Kenneth P. Winkler, Yale University
Patricia Sheridan, “Locke’s Latitudinarian Sympathies”
The prevailing view of Locke’s moral theory places it squarely in the egoistic/hedonistic tradition of moral philosophy—Locke is generally characterized as offering a voluntaristic/legalistic account of moral rules and their motivational force in terms strictly of divine command and rewards and punishments. This interpretation of Locke is a fair one, and is well-founded in his texts. Locke unambiguously locates moral obligation in the juridical relationship between God, as lawmaker, and humans, as subjects, and identifies the motivation to obey as founded in the sanctions God, as ruler, attaches to his laws. Locke is explicit that the fear if punishment and the desire for reward motivating moral action are no different in kind from the generic pleasure and pain that motivate all human action—an agent’s reasons for acting, in any context, have to involve considerations of her self-interest. The fact is, however, that alongside his egoistic account, Locke makes room for moral motivation arising from the consideration of specifically moral goods, and included under this banner, I want to show, are morally significant feelings. There are a number of instances, throughout Locke’s works, where he refers not only to the inherent righteousness of moral law as reason-giving for moral agents, but also to the particular feelings of love that motivate moral acts. The latter themes are of particular interest for this paper. There is a proto-moral sense tradition that begins far earlier than Shaftesbury, who is generally considered the originator of Sentimentalism. A nascent form of sentimentalist thinking can be traced to the writings of Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth in the mid-1600s and finds it fullest expression in the Latitudinarian tradition he has been credited with inspiring. My intent in what follows is to examine the emergent strains of sentimentalist thinking in the Latitudinarians of the seventeenth century, many of whom were close associates of Locke’s. Locke’s affinities with their political thought has been noted by scholars of the period, however, little has been done by way of examining Locke’s affinities with these thinkers with regards to morality.
Discovering this line of influence serves not only to highlight some underappreciated features of Locke’s account, but brings into greater focus two elements of Locke’s morality that have, up to now, seemed to diverge in a seemingly problematic way. On the one hand, Locke is committed to an ideal of individual self-determination in matters of morality. Darwall has rightly characterized Locke’s view in this regard as autonomist internalism, for Locke’s emphasis on self-determining practical reasoning about moral oughts. However, for Darwall, Locke parts ways with internalism when it comes to moral motivation, which Locke, standardly construed, identifies as arising from external sources—i.e., God’s authority and sanctions. As Darwall writes, “although will, for Locke, somehow involves a conception of internal authority, his moral psychology requires that the latter be motivationally inert (Darwall, 172). I want to suggest that this tension is resolved once the full extent of Locke’s motivational internalism is appreciated. The story is not a straightforward one for Locke, and the motivational externalism plays an integral role in his theory, but there is a role, and I believe a very important role, for motivational internalism in his account.
Elliot Rossiter, “Hedonism and Natural Law in Locke’s Moral Philosophy”
The thesis I wish to defend is that the idea of convenientia that Locke expresses in his 1664 Essays on the Law of Nature can be used to understand how he synthesizes the hedonism he later adopts in the 1670s, and ultimately expresses in II.xx of the Essay concerning Human Understanding, with the natural law doctrine he maintains over the course of his lifetime. According to the idea of convenientia, God harmonizes our constitution with the natural law. Locke’sview in the Essays is that the natural law does not directly emerge from our constitution, but rather that it represents something over and above it that is imposed by the divine will. The point to draw attention to here is that this harmonization involves two distinct actions on God’s part: first, the creation of human nature and, second, the legislation of the moral law. We can understand this harmonization – or convenientia – in terms of the distinction that Locke makes in the Essays between effective and terminative obligation. Effective obligation refers to the source of an obligation, while terminative obligation refers to the content of an obligation.
Locke describes the divine will as the source of the obligation to obey the natural law: this represents the effective obligation of the natural law. And Locke describes the content of the law as the doing of good: this represents the terminative obligation of the natural law. Doing good, for the later Locke, consists in promoting happiness and pleasure by preserving society, though the source of the obligation to obey the law of sociability and preservation comes from the divine will. The key idea here is that Locke understands the content of the natural law in hedonic terms. The knowledge we have of the content of the natural law emerges from our hedonistic psychology and ultimately represents the way that God has providentially designed us. Our ideas of good and evil are generated from what causes us pleasure or pain, but the moral obligation to promote pleasure consists in relating these ideas to the expressed legislative will of the sovereign: here we have both the terminative and effective aspects of obligation.
Now based on his adoption of hedonism, one line of interpretation sees Locke as developing something of a proto-utilitarian position in his middle and later years. And in this interpretation, Locke’s proto-utilitarian views seem to conflict with the commitment to the natural law that he expresses in his Essays and the Two Tracts, all written in the early 1660s. I admit that it is not entirely clear why Locke never published a treatise on the natural law, despite his lifelong interest in the topic (though I provide a few speculations). But the conclusion I reach is that it is not his adoption of hedonism that discourages him from this project: indeed, as I argue, his use of hedonism represents a development of his thinking on the natural law, rather than a divergence from it.
