For Locke Every Person Has A Distinct Right To Punish Those Who Transgress The Natural Law?

For Locke Every Person Has A Distinct Right To Punish Those Who Transgress The Natural Law
For Locke, every person has a distinct right to punish those who transgress the natural law. The natural state of human liberty is a state of license according to Locke. According to Rorty, there is no common human nature to use as a moral reference point.

Why is the natural state of human liberty not a state of license according to Locke What does he mean by that?



Montreal, February 19, 2006 • CAPITALISM & COMMERCE


is a Professor of Accountancy and Business Administration at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.




John Locke (1632-1704) connected with the long tradition of medieval political thought going back to Thomas Aquinas. His philosophical writings led to the great revolutions toward the end of the 18th century. Locke is America’s intellectual Founding Father. Especially in his A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) and The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), he created what would become the philosophical source for the founding principles of the United States as expressed in The Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution of the United States. In his writings, Locke established a theory that reconciled the liberty of the individual citizen with political order.



In order to understand Locke, we must begin with his epistemology as put forth in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), a work that took him 20 years to complete. The underpinning philosophical foundations of Locke’s political thought are found in this work in which he discusses the nature of the world as it is known to us and the ways whereby we come to know it. Locke set out to inquire into the nature, origin, sources, certainty, and extent (or limits) of human knowledge. In this essay, Locke’s interest centers on the nature of reality, God, and the grounds of our knowledge of them. Locke agrees with Descartes’ cogito that the existence of the self is implied in every state of consciousness. The notion that “I think, therefore, I am” implies the prior certainty of consciousness (i.e., that consciousness precedes consciousness of objects). What both mean to say is that every idea of which a person is conscious is an affirmation of his existence as the subject of that experience. Although consciousness is an axiom, it is not the primary one that the above inversion appears to make it. The irreducible foundational axiom is that there must first be something that exists of which a person can be aware. It would have been better if Locke had written that consciousness, the second axiom, is the faculty of perceiving that which exists. There must first be something. If nothing exists, then there is nothing about which to be conscious. Expressing humility about what men are capable of knowing, Locke states that our knowledge extends no further than our ideas. He teaches that our knowledge is bounded and that some things exceed the mind’s comprehension. According to Locke, knowledge is restricted to ideas, no ideas are innate, and ideas originate from sense experience. The mind is tabula rasa (blank sheet) until a person experiences the external world. Without experience, nothing is written on the “tablets” of the mind. Being originally blank, the human mind gains knowledge through the use of the five senses and a process of reflection. It is data from the external world that triggers the operations of the mind. A notable exponent of empiricism, Locke attacks Descartes’ doctrine of innate ideas and ridicules the view that ideas can be antecedent to experience. Ideas produced by sensations are in the mind and are indications in us of an external reality. A sensation is the product of a man’s experience with the external world. Locke makes sensations (like tall, brown, and solid) prior to percepts. He says that the mind brings the sensations together to form the percept “tree.” Attributes, rather than entities, are thus primary for Locke. Locke explains that when we observe an object ideas enter our minds single file and that ideas of different qualities of an object enter through different senses. Sensations tell us about things and processes in the external world. Locke says that ideas are caused by the real world but they do not permit us to see that world as it is in itself. External experiences, called sensations, give us ideas of supposed external objects. He explains that we know ideas but we really do not know objects or things-in-themselves. What is known by one’s mind is not the thing-in-itself but rather the representation of the thing that the mind was able to assemble. Holding a representationalist theory of perception, Locke contends that the mind perceives ideas and ideas are caused by and represent the objects that cause them. He states that consciousness is the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind and what the mind grasps is not reality but ideas of reality. It follows that we are aware of the idea that is between consciousness and existence. Locke speaks of all the objects of understanding (i.e., the ideas) as being in the mind. He uses the term, idea, so vaguely and broadly that it includes, at various times, sensations, percepts, representations, images, concepts, and notions. Locke explains that there are innate faculties through which the mind perceives, remembers, and combines ideas that come to it from without. He says the mind is also capable of desiring, deliberating, and willing. Our faculties of knowing are thus innate although our ideas are not. The processes which transform the material provided by the senses into knowledge are activities of the mind which themselves cannot be reduced to ideas. These mental activities are the source of a new class of ideas. These are ideas of an internal reality – ideas about the activity of our minds which are the product of reflection. Ideas of reflection involve perceiving, thinking, believing, reasoning, knowing, doubting, willing, and so on. In Locke’s theory of knowledge, which is limited to mental content, it is impossible to prove the actual existence of supposed objects. Locke admits the existence of substances but claims they are unknowable. By asserting that phenomena alone are knowable, he distanced the realm of the known with the realm of the knower. Locke’s theory of knowledge is isolated from reality and unable to break through the phenomenalism in which it is encompassed to reach metaphysical data. For example, Locke refers to and uses the principle of causality while denying its validity because it exists in the real world of real objects and beings outside of one’s mind. We could say that Locke is an empirical phenomenalist. Locke’s notion of ideas as intermediary and representational ultimately became for Kant the phenomenal world. Locke’s view led to the skepticism of Hume and Kant’s two-world dualism. Locke unintentionally opened the door and paved the way for Kant’s epistemological dualism which constituted an all-out attack on the mind’s ability to know reality. According to Locke, there are two types of experience (sensation and reflection) and ideas are either simple or complex. Simple ideas are obtained from sense experience and through reflection the mind can combine simple ideas into complex ones. Reflection tells us about the operations of our own minds. We cannot have the experience of reflection until we have already had the experience of sensation. Simple ideas comprise the source of the raw materials out of which our knowledge is constructed. Complex ideas are built by the mind as a compound of simple ideas. The mind is able to bring ideas together, combine them, and abstract from them. Both sensation and reflection can produce simple ideas. For sensation, simple ideas are referred to as sensible qualities and can be divided into primary and secondary ones. According to Locke, primary qualities really do exist in the objects themselves and secondary qualities produce ideas that have no counterpart in the objects. He distinguishes between the primary qualities, which are objective, and the secondary qualities which are subjective. Primary or mathematically determinable qualities of an object actually exist in the world and secondary qualities do not exist in objects as they exist in ideas. Primary qualities include solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number. Examples of secondary qualities are colors, sounds, tastes, odors, and so on. Locke sees these qualities as attributes as stuck into a substratum which he calls “something I know not what.” The substratum is a substance in which qualities are said to subsist. Of course, we know that this view is wrong and that an entity is simply the sum of all of its attributes. Complex ideas are said to be either ideas of substances or ideas of modes. Substances are independent existences such as God, angels, human beings, animals, plants, and constructed things. Mixed modes are dependent existences such as moral and mathematical ideas and the languages of religion, politics, and culture. Locke explains that ideas of substances are compounded from simple ideas but which are intended to represent real objects rather than abstractions. These ideas of substances name the objects of our concern as the underlying realities that support the qualities known to us through sensations. Locke says that these ideas of substances are real because they are combinations of simple ideas as really co-existing and united in things outside of us. On the other hand, mixed modes refer to abstract ideas that have no counterpart in external reality and have only a purely intellectual existence. Mixed modes include ideas put together at the pleasure of the mind. Examples of mixed modes are ideas of justice, obligation, liberty, and so on. Locke explains that mixed modes are identical with archetypes within our own minds and created by our minds out of simple ideas. In a similar manner, Locke goes on to complete his classification of ideas with ideas of relation. Locke explains that knowledge involves relations and relations are the work of the mind. He gives the example of the notion of moral relations arising from the idea of God compounded with ideas of pleasure and pain. He explains that from the constant association of pleasure and pain with our actions we recognize rules of behavior that specify what is good and bad. Locke will later go on to determine rights from the relations that exist between God and man. According to Locke, we know that we exist with the highest degree of certainty and we know that God exists with the second highest degree of certainty. The notion of God is an idea of substance constructed from simple ideas such as existence, knowledge, duration, pleasure, pain, happiness, power, and infinity. The idea of God is deduced from a person’s intuitive knowledge that he exists as a conscious human being and that something greater must have caused him. By inference, he has the idea of an eternal, most knowing, most powerful, being of pure consciousness. The idea of God as creator, the first efficient cause of everything that exists, leads Locke to the conclusion that God is the legislator of the rules of behavior. Locke’s notion of the moral good is inextricably tied to the idea of a God who is greatly concerned with our happiness. He says that through our reason we can discover the moral rules that conform to God’s law. Although we cannot know the mind and reasons of God or the ultimate why and wherefore of things, we can understand the how of things as revealed in the processes of the world. With respect to free will, Locke explains that the mind has the power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of its desires and is free to consider, examine, and weigh them alongside others. Men can voluntarily control their thinking. They can choose to employ or to withhold their conceptual faculty. Locke says that people are able to control their passions. Because men can exercise their freedom by thinking about the consequences of their actions and then deciding what to do, they can be held morally and legally responsible for their actions. Locke views each person as a free moral agent who possesses sufficient reason to guide and order his own life.

Political and Ethical Theory


Locke’s First Treatise of Government was a polemical work refuting the doctrine of the Divine and Absolute Right of Kings that was supported by Sir Robert Filmer. Locke systematically attacks Filmer’s thesis that royal power is similar to parental authority, that is predicated upon, and descended from, the power of the first king, Adam.

  1. Locke’s The Second Treatise of Government contains the key elements in Locke’s political theory including the state of nature, natural law, natural rights, social contract, government consent and the right of property ownership.
  2. It is in this work that Locke explains that the function of legitimate civil government is to preserve the rights of life, liberty, health, and property of citizens and to prosecute and punish those who violate the rights of others.

The Second Treatise is by far Locke’s most influential work. For Locke, the state of nature is not Hobbes’ “war of all against all.” Unlike Hobbes, Locke does not equate the state of nature and the state of war. Locke refers to the original state of nature as the great natural community of mankind.

  1. This state of nature is a state of freedom where men are able to order their actions and dispose of their possessions as they see fit.
  2. He maintained the original state of nature was generally pleasant and characterized by reason and tolerance.
  3. In this prepolitical society men are free, independent, and the equal of every other human being.

The state of nature is one of peace, good will, mutual assistance, and preservation in which all power and jurisdiction is reciprocal. In this state, there is no natural superior or inferior and a man must protect himself and his own the best he can. Natural freedom derives from natural equality.

Locke explains that men in the state of nature know the moral law through reason and that the state of liberty is not a state of license. He says that the natural liberty of man is to have only the law of nature for his rule. The state of nature is not devoid of law. Everything that is ever right or wrong is so eternally.

A person’s freedom and actions are regulated by natural law which obliges everyone. Reason teaches all mankind that, being all-equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. Nature makes every man an executioner of the law with authority to punish wrongdoers.

  • Locke says that everyone is bound to preserve himself and that natural man, being social, ought to preserve the rest of mankind.
  • The law of nature needs an executor.
  • Because there are aggressors, even in the state of nature, this executive power is given to every man who has the right and obligation to restrain offenders and to protect the innocent.

