation theory of personal identity. But the former (...) stumble on circularity and the latter is insufficient for Locke’s moral theory insofar as he is committed to a theory of divine rectification. The common problem is that Locke’s theory seems to demand an objective, or metaphysical, fact of a continuing consciousness that does not appeal to a traditional notion of substance for the continuity. I’m suggesting something new. In II.xxvii of the Essay, we see an ambiguity in Locke’s use of the term ‘consciousness’. Locke seems to see consciousness as both a mental state by means of which we are aware of ourselves as perceiving and as the ongoing self we are aware of in these conscious states. First, I make the textual argument why we should read Locke as having a conception of a metaphysical fact of a continuing consciousness that does not appeal to thinking or bodily substance to establish its continuity. I then argue that the metaphysical fact of an enduring consciousness is revealed to us as a phenomenological fact of experience. Due to the nature of certain kinds of perceptual situations we have an experience of ourselves as temporally extended. Although the text bears out that Locke seemed to think there is a fact of an ongoing consciousness, I argue that it is consistent with his reluctance elsewhere that he makes no further epistemological or ontological claims about it. Finally, I provide an account of Locke’s understanding of memory and its relation to consciousness that supports the claim that consciousness is something ontologically distinct from either thinking or bodily substance. (shrink)
Locke has been accused of failing to have a coherent understanding of consciousness, since it can be identical neither to reflection nor to ordinary perception without contradicting other important commitments. I argue that the account of consciousness is coherent once we see that, for Locke, perceptions of ideas are complex mental acts and that consciousness can be seen as a special kind of self-referential mental state internal to any perception of an idea.
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)
"John Locke is considered as one of the most important philosophers of the modern era. The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were both highly influenced by Locke's philosophical ideas. Commonly known as the 'Father of Liberalism' Locke heavily influences contemporary libertarianism, with its emphasis on small government, the requirement of actual consent to that government, and a natural executive right to establish one's own sovereignty and enforce one'' own rights. The Lockean Mind provides a comprehensive survey of (...) his work, not only placing it in its historical context but also exploring its contemporary significance. Comprising almost sixty chapters by a superb team of international contributors, the volume is divided into twelve parts covering the full range of Locke's thought: Historical Background, Locke's Interlocutors, Locke's Epistemology, Locke's Philosophy of Mind, Locke on Philosophy of Language and Logic, Locke's Metaphysics, Locke's Natural Philosophy, Locke's Moral Philosophy, Locke on Education, Locke's Political Philosophy, Locke's Social Philosophy, Locke on Religion. This collection is essential reading for students and researchers working in political philosophy, philosophy of mind, libertarianism, British Empiricism, epistemology and political theory, as well as for those in related Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines with an interest in John Locke"--. (shrink)
Given his representationalism how can Locke claim we have sensitive knowledge of the external world? We can see the skeptic as asking two different questions: how we can know the existence of external things, or more specifically how we can know inferentially of the existence of external things. Locke's account of sensitive knowledge, a form of non-inferential knowledge, answers the first question. All we can achieve by inference is highly probable judgment. Because Locke's theory of knowledge includes both first order (...) psychological and second order normative conditions, sensitive knowledge can be non-inferential and less certain than intuitive and demonstrative knowledge. (shrink)
Locke defines knowledge as the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas. Nevertheless, he claims that we know particular things: the identity of our ideas, our own existence, and the existence of external objects. Although much has been done to reconcile the definition of knowledge with our knowledge of external objects, there is virtually nothing in the scholarship when it comes to knowing ideas or our own existence. I fill in this gap by arguing that perceptions of ideas are (...) complex mental states that convey propositional knowledge due to agreeing elements therein. (shrink)
Locke seems to have conflicting commitments: we know individual ideas and all knowledge is propositional. This paper shows the conflict to be only apparent. Looking at Locke’s philosophy of language in relation to the Port Royal logic, I argue, first, that Locke allows that we have non-ideational mental content that is signified only at the linguistic level. Second, I argue that this non-ideational content plays a role in what we know when we know an idea. As a result, we can (...) see our knowledge of an idea as a form of knowledge by acquaintance: there is a direct epistemic relation between a mental object and a knowing subject. But owing to Locke’s logic, that knowledge has a tacit propositional structure expressing the truth of the idea, which gains full signification only linguistically. (shrink)
In the brief space I have, I can provide only a quick taste of what the reader is in for with Han-Kyul Kim's Locke's Ideas of Mind and Body. Kim argues that his account of Locke's metaphysics of substance in terms of ideas of mind and body makes sense of the relation between four crucial and often overlooked topics in Locke's philosophy: " Locke's mind-body nominalism, his epistemic humility, his functionalist account of substrata, and his naturalist approach to the human (...) mind". Kim opens in chapter 1 with a survey of various ontological doctrines that have been associated with Locke and provides arguments that none are... (shrink)