Julie Walsh, “Locke’s Grudge Against Malebranche”
When Locke is discussed in relation to Malebranche, it is typically in the context of either ideas or enthusiasm. Locke’s An Examination of P. Malebranche’s Opinion of Seeing all Things in God gives good reason to use Malebranche as a contrast class to elucidate Locke’s thorny theory of ideas. Malebranche’s name is evoked almost as often with respect to enthusiasm. Written around the same time as Examination, ‘Of Enthusiasm’ was added to the fourth edition of Locke’s Essay. Though there is disagreement over the chapter’s intended target, a good case can be made that it was a version of Cartesianism which Malebranche, among others, propagated. (For this view, see Thomas M. Lennon The Battle of Gods and Giants, 1993. Nicholas Jolley argues against this position, claiming that Locke’s target was theological in “Reason’s Dim Candle: Locke’s Critique of Enthusiasm,” The Philosophy of Locke: New Perspectives, 2003.) These two works, along with the presence of several volumes of Malebranche in his library, make it clear that Locke was more than just a casual reader of Malebranche. In this paper I draw attention to a third context in which Locke can be seen as responding to Malebranche in some way: the metaphysical and moral grounding of the role pain and pleasure in human action. I focus on two references to Malebranche in the Lockean corpus that have not, as far as I can tell, been discussed in the secondary literature.
The first is a comment by Coste in the second edition of the French translation of the Essay. In relation to section 30 of ‘Of Power’ (Book II, chapter xxi) Coste states: “M. Locke holds a grudge here against Father Malebranche.” (“M. Locke en vouloit ici au P. Malebranche.”) In this section, Locke stresses the importance of drawing a sharp distinction between desiring and willing. This is to eliminate the obscurity created by “certain men” who have failed to keep these distinct acts of mind separate. But while Locke is quite clear that this distinction ought to be made, his own explanation of the distinction is not straightforward.
The second is a remark made to Locke by William King. As part of a series of comments on the first edition of the Essay, King says: “there seems here to be an incongruity in deriving the reasons of pleasure and pain from the idea of a God which he [Locke] has not yet introduced. Quere whether it be not as reasonable an account of Ideas to say, as Malebranche doth, that they Arise in us upon the presence of such a body because God has appointed that they shall then arise.” (The Correspondence of John Locke, Letter no.1544, 15 October 1692. King is referring to Book II, chapter vii.) When Locke responds, he sweepingly dismisses all of King’s comments.
I argue that King’s comment is in fact much harder for Locke to dismiss for the very reason that, at least according to Coste, Locke himself begrudges Malebranche: the absence of a clear distinction between desire and volition. Such a distinction demands that the mechanisms that govern the connection ‘pain/pleasure-idea-willing-action’ and ‘pain/pleasure-idea-desiring-action’ be different. That Locke’s struggle with this requirement was entangled with his study of Malebranche is further confirmed by §42 of his Examination. There, King’s comment again looms large as Locke discusses the natural law that grounds the union between pain/pleasure and ideas. I suggest that a close analysis of these texts shows that despite his best efforts, Locke’s view is closer to Malebranche’s than he admits.
Shelley Weinberg, “Consciousness and Moral Motivation in Locke”
Locke’s theory of moral motivation is grounded in our natural responses to feelings of pleasure and pain. Feelings of pain lead to desires, which move the will to act to attain the objects of those desires. Attaining those objects results in pleasure – the alleviation of pain. What is more, “Happiness is the utmost Pleasure we are capable of, and Misery the utmost Pain” (II.xxi.42).
Locke links our natural motivation to alleviate pain to our physical self-preservation. He says, “the Wisdom and Goodness of our Maker, who designing the preservation of our being, has annexed Pain to the application of many things to our Bodies, to warn us of the harm they will do; and as advices to withdraw from them” (II.vii.4). For example, if in looking at the sun my eyes are endangered, I’m naturally constructed so that I feel pain and will be motivated to stop looking at the sun. Such motivation to physical preservation is a natural mechanism helping to put us on the path to happiness rather than misery. Indeed, Locke thinks that were we not to have a natural mechanism to avoid things that lead to our own demise, we would be “created miserable.”
In this paper, I argue that, analogously, this natural mechanism also puts us on the path to long-term, or what I might call our “moral” preservation, namely our preservation in an afterlife – the attainment of a state of complete ease from pain (the utmost pleasure). To attain long-term happiness, though, we must be able to choose greater goods, those that might make us suffer now but bring more happiness later. And that requires that we have the freedom to forbear acting on a present desire. Locke thinks that we do have such freedom for we’re able to suspend desire in order to deliberate over the relative pleasures of competing goods. Thus, we have moral agency leading to moral responsibility. But only desire moves the will, and only pain generates a desire, so there must be some sort of pain that results in the suspension of desire. Locke tells us very little about it, but he does say, “Whatever necessity determines to the pursuit of real Bliss, the same necessity, with the same force establishes suspence, deliberation, and scrutiny of each successive desire, whether the satisfaction of it, does not interfere with our true happiness, and mislead us from it” (II.xxi.52).