In the state of nature, everyone has the executive power of the law of nature and is obliged to preserve himself and to preserve all mankind. An aggressor is to be treated as an individual unfit to associate with human beings and as a threat to all mankind.

  1. Despite the presence of aggressors, we can safely say that Locke’s state of nature is not nearly as violent as Hobbes’.
  2. In Locke’s state of nature, a sometimes precarious peace prevails.
  3. The state of nature involves men living together according to reason without a common superior with authority to judge among them.

In the state of nature there is an absence of a common judge and the absence of any law except the law of nature. A state of peace exists when men live together and there is no use of force without right. The state of war involves the use of force without right, justice, or authority.

  • In civil society there exists a common judge with authority to enforce civil laws.
  • Both in the state of nature and in civil society sometimes a state of peace may dominate and at other times a state of war may prevail.
  • Whenever force is instituted, a state of war exists.
  • They can occur in either the state of nature or in civil society.

The state of nature involves the state of war because of the passionate nature of man. According to Locke, the moral law, the law of God, is always valid but it is not always kept. Natural justice exists even if the state does not exist. Moral rights and duties are intrinsic and prior to positive law.

“The state of nature involves men living together according to reason without a common superior with authority to judge among them. In the state of nature there is an absence of a common judge and the absence of any law except the law of nature.”


Locke teaches that morality needs a lawgiver and that the lawgiver is God. If one obeys or breaks God’s law then pleasure and pain, respectively, will be experienced in this world and in the next life. Locke believes that ethics can be made a deductive and demonstrable science like mathematics. He contended that his political theory was underpinned by self-evident truths of a demonstrable science of ethics. He says that morality is scientific, rational, provable, and a deductive certainty. Unfortunately, he never gave the proof for this deductive ethics. Nowhere does he endeavor to deduce such a systematic code. Locke explains that natural rights exist in the state of nature before the introduction of civil government. He interpreted natural law as a claim to innate, indefeasible rights inherent in each individual. These natural rights are attributes of the individual person. He says that natural law implies natural rights and correlative duties. Locke explains that all individuals are endowed by their creator with a right to life, liberty, and estate. Men are all the workmanship of one omnipotent and omniscient Maker. Because men are God’s property to be morally used by God for his purposes, it is wrong to damage God’s property. It follows that Locke’s ultimate validation of rights is based on religion. All human beings have natural rights inherent in their created nature and have moral obligations to respect the rights of others. The purpose of natural rights is to sanction the sovereignty of the choices of each individual person. Individual rights imply a sphere where one is free from force. Locke understood that only individuals think, judge, will, and act. He knew that reason is an attribute of the individual and that each individual has free will control of his reason. Locke also realized that men are metaphysically equal, not in their talents, but in the fact that a man’s life is a gift from God and that he has right to use his life as he chooses. Rights are possessed by all men by virtue of being human, and there is no right to violate rights. Locke recognized that the natural right to freedom is necessary for the possibility of moral action. It follows that the purpose of natural rights is to protect individual autonomy and accountability. He saw that it is illegitimate to use coercion against a man who does not first undertake the use of force. It follows that in the state of nature all men equally have the legitimate right to punish transgressors. It is proper to use force in self-defense against unjust violence. In other words, victims can enforce the law of nature in the state of nature. When the law of nature is violated the result is a state of war in which an unjust aggressor has violated someone’s rights. Locke explains that the defect of the state of nature is that it has no organization to give effect to the rules of right. He says that there are deficiencies in a system that must depend upon self-execution of the natural law. It follows that men would seek an institutional device that would make more secure the rights they already possess. The political power of such an institutional device would be derived from the transfer of individuals to enforce the law of nature. Locke says that civil power can have no right except as derived from the individual right of each man to protect himself and his property. He explains that the individual does not surrender his substantive natural rights but only his right of executing the law of nature. Men are said to leave the state of nature when they voluntarily give their natural right to self-defense to a common public authority. The power of the government is nothing except the natural power of each person resigned into the hands of the community. This is a better way of protecting natural rights than the self-help to which each person is naturally entitled. Locke states that any number of persons can make a compact to leave the state of nature. He explains that the individual is driven into political society by inconveniences of his natural conditions rather than by nature itself. Men are motivated to form a civil society by their desire to avoid the annoyances of the state of nature and not by the fear of destruction. A government might better guard natural justice and avoid the inconveniences that disorder men’s properties in the state of nature. Civil society originates when, for the better administration of the law, people agree to delegate that function. In order to acquire mutual protection, men place the retaliatory use of force under established, settled, objective, known law interpreted by an impartial judge. In addition, the combined force of individuals helps to overcome the strength of rights violators. Men form into societies in order to have the united strength of the entire society to secure and defend their properties and to have standard rules by which everyone may know what is properly his. Power is needed to back and support these standard rules, to give them due execution, and to punish the crimes committed against them. Of course, the power is limited by the purposes for which they were made. The law should be received and permitted by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong and the common measure to settle all controversies. In order to have objective administration of the law, society requires a known and impartial judge with authority to determine all differences according to the established law. Locke explains that it is unreasonable for men to be judges in their own cases because self-interest will be apt to make them partial to themselves and their friends. Locke’s social contract theory sees the establishment of a government as a two-step process. The original compact by which men incorporate into society is one to form a civil society. Once this society is established, the people must then proceed to set up a government. Civil society is derived from the consent of its members. No man, without his consent, can properly be subjected to the political authority of another. Through the social contract, men transfer to the newly created community the power to execute the natural law which is the power they held in the state of nature. The people are the parties to the social compact with each person agreeing with all the others to form one society. Locke states that unanimity is necessary to form the social compact to make an individual a member of civil society. Consent to join a community is binding and cannot be withdrawn. Anyone who refuses to join may go his own way and provide for himself elsewhere. Locke says that by consenting to the agreement to form a political body, each man obligates himself to acquiesce to majority rule. Once an individual has agreed to the original contract he is bound thereafter to accept the decisions of the majority. Why is it that in the original contract unanimous consent be required and in subsequent acts of government only majority approval is necessary? Can’t the majority occasionally exploit its greater power to violate individual rights? The principle of majority rule does not have the immediate and obvious validity that Locke thought it had. Perhaps he considered the establishment of a government as less important than the original agreement that makes a civil society. Of course, he did argue that an individual’s rights are less severely threatened by majority rule than by monarchist absolutism. He wanted political society to be constructed so that it would be unable to oppress its citizens. Locke attributes no special wisdom to the majority and seems to base his argument on expediency and the law of the greater force. In a democracy the majority will have the greater force and will prevail. Locke furthers the fiction of a social contract with the additional fictions of unanimous consent and tacit consent. He explains that if anyone accepts the benefits of a government he has tacitly consented to the conditions the government imposes on him. Locke understood that most people live under a government that they never explicitly authorized to make decisions for them but have given their tacit consent. He says that a government is legitimate because its power derived from the people who gave their consent at its formation and that any person who is born within a particular government and accepts the protection supplied by it gives tacit consent as to the government’s legitimacy. Locke realizes that the main powers of a government ought to be separated because it may be too great a temptation for the same individuals who have the power of making laws to also have the power to execute them. He explains that legislative power is superior to executive power and that the power of the government must be limited by law. Limited rule is justified under a government that gains its authority from the people and holds its power in trust for their benefit. Being responsible to the people, the government’s power is limited by moral law and by constitutional traditions and conventions. Locke states that the legislature should be a representative body subject to periodic re-election. He says that federative power, as a member of the international community, should be in the same hands as executive power which achieves peace, order, and security of property. According to Locke, the protection of property is the principal business of the government because there is a natural right to property that antedates the establishment of civil society. The survival of each person requires that he be able to use material objects to sustain his life. Because God wants each individual person to live and prosper, he instituted the right to property as a corollary to the right to life. Locke’s supposition is that God gave the earth and its fruits to all men in common. It follows that in the state of nature property was common in that every person had the right to gain subsistence from whatever nature provided. Originally, nobody had a private domain exclusive of the rest of mankind. God not only gave the world to men in common, he also gave them reason to make use of it. The problem that Locke faced was to explain how commonly available resources can become legitimate private property to the exclusion of the right of other men. Locke employs the principle of individuation in the world to explain how collective property can become individual private property. He says that a person transfers his individuality into matter through his own labor. This individuates and decommunalizes property. Private property does not and cannot come about by universal consent. According to Locke, natural man enjoys property in his own person which is the foundation of all other property. This concept of self-ownership is the cornerstone of individualism and personal freedom. Every man owns not only his own person but also his own labor. It follows that people can legitimately turn common property into private property by mixing their labor with it thereby using and improving it. Because individuals mixed their bodies in the form of their labor with unowned (free) resources, they created something new that was their property. What a person does when he applies his labor to a natural object is to endow it with certain attributes belonging to one’s own mode of existence. The Lockean view is that the quality of the owner’s very personality is embodied in his property. The right to private property arises because by labor man can extend his own personality into the objects created. This natural right to private property exists even in the primitive society of the state of nature. The right to private property precedes civil law and is grounded in natural moral law. Nature itself severely limits property in the state of nature. The natural fact of spoilage drastically limits property in the state of nature and acts as a type of rule to maintain a fair distribution of goods in the state of nature. This leads Locke to proclaim that spoilage limits the right of clear and exclusive acquisition in the state of nature. Private property is thus limited to as much as anyone can make use of before it spoils. Men should not allow things to go to waste in the state of nature. We could say that nature has put both a moral and a practical limit on the amount of property that anyone can accumulate. The limit is not defined by the amount of what is owned but only by the consequences of the ownership. As long as nothing spoils in one’s possession, it makes no difference how much property he owns. Property ownership is thus qualified to as much as anyone can make use of to any advantages of life before it spoils. This is known as the “Lockean proviso.” Locke believed that greater productivity of some would raise the general standard of living. He says that a person is wrong to think that a man deprives others by enclosing land and cultivating it for his own use. It follows that all his neighbors benefit because cultivated land is more productive. The poor frequently gain as an unintended consequence of the acquisitive actions of others. Because the productive use of resources by one person tends to enrich everyone, we could say that men’s interests are not in conflict and that wealth is not a static quantity – one man’s gain is also everyone else’s gain. Locke recognized that spoilage is a necessary, applicable, and effective means toward fair distribution only in the case of a scarcity of perishable goods. The invention of money renders the accumulation of property essentially harmless and avoids the disadvantages inherent in the original natural limits to property ownership in the state of nature. The invention of money, which does not spoil, made it desirable and reasonable for a person to produce more than was required for his family’s immediate needs (i.e., more than they could consume before it spoiled). Men could exchange money for perishable and other goods. There would be no limit to the private acquisition of wealth if held in the form of money. Without money, a person had no incentive to expand his holdings and produce a surplus. Money came into existence through a natural mutual consent process in the state of nature. Through this process the most durable and easily tradable commodity ultimately becomes acceptable as a money commodity. Locke’s theory of the origins of social institutions provided the framework for his consent theory of money. Money allows the more talented, rational, and industrious to create more, to accumulate the products of their labor, and to increase their wealth relative to others. According to Locke, money makes possible a benevolent form of property accumulation that enriches some without making others poorer. Locke thought that labor was the major creator of economic value but that the market or relative value or the price of an object depended upon its usefulness and scarcity rather than the amount of labor embodied in it. In Locke’s system one earned property through his own efforts, but the value of that property was determined by the market. It follows that Locke’s writings implied no theory of labor exploitation. There is no evidence that Locke believed there would be a relationship between the amount of labor that goes into a product and its market price. Locke explains that money so transformed the conditions of the state of nature that it was no longer desirable for men to live together without greater protection for their possessions. Lockean man therefore quits the state of nature and forms into civil society for the protection of his life, liberty, and estate. Locke sees the economy as logically prior to government and explains that government arises to remedy inconveniences that occur in the state of nature. The purposes of the government are to protect property, to keep order, and to provide a peaceful environment in which each person can freely pursue his own ends. Locke says that some government regulation of trade is necessary to protect and foster commercial interests. Here he is talking about procedural rather than substantive regulation. Permissible regulation for Locke includes contract enforcement, dispute adjudication, and the registration of deeds and titles. As an advocate of free markets, he is against the regulation of interest rates on both economic and moral grounds Locke’s reflections on the interest rate show that he is strongly against fixing the rate of interest by law. At the end of the Second Treatise Locke speaks about the nature of illegitimate governments and the conditions under which rebellion is legitimate and appropriate. He says that an illegitimate civil government violates the national rights of its citizens and puts itself into a state of war with them. Whenever legislation attempts to take away or destroy people’s property or reduces them to slavery the government puts itself into a state of war with the people in such cases Locke defended the moral right of revolution to resist tyranny. In his writings on toleration, Locke teaches that religious persecution by the state is wrong and that the use of force to get people to hold certain beliefs is illegitimate. He says that the persecution of religious diversity generates turmoil and that religion should be treated as a purely private and individual matter. Churches are said to be voluntary private organizations with equal legitimacy before the law. Boundaries separating church and state should be fixed and immovable. A secular state provides for peace, order, and safety. Public force can protect life and property but it cannot persuade one’s conscience. Eternal salvation cannot be forwarded through coercive measures. Government force must be separated from the mind – ideas cannot be forced. Locke says that because the mind is fallible we ought to tolerate one another’s opinions. Religion is a matter of faith and faith is a matter of inner conviction. The purpose of religion is to help people attain salvation in the hereafter. He explains that “social justice” is not a concern of the church but rather is the business of the civil society only. Locke contends that religion is entirely outside the jurisdiction of the state but he does also say that atheists and Catholics are not to be tolerated! The exception to his support of religious toleration with regard to atheists is based on the idea that the existence of the state depends on a contract, and the obligation of that contract (like all moral law), depends upon the will of God. Locke explains that promises, covenants, and oaths, which constitute the bounds of civil society, can have no hold on atheists. He is also concerned that members of the Catholic Church are potentially dangerous and may pose an additional threat to the social order.


What is the natural law theory?

What Is the Theory of Natural Law? – Natural law is a theory of ethics that says that human beings possess intrinsic values that govern our reasoning and behavior. It states that there are universal moral standards that are seen across time periods and societies because these standards form the basis of a just society.

How does the idea of natural law contribute to the idea of natural right?

About this Collection The natural law and natural rights tradition emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries and argues that the world is governed by natural laws which are discoverable by human reason. A key aspect of this intellectual tradition is the notion that natural rights are not created by governments.

17th Century Natural Rights Theorists The French Englightenment The Scottish Enlightenment The Founding Fathers of the US Constitution 19th Century Natural Rights Theorists

And the 19th Century Utilitarians which did not. For further reading on this topic see the works listed below:

Which of the following philosophers does not agree that there such a thing as human nature?

Criticism of the concept of human nature (Hull) Philosopher of science David L. Hull has influentially argued that there is no such thing as human nature.

What was John Locke’s view on human nature?

John Locke For him, human nature is guided by tolerance and reason. The State of Nature is pre-political, but it is not pre-moral. Persons are assumed to be equal to one another in such a state, and therefore equally capable of discovering and being bound by the Law of Nature.

What is Locke’s view of humans in the state of nature?

Two Treatises of Government – Two Treatises of Government, Locke’s most important and influential work on political theory, was first published anonymously in 1689. It is divided into the First Treatise and the Second Treatise, The First Treatise is focused on the refutation of Sir Robert Filmer, in particular his Patriarcha, which argued that civil society was founded on a divinely sanctioned patriarchalism.

Locke proceeds through Filmer’s arguments, contesting his proofs from Scripture and ridiculing them as senseless, until concluding that no government can be justified by an appeal to the divine right of kings. The Second Treatise outlines a theory of civil society. Locke begins by describing the state of nature, a picture much more stable than Thomas Hobbes’ state of “war of every man against every man,” and argues that all men are created equal in the state of nature by God.

He goes on to explain the hypothetical rise of property and civilization, in the process explaining that the only legitimate governments are those that have the consent of the people. Therefore, any government that rules without the consent of the people can, in theory, be overthrown.

Locke’s political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Similarly to Hobbes, he assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society.

However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day. He also advocated governmental separation of powers, and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances.

What is natural law and example?

Examples – Consider the following examples Example 1: You are a passenger on a ship sailing across the ocean. Suddenly, your ship is overtaken in a powerful storm. You escape to a lifeboat with 25 other passengers. You notice that four of the passengers are badly injured, and unlikely to survive for more than a week.

  • You also know that the lifeboat only has enough food and water to sustain 22 passengers.
  • Some of the other passengers are considering throwing the four injured passengers overboard in order to save the other survivors.
  • If you were a natural law theorist, how would you solve this ethical dilemma? Acts of violence, like murder, work against our ‘humanly purpose’ to live a good life.

Therefore, throwing the injured passengers overboard is an unnatural act and contrary to natural law. Even if their deaths would ensure the survival of the 22 other passengers, the act of murder is against our human nature. Natural law forbids killing the injured passengers under any circumstances.

A law against murder is a just law under the natural law theory. You are a doctor at a busy hospital. Every day you must turn sick patients away because you don’t have enough beds to accommodate them. You treat an elderly patient who is dying of a painful illness. The illness is terminal and will kill the patient within a few weeks.

You know that high amounts of pain medications will provide your patient with some comfort in his last weeks, but you also know that the medication will cause the patient to die within a matter of days. If your patient dies, a bed will be available for a new patient to receive treatment.

What is meant by natural right?

Some philosophers distinguish two types of rights, natural rights and legal rights,

  • Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are universal, fundamental and inalienable (they cannot be repealed by human laws, though one can forfeit their enjoyment through one’s actions, such as by violating someone else’s rights). Natural law is the law of natural rights.
  • Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system (they can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws). The concept of positive law is related to the concept of legal rights.
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Natural law first appeared in ancient Greek philosophy, and was referred to by Roman philosopher Cicero, It was subsequently alluded to in the Bible, and then developed in the Middle Ages by Catholic philosophers such as Albert the Great and his pupil Thomas Aquinas,

During the Age of Enlightenment, the concept of natural laws was used to challenge the divine right of kings, and became an alternative justification for the establishment of a social contract, positive law, and government – and thus legal rights – in the form of classical republicanism, Conversely, the concept of natural rights is used by others to challenge the legitimacy of all such establishments.

The idea of human rights derives from theories of natural rights. Those rejecting a distinction between human rights and natural rights view human rights as the successor that is not dependent on natural law, natural theology, or Christian theological doctrine,

Natural rights, in particular, are considered beyond the authority of any government or international body to dismiss. The 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an important legal instrument enshrining one conception of natural rights into international soft law, Natural rights were traditionally viewed as exclusively negative rights, whereas human rights also comprise positive rights.

Even on a natural rights conception of human rights, the two terms may not be synonymous. The concept of natural rights is not universally accepted, partly due to its religious associations and perceived incoherence. Some philosophers argue that natural rights do not exist and that legal rights are the only rights; for instance, Jeremy Bentham called natural rights “simple nonsense”.

What is natural law quizlet?

What is Natural Law? Natural Law refers to the moral laws of God which have been built into the structure of humanity. It is a moral guide towards which human beings naturally incline. It is based on the concept of a final cause or purpose which determines everything’s proper natural use of goal.

What did John Locke say about natural rights?

Natural Rights – The members of the Continental Congress made only two minor changes in the opening paragraphs of Jefferson’s draft declaration. In these two paragraphs, Jefferson developed some key ideas: “all men are created equal,” “inalienable rights,” “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Where did Jefferson get these ideas? Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment,

  1. This was the period during the 17th and 18th centuries when thinkers turned to reason and science to explain both the physical universe and human behavior.
  2. Those like Jefferson thought that by discovering the “laws of nature” humanity could be improved.
  3. Jefferson did not invent the ideas that he used to justify the American Revolution.

He himself said that he had adopted the “harmonizing sentiments of the day.” These ideas were, so to speak, “in the air” at the time. As a man of the Enlightenment, Jefferson was well acquainted with British history and political philosophy. He also had read the statements of independence drafted by Virginia and other colonies as well as the writings of fellow revolutionaries like Tom Paine and George Mason,

In composing the declaration, Jefferson followed the format of the English Declaration of Rights, written after the Glorious Revolution of 1689. Most scholars today believe that Jefferson derived the most famous ideas in the Declaration of Independence from the writings of English philosopher John Locke,

Locke wrote his Second Treatise of Government in 1689 at the time of England’s Glorious Revolution, which overthrew the rule of James II. Locke wrote that all individuals are equal in the sense that they are born with certain “inalienable” natural rights.

That is, rights that are God-given and can never be taken or even given away. Among these fundamental natural rights, Locke said, are “life, liberty, and property.” Locke believed that the most basic human law of nature is the preservation of mankind. To serve that purpose, he reasoned, individuals have both a right and a duty to preserve their own lives.

Murderers, however, forfeit their right to life since they act outside the law of reason. Locke also argued that individuals should be free to make choices about how to conduct their own lives as long as they do not interfere with the liberty of others.

  • Locke therefore believed liberty should be far-reaching.
  • By “property,” Locke meant more than land and goods that could be sold, given away, or even confiscated by the government under certain circumstances.
  • Property also referred to ownership of one’s self, which included a right to personal well being.

Jefferson, however, substituted the phrase, “pursuit of happiness,” which Locke and others had used to describe freedom of opportunity as well as the duty to help those in want. The purpose of government, Locke wrote, is to secure and protect the God-given inalienable natural rights of the people.

  1. For their part, the people must obey the laws of their rulers.
  2. Thus, a sort of contract exists between the rulers and the ruled.
  3. But, Locke concluded, if a government persecutes its people with “a long train of abuses” over an extended period, the people have the right to resist that government, alter or abolish it, and create a new political system.