I argue that this necessity, the motivation to pursue “real Bliss” – the same force that establishes the suspension of a desire – is a natural motivation or mechanism, which Locke often calls our “concern” for our own happiness, which is grounded in the fact that we are self-conscious beings. Along with this argument, I also explain why animals, even though conscious and concerned for their happiness (preservation) are not motivated to suspend desire. Additionally, I explain how the unity of consciousness and the ability to experience a future self is crucial to Locke’s account of moral motivation.
Joseph Stenberg, “Locke on Individuation and Kinds”
An oak tree grows outside my window. I watch a few leaves fall off in a gust of wind. Two things seem true after the leaves break away from the rest of the tree. First, it seems the oak tree lost a host of particles and so the tree is no longer constituted by the same mass of particles. Second, it seems the oak tree is still numerically the same oak tree.
John Locke wants to preserve both of these appearances. In order to do so, Locke tries to explain the relationship between masses and the organisms they constitute in such a way that sense can be made of the idea that the mass and the organism are constituted by the very same host of particles at any given time and yet are, at least in some important sense, not identical
But it has recently been pointed out that a problem seems to arise for Locke’s treatment of this type of case (Dan Kaufman, “Locke on Individuation and the Corpuscular Basis of Kinds,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Vol. LXXV No. 3, (November 2007)). The problem is that Locke’s theory of kinds seems to entail that the mass and the oak tree it constitutes cannot be of different kinds, even while his theory of individuation seems to entail that the mass and the oak tree it constitutes must be of different kinds. If that is correct, then Locke’s views on individuation and kinds are inconsistent. It has been claimed that this problem is intractable regardless of how one interprets Locke’s theory of individuation (Ibid, 210)
In this essay, I argue that this problem is not intractable for any of the common interpretations of Locke; that is, I argue that a Lockean theory of kinds and a Lockean theory of individuation are consistent no matter which of the common interpretations of Locke one accepts. I will argue that this is so because, given Locke’s view of nominal essences, extrinsic features only observable over time can be included in nominal essences. The problem depends on the assumption that nominal essences include only features observable at a time. This assumption is false. Given that it is false, new candidates open up with respect to what is included in the nominal essence of mass, but not oak tree. And 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. And so I will argue that Locke at least could, and perhaps did, include the persistence conditions of things like masses and oak trees in the nominal essences, mass and oak tree. And so the mass and the oak constituted by that mass outside my window really do differ and this difference is included in the nominal essences of both. Thus the mass and oak differ in kind and so can be in the same place at the same time, even though at a time they share the very same internal structure.
Ed McCann, “Essences and the Kinds of Substance”
Against Ayers and other commentators, I maintain that Locke does not apply the distinction between real and nominal essence to the basic kinds of substance, i.e. body or matter, spirit or immaterial substance, and God. Although he provides a specification of the general ideas of body and spirit, these do not count as nominal essences because the distinction between real and nominal essences applies only to those things that can have real essences, and body and spirit cannot have real essences. Real essence provides for a differentiation of causal powers among individual objects (both natural objects and artifacts), and no such differentiation is possible. I establish this interpretive claim on the basis of an analysis of the closing chapters of Bk. II of the Essay (II. 29-‐31) on true and false, real and fantastical, and adequate and inadequate ideas, and of Bk. III chaps. 9-‐11 (on the abuse, imperfections, and remedy of abuses and imperfection) of general words, in addition of course to III.3.13-‐19, where the distinction between real and nominal essences is formally introduced. Having established that the real essence/nominal essence distinction is not appropriately applied to the general kinds of substance, I then trace out several consequences of this fact. First I argue, against Bennett and Remnant, that Leibniz’s criticism of Locke’s speculation about the comprehensibility of God’s making matter out of nothing is based on a misunderstanding of Locke, and that Locke’s suggestion that it is easier to conceive how God made matter ex nihilo than that he made immaterial substance ex nihilo can be defended. Then I consider and reject the suggestion, made by Ayers and others, that Newtonian gravitational attraction could be a function of the unknown essence of matter. Finally, I provide an account of Locke’s treatment of the principium individuationis at the beginning of Bk. II chap. 27, and I argue in particular that the place-‐kind-‐time exclusion principle stated there is a fundamental principle that follows from the complete generality (and hence lack of real essence) of the basic kinds of substance (body, immaterial substance, and God), and explain how it is not solidity that prevents other bodies from occupying the same place at the same time, but rather sameness of kind. It is noteworthy, by the way, that immaterial substances exclude other immaterial substances from occupying the place they occupy at any given time, but they do so without the help of solidity. Any attempt to explain this on the basis of an unknown feature of the real essence of spirit or immaterial substance will break down, given the inapplicability of the notion of real essence to the general kinds of substance.