Jefferson adopted John Locke’s theory of natural rights to provide a reason for revolution. He then went on to offer proof that revolution was necessary in 1776 to end King George’s tyranny over the colonists.

Why does Locke think property is a natural right?

Exclusive ownership and creation – Locke argued in support of individual property rights as natural rights, Following the argument the fruits of one’s labor are one’s own because one worked for it. Furthermore, the laborer must also hold a natural property right in the resource itself because exclusive ownership was immediately necessary for production.

How does this natural law theory apply to everyone?

In this view humans have reasoning and the Laws of Nature are discernable by human reason. Thus, humans are morally obliged to use their reasoning to discern what the laws are and then to act in conformity with them. Humans have a natural drive to eat, drink, sleep and procreate. These actions are in accord with a natural law for species to survive and procreate. Thus activities in conformity with such a law are morally good. Activities that work against that law are morally wrong. As an example consider that to eat too much or too little and place life in jeopardy is morally wrong. Natural Law Theory can be held and applied to human conduct by both theists and atheists. The atheist uses reason to discover the laws governing natural events and applies them to thinking about human action. Actions in accord with such natural law are morally correct. Those that go against such natural laws are morally wrong. For the theists there is a deity that created all of nature and created the laws as well and so obedience to those laws and the supplement to those laws provided by the deity is the morally correct thing to do. For atheists there is still the belief that humans have reasoning ability and with it the laws of nature are discernable. For atheists who accept this approach to act in keeping with the laws of nature is the morally correct thing to do. What are the laws of nature that provide guidance for human actions? These would include: the law of survival, the natural action for living things to maintain themselves and to reproduce, etc. It is a major problem for this theory to determine what exactly those laws are and how they apply to human circumstances. READ about this theory here> READ THE ETHICS OF NATURAL LAW by C.E. Harris ************************************************** This is from wikipedia The Roman Catholic Church understands natural law to be immanent in nature; this understanding is in large part due to the influence of Thomas Aquinas ( 1225 – 1274 A.D.), often as filtered through the School of Salamanca, It understands human beings to consist of body and mind, the physical and the non-physical (or soul perhaps) and that the two are inextricably linked. It describes human persons as being inclined toward the good, There are many manifestations of the good that we can pursue, some, like procreation, are common to other animals, while others, like the pursuit of truth, are inclinations peculiar to the capacities of human beings.

Drunkness is wrong because it injures the health and worse, destroys one’s ability to reason, which is fundamental to man as a rational animal. Theft is wrong because it destroys social relations, and man is by nature a social animal.

Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked the natural law in his ” Letter from Birmingham Jail “, stating that the man-made (positive) laws that he broke were not in accord with the moral law or the Law of God (natural law). Hugo Grotius based his philosophy of international law on natural law.

  • In particular, his writings on freedom of the seas and just war theory directly appealed to natural law.
  • About natural law itself, he wrote that “even the will of an omnipotent being cannot change or abrogate” natural law, which “would maintain its objective validity even if we should assume the impossible, that there is no God or that he does not care for human affairs.” ( De iure belli ac pacis, Prolegomeni XI).

This the famous argument etiamsi daremus ( non esse Deum ), that made natural law no longer dependent on theology. ******************************************************************* The theory also utilizes the Principle of the DOUBLE EFFECT whereby some morally incorrect result or evil is morally acceptable provided that those who brought it about entered into actions with the only purpose(s) being to bring about some morally good end.

the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral; the agent intends the good effect and does not intend the bad effect either as a means to the good or as an end in itself; the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm.

Examples In Medicine The principle of double effect is frequently cited in cases of pregnancy and abortion, A doctor who believes abortion is always morally wrong may still remove the uterus or fallopian tubes of a pregnant woman, knowing the procedure will cause the death of the embryo or fetus, in cases in which the woman is certain to die without the procedure (examples cited include aggressive uterine cancer and ectopic pregnancy ).

In these cases, the intended effect is to save the woman’s life, not to terminate the pregnancy, and the effect of not performing the procedure would result in the greater evil of the death of both the mother and the fetus. In cases of terminally ill patients who would hasten their deaths because of unbearable pain, or whose caregivers would do so for them ( euthanasia, medical aid in dying, etc.), a principle of “double effect death” could be applied to justify the deliberate administration of a pain-killer in potentially unsafe dosesnot in an attempt to end life but to relieve the pain suffered as it is considered harmful to the patient.

The U.S. Supreme Court has voiced support for this principle in its deliberations over the constitutionality of medical aid in dying. See also INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY READ: h ttp:// *********************************

Who is the philosopher who emphasized that as human beings we do not only have rights but also duties toward the community?

Kant wrote his social and political philosophy in order to champion the Enlightenment in general and the idea of freedom in particular. His work came within both the natural law and the social contract traditions. Kant held that every rational being had both an innate right to freedom and a duty to enter into a civil condition governed by a social contract in order to realize and preserve that freedom.

His writings on political philosophy consist of one book and several shorter works. The “Doctrine of Right”, Part One of his two-part Metaphysics of Morals and first published as a stand-alone book in February 1797, contains virtually every directly political topic he treats. Other shorter works include a useful short summary of his discussion of the basis and role of the state in the second section of the essay “Theory and Practice”, an extended discussion of international relations in the essay “Toward Perpetual Peace”, and the essay “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?.” Other published material relevant to the topics include material on history, on practical philosophy in general, and, for his social philosophy, his work on religion, education, and anthropology.

Kant also offered a biennial lecture course on “Natural Right”, a student’s (Feyerabend) transcript of which is available in English translation.

Who is the philosopher that believes that virtue is not the end but the means to attain perfection?

3. Noble – Aristotle says plainly and repeatedly what it is that moral virtue is for the sake of, but the translators are afraid to give it to you straight. Most of them say it is the noble, One of them says it is the fine, If these answers went past you without even registering, that is probably because they make so little sense.

To us, the word “noble” probably connotes some sort of high-minded naiveté, something hopelessly impractical. But Aristotle considers moral virtue the only practical road to effective action. The word “fine” is of the same sort but worse, suggesting some flimsy artistic soul who couldn’t endure rough treatment, while Aristotle describes moral virtue as the most stable and durable condition in which we can meet all obstacles.

The word the translators are afraid of is to kalon, the beautiful. Aristotle singles out as the distinguishing mark of courage, for example, that it is always “for the sake of the beautiful, for this is the end of virtue.” (111 S b, 12-13) Of magnificence, or large-scale philanthropy, he says it is “for the sake of the beautiful, for this is common to the virtues.” (1122 b, 78) What the person of good character loves with right desire and thinks of as an end with right reason must first be perceived as beautiful.

  • The Loeb translator explains why he does not use the word “beautiful” in the Nicomachean Ethics,
  • He tells us to kalon has two different uses, and refers both to “(1) bodies well shaped and works of art well made, and (2) actions well done.” (p.6) But we have already noticed that Aristotle says the judgment of what is morally right belongs to sense-perception.

And he explicitly compares the well made work of art to an act that springs from moral virtue. Of the former, people say that it is not possible add anything to it or take anything from it, and Aristotle says that virtue differs from art in that respect only in being more precise and better.

1106b, 10-15) An action is right in the same way a painting might get everything just right. Antigone contemplates in her imagination the act of burying her brother, and says “it would be a beautiful thing to die doing this.” ( Antigone, line 72) This is called “courage.” Neoptolemus stops Philoctetes from killing Odysseus with the bow he has just returned, and says “neither for me nor for you is this a beautiful thing.” ( Philoctetes, line 1304) This is a recognition that the rightness of returning the bow would be spoiled if it were used for revenge.

This is not some special usage of the Greek language, but one that speaks to us directly, if the translators let it. And it is not a kind of language that belongs only to poetic tragedy, since the tragedians find their subjects by recognizing human virtue in circumstances that are most hostile to it.

In the most ordinary circumstances, any mother might say to a misbehaving child, in plain English, “don’t be so ugly.” And any of us, parent, friend, or grudging enemy, might on occasion say to someone else, “that was a beautiful thing you did.” Is it by some wild coincidence that twentieth-century English and fourth-century BC Greek link the same pair of uses under one word? Aristotle is always alert to the natural way that important words have more than one meaning.

The inquiry in his Metaphysics is built around the progressive narrowing of the word “being” until its primary meaning is discovered. In the Physics the various senses of motion and change are played on like the keyboard of a piano, and serve to uncover the double source of natural activity.

  1. The inquiry into ethics is not built in this fashion; Aristotle asks about the way the various meanings of the good are organized, but he immediately drops the question, as being more at home in another sort of philosophic inquiry.
  2. 1096b, 26-32) It is widely claimed that Aristotle says there is no good itself, or any other form at all of the sort spoken of in Plato’s dialogues.

This is a misreading of any text of Aristotle to which it is referred. Here in the study of ethics it is a failure to see that the idea of the good is not rejected simply, but only held off as a question that does not arise as first for us. Aristotle praises Plato for understanding that philosophy does not argue from first principles but toward them.

(1095a, 31-3) But while Aristotle does not make the meanings of the good an explicit theme that shapes his inquiry, he nevertheless does plainly lay out its three highest senses, and does narrow down the three into two and indirectly into one. He tells us there are three kinds of good toward which our choices look, the pleasant, the beautiful, and the beneficial or advantageous.

(1104b, 31-2) The last of these is clearly subordinate to the other two, and when the same issue comes up next, it has dropped out of the list. The goods sought for their own sake are said to be of only two kinds, the pleasant and the beautiful. (1110b, 9-12) That the beautiful is the primary sense of the good is less obvious, both because the pleasant is itself resolved into a variety of senses, and because a whole side of virtue that we are not considering in this lecture aims at the true, but we can sketch out some ways in which the beautiful emerges as the end of human action.

Aristotle’s first description of moral virtue required that the one acting choose an action knowingly, out of a stable equilibrium of the soul, and for its own sake. The knowing in question turned out to be perceiving things as they are, as a result of the habituation that clears our sight. The stability turned out to come from the active condition of all the powers of the soul, in the mean position opened up by that same habituation, since it neutralized an earlier, opposite, and passive habituation to self-indulgence.

In the accounts of the particular moral virtues, an action’s being chosen for its own sake is again and again specified as meaning chosen for no reason other than that it is beautiful. In Book III, chapter 8, Aristotle refuses to give the name courageous to anyone who acts bravely for the sake of honor, out of shame, from experience that the danger is not as great as it seems, out of spiritedness or anger or the desire for revenge, or from optimism or ignorance.

  1. Genuinely courageous action is in no obvious way pleasant, and is not chosen for that reason, but there is according to Aristotle a truer pleasure inherent in it.
  2. It doesn’t need pleasure dangled in front of it as an extra added attraction.
  3. Lasting and satisfying pleasure never comes to those who seek pleasure, but only to the philokalos, who looks past pleasure to the beautiful.

(1099a, 15-17, 13) In our earlier example of temperance, I think most of us would readily agree that the one who had his eye only the chocolate mousse found less pleasure than the one who saw that it would be a better thing to share it. And Aristotle does say explicitly that the target the temperate person looks to is the beautiful.

  1. 1119b, 15-17) But since there are three primary moral virtues, courage, temperance, and justice, it is surprising that in the whole of Book V, which discusses justice, Aristotle never mentions the beautiful.
  2. It must somehow be applicable, since he says it is common to all the moral virtues, but in that case it would seem that the account of justice could not be complete if it is not connected to the beautiful.

I think this does happen, but in an unexpected way. Justice seems to be not only a moral virtue, but in some pre-eminent way the moral virtue. And Aristotle says that there is a sense of the word in which the one we call “just” is the person who has all moral virtue, insofar as it affects other people.

1129b, 26-7) In spite of all this, I believe that Aristotle treats justice as something inherently inadequate, a condition of the soul that cannot ever achieve the end at which it aims. Justice concerns itself with the right distribution of rewards and punishments within a community. This would seem to be the chief aim of the lawmakers, but Aristotle says that they do not take justice as seriously as friendship.

They accord friendship a higher moral stature than justice. (1155a, 23-4) It seems to me now that Aristotle does too, and that the discussion of friendship in Books VIII and IX replaces that of justice. What is the purpose of reward and punishment? I take Aristotle’s answer to be homonoia, the like-mindedness that allows a community to act in concord.

For the sake of this end, he says, it is not good enough that people be just, while if they are friends they have no need to be just: (1155a, 24-9) So far, this sounds as though friendship is merely something advantageous for the social or political good, but Aristotle immediately adds that it is also beautiful.

The whole account of friendship, you will recall, is structured around the threefold meaning of the good. Friendships are distinguished as being for use, for pleasure, or for love of the friend’s character. Repeatedly, after raising questions about the highest kind of friendship, Aristotle resolves them by looking to the beautiful: it is a beautiful thing to do favors for someone freely, without expecting a return (1163a, 1, 1168a, 10-13); even in cases of urgent necessity, when there is a choice about whom to benefit, one should first decide whether the scale tips toward the necessary or the beautiful thing (1165a, 4-5 ); to use money to support our parents is always more beautiful than to use it for ourselves (1165a, 22-4); someone who strives to achieve the beautiful in action would never be accused of being selfish (1168b, 25-8).

These observations culminate in the claim that, “if all people competed for the beautiful, and strained to do the most beautiful things, everything people need in common, and the greatest good for each in particular, would be achieved for the person of moral stature will forego money, honor, and all the good things people fight over to achieve the beautiful for himself.” (1169a, 8-11, 20-22) This does not mean that people can do without such things as money and honor, but that the distribution of such things takes care of itself when people take each other seriously and look to something higher.

The description of the role of the beautiful in moral virtue is most explicit in the discussion of courage, where the emphasis is on the great variety of things that resemble courage but fail to achieve it because they are not solely for the sake of the beautiful.

  • That discussion is therefore mostly negative.
  • We can now see that the discussion of justice was also of a negative character, since justice itself resembles the moral virtue called “friendship” without achieving it, again because it does not govern its action by looking to the beautiful.
  • The discussion of friendship contains the largest collection of positive examples of actions that are beautiful.

There is something of a tragic feeling to the account of courage, pointing to the extreme situation of war in which nothing might be left to choose but a beautiful death. But the account of friendship points to the healthy community, in which civil war and other conflicts are driven away by the choice of what is beautiful in life.

  1. 1155a, 24-7) By the end of the ninth book, there is no doubt that Aristotle does indeed believe in a primary sense of the good, at least in the human realm, and that the name of this highest good is the beautiful.
  2. And it should be noticed that the beautiful is at work not only in the human realm.
  3. In De Anima, Aristotle argues that, while the soul moves itself in the act of choice, the ultimate source of its motion is the practical good toward which it looks, which causes motion while it is itself motionless.

(433a, 29-30, b, 11-13) This structure of the motionless first mover is taken up in Book XII of the Metaphysics, where Aristotle argues that the order of the cosmos depends on such a source, which causes motion in the manner of something loved; he calls this source, as one of its names, “the beautiful,” that which is beautiful not in seeming but in being.

  • 1072a, 26-b, 4) Like Diotima in Plato’s Symposium, Aristotle makes the beautiful the good itself.
  • A final word, on the fact that the beautiful in the Ethics is not an object of contemplation simply, but the source of action: In an article on the Poetics, I discussed the intimate connection of beauty with the experience of wonder.

The sense of wonder seems to be the way of seeing which allows things to appear as what they are, since it holds off our tendencies to make things fit into theories or opinions we already hold, or use things for purposes that have nothing to do with them.

But this is what Aristotle says repeatedly is the ultimate effect of moral virtue, that the one who has it sees truly and judges rightly, since only to someone of good character do the things that are beautiful appear as they truly are (1113 a, 29-35), that practical wisdom depends on moral virtue to make its aim right (1144a, 7-9), and that the eye of the soul that sees what is beautiful as the end or highest good of action gains its active state only with moral virtue (1144a, 26-33).

It is only in the middle ground between habits of acting and between principles of action that the soul can allow right desire and right reason to make their appearance, as the direct and natural response of a free human being to the sight of the beautiful.

Who is the philosopher who believed that man has no innate idea in theory and in practice and that instead our ideas come from two sources sensation and reflection?

BRITISH EMPIRICISM From The History of Philosophy: A Short Survey James Fieser Revised 6/1/2020 CONTENTS A. Introduction B. Locke No Innate Ideas Simple and Complex Ideas Primary and Secondary Qualities Natural Rights and Revolution C. Berkeley Idealism: No Materials Objects Arguments against Material Objects God and Evil D.

Hume Origin and Association of Ideas Personal Identity and Causality Belief in Miracles Morality: Reason vs. Emotion Radical Skepticism and Natural Belief Reading 1: Locke against Innate Ideas ( Essay 1.2) Reading 2: Berkeley against Material Objects ( Three Dialogues, 1 and 2) Reading 3: Hume against a Continuous Self ( Treatise, 1.4.6) Study Questions A.

INTRODUCTION During the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries, Britain certainly had its fair share of rationalist philosophers, particularly of the Platonist variety. However, Britains philosophy was soon dominated by an alternative and more scientific view that knowledge is gained primarily or mainly through the five senses.

  1. We see this presumption in Francis Bacons statement that in our efforts to understand nature we can can act and understand no further than,
  2. Observed in either the operation or the contemplation of the method and order of nature ( New Organon, 1.1).
  3. Direct experience is foundational for obtaining knowledge, and this position is known as empiricism,

During the first half of the 18 th century, three great philosophersLocke, Berkeley and Humeargued for this approach, thus forming a philosophical movement known as British empiricism. Contrary to the 17 th century rationalist philosophers in Continental Europe, these British empiricists largely denied the role of innate ideas and deduction in the quest for knowledge.

  1. Instead, they argued, knowledge comes from sensory experience and inductive reasoning.B.
  2. LOCKE The originator of British empiricism was John Locke (16321704), who was born into a Puritan family near Bristol, England, his father being an attorney and government official.
  3. He studied at Oxford University and later worked there in various positions, where he took particular interest in the writings of Descartes and other modern thinkers.

The direction of Lockes life shifted dramatically when he accepted employment as the household physician of a prominent British politician who founded the radical Whig party, which opposed the absolute rule of the British monarchy. As public opposition to the King was on the increase during this period, Lockes association with the Whigs forced him to flee to the Netherlands for his safety.

  1. He returned home after the King was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and subsequently published a steady stream of books that he had been working on for some time.
  2. The books were instant sensations, and his reputation skyrocketed, rivaling that of Newton.
  3. He died at age 72, never having married or produced children.

Locke wrote on a range of subjects, including politics, religion, economics and education. His fame as a philosopher, though, rests on his work in two distinct areas. First, as a metaphysical philosopher he expounded the empiricist position that there are no innate ideas and all knowledge comes from experience.

  • He sets this out in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).
  • Second, as a political philosopher he developed the notion of natural rights in his Two Treatises of Government (1690).
  • We will look at each of these.
  • No Innate Ideas Throughout the history of philosophy it was common to hold that human beings are born with a special set of ideasinnate ideasthat guide us in our quest for truth and certainty.

In ancient times Plato held that we have an inborn knowledge of the perfect Forms of justice, piety, goodness, and countless others. In the Renaissance John Calvin held that we are all born with a sense of God. Descartes, the leading Continental rationalist, held that we have an innate idea of ourselves and of infinite perfection.

  1. When looking at this long history of belief in innate ideas, Locke said that enough was enough, and he launched a powerful attack on the very concept.
  2. For Locke, we simply have no innate ideas, and all notions that we have come to us through experience.
  3. Its important to recognize that Locke was not critical of other types of innate human characteristics, such as coughing or blinking, which are inborn muscle reflexes.

His attack focuses exclusively on the ideas that we are born with. The movie Close Encounters of a Third Kind illustrates the features of an innate idea. The lead character has an idea of a mountain embedded in his mind by some aliens from outer space.

The idea obsesses him to the point that one evening at the supper table he scoops a pile of mashed potatoes onto his plate and then shapes it into the image he has of the mountain. While Lockes attack on innate ideas certainly applies to the views of Descartes and other Continental rationalists, they were not his immediate target.

Instead, according to Locke, there are two types of innate ideas that philosophers commonly allege: speculative ones and practical ones. Good examples of speculative innate ideas, he argues, are the foundational logical concepts that are sometimes dubbed laws of thought and associated with Aristotle.

  • Chief among these is the law of identity which simply states that an object is the same as itself, or, in more formal terms, A=A.
  • The chair in front of me is identical to the chair in front of me.
  • The tree in the yard is identical to the tree in the yard.
  • While this seems to be a painfully obvious truth, it does play an important role in logical systems.

Next, there is the law of non-contradiction, which Aristotle himself states as follows: It is impossible for the same thing to belong and not to belong at the same time to the same thing and in the same respect ( Metaphysics, 4.3). The point can be stated more formally as not (P and not P), that is, it is not the case that P and its opposite not-P obtain at the same time.

It is impossible for the chair in front of me to exist and not exist at the same time. It is impossible for the apple on the table to be completely red and not completely red at the same time. The second type of alleged innate idea involves practical ones, that is, ideas that regulate moral behavioral practices.

Examples of these, according to Locke, are the famous five common notions of religion and morality proposed by British philosopher Edward Herbert (1583-1648), They are (1) There exists a supreme God, (2) We should worship God, (3) The best form of worship is proper moral behavior, (4) We should repent for our immoral conduct, (5) We will be rewarded or punished in the afterlife for our conduct on earth.

Herbert argued that all humans have an inborn knowledge of these truths and we find these truths exhibited in virtually all religions around the world. Locke has two main arguments against the innateness of ideas, both speculative and practical. First, he argues, people in fact do not universally hold to these ideas, contrary to what defenders of innate ideas typically claim.

This is particularly obvious with the laws of thought, which children and mentally challenged people have no conception of whatsoever: If therefore children and idiots have souls, have minds, with those impressions upon them, they must unavoidably perceive them, and necessarily know and assent to these truths.

Which since they do not, it is evident that there are no such impressions. For if they are not notions naturally imprinted, how can they be innate? and if they are notions imprinted, how can they be unknown? To say a notion is imprinted on the mind, and yet at the same time to say, that the mind is ignorant of it, and never yet took notice of it, is to make this impression nothing.

Lockes second argument is that it makes no sense to hold that such ideas lie dormant within us, and then blossom when we reach the right age, contrary to what defenders of innate ideas commonly claim. Again, particularly with the laws of thought, children reason perfectly well regarding identity and non-contradiction, yet at the same time are completely incapable of articulating those specific ideas.

If these ideas really were innate, then children should be able to verbally express them. As Locke states it, How many instances of the use of reason may we observe in children, a long time before they have any knowledge of this maxim, That it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be? (ibid).

Also, it is obvious that may adults have reached the so-called age of reason, such as the illiterate and those from primitive societies, and yet lack these ideas. These people pass many years, even of their rational age, without ever thinking on this and the like general propositions.

  • Simple and Complex Ideas According to Locke, then, we should completely reject the theory of innate ideas and instead look for the true source of our ideas within human experience.
  • His basic position, which encapsulates the entire empiricist approach, is that the mind is from birth a blank slate (or sheet of white paper in his words), which gets filled with information through experience.

However, the process by which we form our ideas through experience has two main steps. We first acquire simple ideas through experience, and then recombine those simple ideas in different ways to create more complex ideas. Simple ideas are the building blocks from which all other ideas are formed, and, for Locke, there are two main sources of simple ideas.

The first and most obvious source is that they come from sensation, specifically our five senses which give us perceptions of colors, tastes, smells, tactile solidity. The color of blue, the taste of sweetness, the tactile sensation of smoothness, the sound of a high-pitched squeak are all basic sensory experiences that are building bocks for our ideas about the external world.

Second, there are simple ideas that come to us through reflecting on our mental processes; these are ideas of reflection, or introspection as we now call them. I can shut my eyes and think about how my mind operates: how I perceive things through my senses, how I think about problems, how I doubt questionable ideas, how I believe reasonable ideas, how I will to perform actions.

  • According to Locke, This source of ideas every man has wholly in himself; and though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with external objects, yet it is very like it, and might properly enough be called internal sense (ibid, 2.1.3).
  • According to Locke, some of our simple ideas come solely through sensation without any introspective reflection, such as our perceptions of colors, sounds and smells.

Others come solely through introspective reflection, such as our notions of perceptions of the mental acts of thinking and willing. Nothing that we perceive through our five senses will give us ideas of these. Then there is an especially interesting group of simple ideas that we can get either through sensation or introspective reflection.

Pleasure and pain is a good example. I can feel physical pain through my senses as when a candle flame burns me; but I can also experience emotional pain in my mind when a loved one dies. Another example is the notion of causal force, or power as 18 th century philosophers called it. Through my senses, I see a volcano spew out lava with great causal force.

But through introspective reflection I can also experience causal force when I reflect on my own willful decisions, such as when I will to conjure up in my mind the idea of a rock, a tree or a unicorn. My will itself is a causal power. Other ideas that we get through both sensation and reflection are existence, unity, and succession.

  1. For Locke, there are countless simple perceptions that flood into our minds through sensation and reflection, in fact so many that we dont even have names for most of them.
  2. But as we store these raw simple notions in our memories, our minds mechanically shuffle them around and create new ones which he calls complex ideas,

There are three specific mental processes that form complex ideas. First, some are the result of simply combining together more simple ideas. For example, I can get a complex idea of an apple by assembling the simple ideas of roundness, redness, sweetness, and moistness.

  1. Second, some complex ideas involve relations that we get from comparing two things, such as the notions of larger and smaller that I get when comparing two apples of different sizes.
  2. Third, there are complex ideas that result from the mental process of abstraction, such as when I arrive at the abstract notion of roundness by looking at an apple and stripping away all of its attributes except for its being round.

As the mind then churns out complex ideas from simple ones, the complex ideas will be of two types: ideas of substances and ideas of modes. Ideas of substances are those of individual objects such as such as rocks, trees, houses, animals, people and God.

  • Ideas of modes are attributes of those objects that cannot exist independently of them, such as an apples attributes of being round, crunchy and moist.
  • Primary and Secondary Qualities One of Lockes philosophical claims to fame is his development of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities of objects.

The issue involves a distinction between qualities of objects that actually belong to the object itself, and qualities of objects that we impose on them. Suppose, for example, that I made a list of the qualities that I perceive in an apple. It has a round shape, red surface, smooth texture, and a sweet taste.

  1. It also has a particular size and weight.
  2. Some of these qualities are part of the object itself, and others are qualities that I am imposing on the apple.
  3. For Locke, a primary quality is an attribute of that is inseparable for a physical body, and includes solidity, shape, motion, number.
  4. These are components that an object retains, regardless of how we might modify the object, such as by cutting it into pieces.
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He illustrates this by considering changes that we might impose on a grain of wheat: Take a grain of wheat, divide it into two parts; each part has still solidity, extension, figure, and mobility: divide it again, and it retains still the same qualities; and so divide it on, till the parts become insensible; they must retain still each of them all those qualities.

For division (which is all that a mill, or pestle, or any other body, does upon another, in reducing it to insensible parts) can never take away either solidity, extension, figure, or mobility from any body, but only makes two or more distinct separate masses of matter, of that which was but one before; all which distinct masses, reckoned as so many distinct bodies, after division, make a certain number.

No matter how much we grind down the grain of wheat, the parts still retain the qualities of solidity and shape which were inherent in the original grain. In contrast with primary qualities, there are also secondary qualities that are spectator-dependent: we impose the attributes onto objects, and these include colors, sounds, and tastes.

For example, there is something in the apple that makes it appear red to me, but the redness itself does not reside within the apple but instead is a function of my sense organs and biology. The phenomenon of colorblindness is ample proof of this: while the structure of the apple itself might trigger the perception of redness in my mind, I need to have the appropriately designed eyes to have that perception.

So too with other qualities of the apple like taste and smell: the specific sensations of taste and smell directly depend upon the construction of my tongue and nose. Locke adds there is a third type of quality of objects tertiary qualities which involves the power that an object has to produce new ideas or sensations in us.

  1. For example, the mere sight of an apple may produce a feeling of hunger within me.
  2. Being near a fire may produce a feeling of warmth within me.
  3. Perhaps the main difference between secondary and tertiary qualities is that with secondary ones we often improperly mistake them for primary attributes of the objects themselves.

For example, I might just assume that an apples redness is actually part of the apple when, upon reflection, I would see that it clearly isnt. With tertiary qualities, though, we are less apt to make this mistake; for example, I would never presume that my feeling of hunger resides in the apple itself.

  • Aesthetic feelings, such as the sense of beauty I get when viewing a landscape, might also be included among tertiary qualities.
  • Natural Rights and Revolution Lockes empiricist views immediately impacted the direction of philosophy for generations to come, particularly in Great Britain.
  • As influential as Locke was in this regard, however, his impact was even greater with his political philosophy.

Even today, people around the world are familiar with the idea that the function of governments is to protect our freedoms, and citizens are morally entitled to overthrow governments when they fail to perform that task. This was Lockes great political contribution to the civilized world.

Prior to Locke, the standard view of political authority was a position called the divine right of kings. That is, political rulers are put in power by God, and, as Gods representatives on earth, we can never challenge their authority over us. Locke was strongly opposed to this notion, in part because of his personal experience in England where the people recently overthrew their despotic king.

Locke supported the overthrow and composed his Two Treatises of Government (1690) to justify rebellion against bad rulers. The starting point for Lockes theory is the state of nature, that is, the condition that humans were in prior to the creation of societies and governments.

Thomas Hobbes, weve seen, believed that the state of nature is a place of moral chaos, where might makes right, and everyone is perpetually at war with everyone else to gain the upper hand. Locke, though, is a little more optimistic than Hobbes. Yes, the state of nature sometimes can be brutal, but there still are moral rules that everyone must follow.

For Locke, everyone is born with fundamental God-given rights and, even without governments, we have a moral obligation to respect each others rights. The four main natural rights are those of life, health, liberty and possessions: The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

What if someone does violate my rights by mugging me and taking my wallet, for example? Lockes answer is that I am entitled to punish the mugger: every one has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree, as may hinder its violation (ibid, 2.7). By violating my rights, the mugger has thereby forfeited all of his own rights, including his right to life, and at that point I am fully entitled to hunt him down, punish him, and even kill him as I see fit.

The reason for such a harsh reprisal is that, when the mugger attacks me he puts me in a position where Im fully under his control, and, even if he doesnt kill me, I have every reason to assume that he might. The mugger has thus declared war on me and, at that point, I have the right to punish him by any means whatsoever.

While in the state of nature, vigilante justice is the only recourse we have to retaliate against attackers. Once we create a civil society with a government, however, all that changes. Following Hobbes, Locke argues that we create societies by forming a social contract with each other: we agree to mutually set aside our hostilities in the name of preserving peace.

And, to assure that we all follow the rules, we set up a government that has the authority to punish anyone who breaks the rules and thereby violates our basic rights. The whole point of establishing societies and governments to begin with is to preserve our natural rights, particularly, Locke argues, our right to possessions: The reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of their property.

And the end why they choose and authorize a legislative, is, that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the members of the society, to limit the power, and moderate the dominion, of every part and member of the society. What happens, though, when governments fail at their assigned task, and, rather than protecting our rights they undermine them? Locke specifically has in mind a situation in which the government unjustly takes peoples property and reduces them to slavery under arbitrary power (ibid, 222).

His answer is that we are thrown back into a state of war, this time a war with our government. By violating our rights, the government has forfeited its authority over us, and we are fully entitled to remove the offending government and set up a better one: by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.

As necessary as governments are for assuring that individual citizens respect each others rights, the government itself has a responsibility to uphold its part of the social contract; if it fails in that regard, society is entitled to do whats necessary to remove iteven start a full-fledged revolution.

If it comes to that, according to Locke, the blame lies with the government, not with the revolutionaries. Lockes justification for revolution was quite radical in his time, especially when other philosophers were arguing that governments have absolute authority over citizens through a divine right of kings, and can never be overthrown.

  • Within a matter of decades, Lockes rationale was adopted by revolutionary movements in both America and France, as we see specifically in this famous opening to the U.S.
  • Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Locke, weve seen, stressed that revolution is justified particularly when governments violate our property rights. Jefferson, though, deemphasizes our property rights and implies that the governmental violation of any of our fundamental natural rights may justify revolution.C.

BERKELEY The second major figure in British Empiricism was George Berkeley (1685-1753). Born into a moderately wealthy family near Kilkenny, Ireland, his father was a customs officer who migrated there from England. Berkeley received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Trinity College, Dublin, and taught there for some years.

Still in his twenties he, he wrote his two main philosophical works, upon which his fame today rests: A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713). In his thirties he was ordained into the Anglican Church of Ireland and received is Doctor of Divinity degree.

  • Shortly after, he devised a plan to establish a college in the Bermuda Islands to train ministers and missionaries for the colonies.
  • He traveled to Rhode Island to prepare for the project, but after three years abandoned it when governmental funding for it never came through.
  • He then donated land and books to the newly founded Yale College and returned to Ireland.

Back home he was appointed Bishop of Cloyne in south Ireland, a position that he retained for most of the remainder of his life. Berkeleys fame grew with his many publications, one of the most unusual of which was a work called Siris (1744), which details the medical benefits of tar-water, which he learned from Native Americans years earlier.

He died of a stroke at age 67. Idealism: No Material Objects The heart of Berkeleys philosophy is his theory of idealism: material things do not exist, and all reality exists as perceptions within the minds of spirits. The term idealism comes from the word idea insofar as the only things that exist are ideas in ones mind.

In that sense, a term like idea-ism might have better conveyed its meaning. A good way of understanding Berkeleys position is to see it as taking Descartes evil genius hypothesis seriously. Consider again what Descartes suggested. For all I know, there is no material world whatsoever, and all of my experiences are hallucinations that are imposed into my mind by an evil genius.

  • It might appear that I have a body and am sitting on a chair, but it could be that there is no three-dimensional world at all, and an evil genius is just making those things appear in my mind, while my mind itself floats around without any body.
  • Descartes, we noted, did not actually believe this hypothesis, but only proposed it as a strategy for arriving at certainty about the world around us.

Berkeley, however, does take this scenario seriously, although he rejects that there is anything sinister or deceptive about it. This is simply the way that God constructed the world: it is a virtual reality that consists of God continually feeding our spirit-minds sensory information in a very consistent way.

Key here for Berkeley is the regularity and consistency with which God feeds our minds sensory data. God stores all sensible perceptions in his mind in something like a master database and he feeds them to us at the appropriate time. Imagine that I perceive myself to be in a room conversing with five friends.

For Berkeley, the reality is that I and five other spirit-minds are being consistently fed similar sense data by God. Drawing from his master database of perceptions, God feeds us all sense data of walls, tables and chairs within the room. I decide to speak to my friends and say Did you hear the Presidents speech list night? Drawing again from his master database of perceptions, God then interjects sensory data into all of our minds that portray the image of my mouth moving with audible words coming out.

  • One of my friends decides to respond and say The Presidents speech was an insult to the intelligence of everyone in this country! Another friend decides to say I disagree, and think the President properly addressed the concerns of the nation.
  • In each case, God reads the thoughts of my friends and interjects sensory data into all of our minds, thus portraying them speaking.

When were done conversing, we decide to get up and leave the room. We might then ask what happens to the empty room since God is no longer feeding us sense perceptions of it. Does the room go out of existence? According to Berkeley, no it does not: God himself is still perceiving the sensory information about the room and it continues to exist in his mind.

  • Indeed, God continually monitors his master database of perceptions, and thus keeps the perceptions active.
  • Berkeley expresses this point with the idealist motto that to be is to be perceived,
  • That is, external things exist only in our minds or in Gods mind.
  • On face value, the idealist position of denying material objects seems ridiculous.

The vast majority of us believe that we live in a world of material objects that includes physical things like rocks, houses, chairs, and our own bodies. Berkeley, though, takes the opposite view: it is belief in the existence of material objects that is ridiculous.

  1. He writes, It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding.
  2. But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction.

For, what are the fore-mentioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations? and is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived? His point is that when I perceive something like a table, Im not really experiencing any physical thing, but instead Im only receiving sensations.

  1. This sensory data is all that I really know, and it is a colossal fabrication to assume that some physical thing is the source of my perceptions of the table.
  2. Berkeley recognizes that there is indeed some external source of my perception of the table, but that source is God, not some mysterious physical stuff.

So natural is this position, he argues, that it is backed by common sense: I am content, to appeal to the common sense of the world for the truth of my notion. Ask the gardener why he thinks yonder cherry-tree exists in the garden, and he shall tell you, because he sees and feels it; in a word, because he perceives it by his senses.

  • Ask him why he thinks an orange-tree not to be there, and he shall tell you, because he does not perceive it.
  • What he perceives by sense, that he terms a real, being, and says it is or exists ; but, that which is not perceivable, the same, he says, has no being.
  • The question between the materialists and me is not, whether things have a real existence out of the mind of this or that person, but whether they have an absolute existence, distinct from being perceived by God, and exterior to all minds.

Berkeley is classified as an empiricist philosopher along with Locke. How, though, can Berkeley be an empiricist if he doesnt believe in material objects? The answer is that the central point of empiricism involves gaining knowledge through the senses, rather than through innate ideas.

And Berkeley wholeheartedly believes that we do acquire all of our knowledge through sense perception. The only issue involves what the source is of those sense perceptions. Whereas Locke believed that material objects feed us sensory information, Berkeley believed that God performs that role, not material things.

Arguments against Material Objects As always with philosophy, its one thing to simply propose a theory, but quite another to prove it. Berkeley rises to the occasion, though, offering an abundance of arguments for his position. Well look at the two most compelling of these.

  • The first is his argument from primary and secondary qualities.
  • According to Locke, the fundamental difference between the two types of qualities is whether they are spectator dependent.
  • Primary ones, such as shape, motion and solidity, are part of the external things themselves and not spectator dependent, where as secondary ones such as colors, sounds and tastes are not part of external things and are spectator dependent.

On Lockes view, primary qualities involve the fundamental nature of external things: they are three-dimensional, have solidity, and move around in a three dimensional area. To believe in external material objects, then, requires a commitment to the reality of primary qualities that exist in things, independently of what a spectator might perceive.

  1. Berkeley denies that there are any primary qualities of objects in this sense, and he argues instead that all so-called primary qualities are just as spectator dependent as secondary ones.
  2. In other words, all qualities of objects are really secondary and thus spectator dependent.
  3. His main argument is here: They who assert that figure, motion, and the rest of the primary or original qualities do exist without the mind in unthinking substances, do at the same time acknowledge that colors, sounds, heat cold, and suchlike secondary qualities, do notwhich they tell us are sensations existing in the mind alone, that depend on and are occasioned by the different size, texture, and motion of the minute particles of matter.

This they take for an undoubted truth, which they can demonstrate beyond all exception. Now, if it be certain that those original qualities are inseparably united with the other sensible qualities, and not, even in thought, capable of being abstracted from them, it plainly follows that they exist only in the mind.

But I desire any one to reflect and try whether he can, by any abstraction of thought, conceive the extension and motion of a body without all other sensible qualities. For my own part, I see evidently that it is not in my power to frame an idea of a body extended and moving, but I must withal give it some color or other sensible quality which is acknowledged to exist only in the mind.

His main point is that so-called primary qualities are nothing beyond the secondary qualities that we perceive in things. Visual perceptions of shape, for example, are just patches of color, which are secondary. To make his case, Berkeley examines several so-called primary qualities and explains with each one how it is spectator dependent.

Take, for example, the quality of extension, that is, three-dimensional shape. Our conceptions of an objects shape hinge directly on the perspective of the spectator. The leg of a bug, for example, appears exceedingly small to us; to the bug itself it would appear to be a medium sized thing, yet to an even tinier microscopic organism it would appear to be huge.

The texture of an object similarly hinges on the perspective from which we examine it. From a distance bugs leg might appear to be smooth; through a microscope it might appear to be quite coarse. The point is that everything that we know about shape depends upon where we stand in relation to the things that we are perceiving; thus, all notions of shape are spectator dependent.

  1. The so-called primary quality of motion is also relative to the perceiver.
  2. Imagine, for example, that a leaf is falling from a tree directly in front of a humming bird, a human, and a sloth.
  3. How would each of these creatures perceive the leafs motion? To the humming bird the leafs motion might appear to be so slow as to be almost frozen in time.

To the human it would appear to be moving at a normal pace. To the sloth it might appear exceedingly rapid. According to Berkeley, speed and time are measured by the succession of ideas in our minds, which varies in different perceivers. Berkeleys second argument against material objects is based on the principle of simplicity: there is no real need for the material objects, hence would be a useless creation.

Everything we need to perceive sensible qualities is accounted for more efficiently through idealism: God directly feeds us sensory information without creating the material world as a useless middleman. He writes, If therefore it were possible for bodies to exist without the mind, yet to hold they do so, must needs be a very precarious opinion; since it is to suppose, without any reason at all, that God has created innumerable beings that are entirely useless, and serve to no manner of purpose.

In theory, we might think that God could have created the material world as a middleman if he wanted to, sort of as an instrument to accomplish the task. But even that, according to Berkeley, is inconsistent with Gods nature. Instruments are used only when there is a need.

A hammer is a useful instrument since I cant effectively pound in a nail with my bare hands. My glasses are a useful instrument since I cant see very well without them. However, God, who has infinite powers, has no needs and thus has no use of any instrument that might help him accomplish some task. Berkeley writes: We indeed, who are beings of finite powers, are forced to make use of instruments.

And the use of an instrument shows the agent to be limited by rules of anothers prescription, and that he cannot obtain his end but in such a way, and by such conditions. Whence it seems a clear consequence, that the supreme unlimited agent uses no tool or instrument at all.

  • Thus, God is perfectly capable of feeding us sensory information directly without the need for him to create the material world as a crutch.
  • God and evil Reconciling Gods existence with the presence of evil in the world has been a central concern among philosophers since at least the time of Augustine.

Why would an all good God permit the enormous amount of suffering that we see in the world around us? The problem is especially acute for Berkeleys theory since God not only permits suffering, but he also seems to be the originator of suffering as he injects all external sensory information into our minds.

Imagine again that I perceive myself to be in a room conversing with five friends about the Presidents speech. All of my perceptions of the room itself are implanted directly into my mind by God; the dialogue that Im having with my friends also depends upon God feeding each of us sensations of our voices and bodily images.

Suppose that our political conversation becomes heated, a fight erupts and in a fit of anger my friend throws me out the window; my spine is broken and Im paralyzed for life from my neck down. Lets now see what Gods role was in this tragedy. First, he enabled the controversy by mediating the sensory information of the dialogue.

  • When things became heated, he could have just cut off the flow of perceptions.
  • Second, since, according to Berkeleys theory, I have no physical body, God alone is the source of whatever physical pain I experience from my so-called physical injury.
  • Third, God is directly responsible for whatever continued incapacity I have as a quadriplegic.

God decides to shut off all perceptions I might have of bodily movement and sensation in my arms and legs, and Im stuck with that for life. While I and my friends are certainly morally responsible for our respective roles, God is nevertheless an active participant and conspirator in how I am affected.

  • Berkeley has two responses to this criticism.
  • First, he argues that the problem with God and evil is no more severe with his idealist theory than it is for those who believe in the existence of matter.
  • In both cases, God is actively involved in sustaining a world that includes immorality and suffering.

If a material world does exist, then it would just be an instrument in Gods hands, and a person is just as morally responsible whether or not he used an instrument. He writes, the imputation of guilt is the same, whether a person commits an action with or without an instrument.

  • In case therefore you suppose God to act by the mediation of an instrument or occasion, called matter, you as truly make Him the author of sin as I, who think Him the immediate agent in all those operations vulgarly ascribed to Nature.
  • Technically, this response does not attempt to solve the problem of God and evil, but only maintains that there is no extra problem added to the situation by endorsing Berkeleys idealism.

Berkeleys second response, though, does attempt to solve the problem in a more positive way. According to Berkeley, evil does not consist of outward actions, but inward attitudes: I farther observe that sin or moral turpitude does not consist in the outward physical action or motion, but in the internal deviation of the will from the laws of reason and religion.

This is plain, in that the killing an enemy in a battle, or putting a criminal legally to death, is not thought sinful; though the outward act be the very same with that in the case of murder. Since, therefore, sin does not consist in the physical action, the making God an immediate cause of all such actions is not making Him the Author of sin.

Thus, when God feeds us sensory information that involves immorality or is painful, his motives are pure. It is as though he is performing the role of a messenger or delivery service; sometimes the information is good, sometimes not so good. But we shouldnt blame the messenger when we dont like what he delivers.

Ultimately the fault rests with the person who initially sent the message, not delivered it. With the present example, the fault rests solely with me and my friends.D. HUME The last of the great British empiricists was David Hume (1711-1776), who pushed empiricism to its skeptical conclusions. Hume was born near Edinburgh, Scotland into a moderately wealthy family, but the bulk of the family fortune went to Humes older brother after their father died, thus forcing Hume to be frugal for some decades.

Educated in law at his familys direction, he quickly abandoned that career and devoted himself to the study of philosophy. In his teens wrestled with the question of Gods existence, balancing the arguments on both sides, and soon rejected the notion of an all powerful divine being.

In his early twenties he wrote the manuscript of his most important work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740). To Humes disappointment, it received little attention, and the discussion that it did generate was highly critical. Blaming its failure on the works technical style, he rewrote and published portions of it in a more reader-friendly format.

Hume hoped to work as a philosophy teacher at one of Edinburghs universities, but the skeptical and anti-religious nature of his writings poisoned his efforts, and instead he took on temporary jobs in government and as a librarian. With a steady flow of publications, branching out into history as well as philosophy, by his mid forties he became one of the most famousand controversialauthors in Europe.

His wealth grew with his fame. In spite of the skeptical tone of his writings, Hume was a cheerful person and enjoyed socializing with people at all levels of society. Though he never married, he was well received by modest women as he words it in his autobiography. One of his friends was the controversial French author Jean Jacque Rousseau, who took political refuge in Humes home for a short time.

Rousseau had mental problems, though, and, turning on his generous host, he publicly accused Hume of trying to sabotage his reputation. The event turned into an international scandal, and the two never reconciled. Hume died at age 65 from a digestive disorder that lingered for a year and left him emaciated.

  • On his deathbed, crowds of people gathered around his Edinburgh home, curious to know whether he would repent of his irreligion.
  • He held firm in his disbelief, and, in fact, one of his final acts was to plan for the posthumous publication of his most anti-religious writing, which he felt was too controversial to appear in print while he was alive.

Origin of and Association of Ideas In his own day, as now, Hume had a notorious reputation as a skeptical philosopher, and in many ways he carried on the skeptical tradition forged in ancient Greece. Much of Humes skepticism, though, results from pushing the empiricist agenda to its logical conclusion.

  • There are two main building blocks upon which his empiricist philosophy is founded.
  • The first of these concerns the origin of ideas,
  • Thoughts and ideas flow through our minds endlessly ideas of people, houses, music concerts, scientific discoveries, God, on and on.
  • Where do they all come from? Humes answer is that all of our ideas come from two types of experiences, or impressions as he calls them: (1) outward impressions through our five senses and (2) inward impressions through reflection on our mental operations.

For example, the idea I have of the color red ultimately came from some outward sensory experience that I had of the color red that was stored in my memory. The idea I have of fear similarly came from an inward feeling of fear that I experienced in the past.

  1. He writes, though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty, we shall find, upon a nearer examination, that it is really confined within very narrow limits.
  2. When we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted.

In short, all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward or inward sentiment: The mixture and composition of these belongs alone to the mind and will. Or, to express myself in philosophical language, all our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones.

Hume offers two proofs for his position that all ideas are copied from impressions. First, he says that if you take any idea you have and examine its components, youll find that it traces back to outward or inward one or more sensory experience or inward feeling. Hume gives as an example the idea we have of God as an infinitely intelligent, wise, and good Being.

This, he says, arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind and enlarging our human qualities of goodness and wisdom without limit. Second, he says that, if you go your entire life without having a particular type of sensation, then you would lack the corresponding idea of that sensation.

  • For example, a blind man can form no notion of colors.
  • On face value, Humes view is innocent enough, and he seems to just be reiterating Lockes position that experience is the source of all our mental contents.
  • What Hume does with this, though, is quite radical insofar as he transforms it into a theory of meaning.

For my ideas to have any meaning, they must be grounded in some impression that Ive had. An idea is meaningless, then, if I cannot trace it back to any impression. He writes, When we entertain, therefore, any suspicion that a philosophical term is employed without any meaning or idea (as is but too frequent), we need but enquire, from what impression is that supposed idea derived ? And if it be impossible to assign any, this will serve to confirm our suspicion.

By bringing ideas into so clear a light we may reasonably hope to remove all dispute, which may arise, concerning their nature and reality. For example, if I have an idea of an all-powerful divine being, but Ive never had any impression of something that is all powerful or divine, then my idea is without meaning.

Whatever I idea I do have of God regardless of whether God even exists it must be grounded in impressions that Ive had. It is this theory of meaning that leads Hume down the path of skepticism as he explores one philosophical theory after another. In fact, he believes that much of traditional philosophy and religion can be dismissed as meaningless since it fails this test.

  1. The second building block of Humes empiricism is his theory of the association of ideas.
  2. Suppose that I sit down on a couch and let my mind wander where it will.
  3. I think about the President, then Japan, then my car, then a telephone pole, then a railroad track, then an old apartment I lived in.
  4. It is tempting to think that I am conjuring up these ideas spontaneously without any organization behind them.

Not so, Hume argues. Our flow of ideas is connected together by three principles of association. First is resemblance, where one thought leads to another because of resembling features that they have. For example, if I look at a photograph of a friend, Ill start thinking about that friend.

  • Second is contiguity, that is, one thing being in close proximity to another.
  • For example, if someone says something about a store in a shopping mall, I might then think about the store located next to it.
  • Third is cause and effect,
  • For example, if I look at a scar on my arm, I immediately start thinking about the accident I had that caused me to get the scar.

These three principles alone, according to Hume, are responsible for all mental association that our minds make in the normal flow of ideas. With the above example, my thought about the President leads me to think about Japan since he recently visited there (contiguity); Japan is where my car was built (causality); my car is parked next to a telephone pole (contiguity); the telephone pole is covered with the same kind of black tar thats on railroad ties (resemblance); my old apartment was along side a railroad track (contiguity).

Hume says that The more instances we examine, and the more care we employ, the more assurance shall we acquire, that the enumeration, which we form from the whole, is complete and entire ( Enquiry, 3). Personal Identity and Causality Humes skepticism emerges quite clearly with his treatment of two philosophical notions, namely personal identity and causality.

In both of these cases his skeptical conclusions arise from applying the theory of meaning described above. If the traditional ideas of causality and personal identity are to be meaningful, then we must be able to trace those ideas back to some impression.

  • In each case, though, there are problems locating an impression that is suitable for forming these ideas.
  • Lets start with the idea of personal identity.
  • The traditional notion of personal identity held by Descartes and other philosophers is that it is a single, unified substance that continues through time.

On this view, I am a single conscious entity, and, even though my specific thoughts change, my identity remains intact throughout time, and perhaps even into the afterlife. The critical question for Hume, then, is what impression is the basis of this traditional idea of personal identity? His skeptical answer is that we have no actual experienceor internal impressionof a unified, continuous self; thus the traditional notion of personal identity is meaningless.

  • If I introspectively examine the actual experience I have of my identity, Ill discover that it consists only of various perceptions that come and go, such as feelings of heat or cold.
  • He writes, For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure.

I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception. The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations.

  • There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different.
  • Thus, the inward impression that I have of my identity is that of an ever-shifting bundle of perceptions, and this is the impression that must form the basis of my true notion of personal identity.
  • Hume analyzes the traditional notion of causality in the same way, first attempting to discover some impression that forms the idea, then abandoning the traditional notion when the appropriate impression cant be found.

Lets begin with a simple example of a cause-effect connection, which Hume himself uses: billiard ball A strikes billiard ball B and causes it to move. The traditional notion of causality is that there is an external power or force that causes ball A to strike and move ball B, independently of what you or I might perceive when we watch the balls move.

  • Think of it like an invisible explosion that occurs when A strikes B and forces it to move.
  • That is, there is an objective necessary connection between the cause and effect.
  • Applying Humes theory of meaning, for this idea of necessary connection to be meaningful, we need to discover the impression which forms the basis of it.

One possibility is that we perceive an outward impression through our five senses that forms the idea of an objective necessary connection. But do we? Suppose that when ball A struck ball B, it produced a flash of light and a loud boom, and, in fact, that every causal connection we saw was similarly accompanied by a light flash and a boom.

  • If that was the case, then, yes, we would have a very strong outward impression that would give us the idea of an objective necessary connection.
  • But thats not what happens.
  • When A strikes and moves B, all that appears to our eyes is the motion of two balls, and thats it.
  • He writes, When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connection; any quality, which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other.

We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, follow the other. The impulse of one billiard- ball is attended with motion in the second. This is the whole that appears to the outward senses. He next considers whether there is any inward impression that forms the idea of necessary connection.

Locke had suggested one possibility: we experience a feeling of causal power when we willfully move parts of our bodies, such as when I raise my arm. Here we have a causal sequence where the cause is my mental decision and the effect is the raising of my arm. Since the causal sequence is taking place within my own mind, I am thus capable of directly experiencing a feeling of causal power or necessary connection when I willfully raise my arm.

But Hume rejects this as well, since we dont have a clear experience of how or where such willful bodily motion takes place. Indeed, I do mentally experience my willful decision (the cause) and I do see and feel my arm move (the effect), but I dont experience anything that links them.

  1. I dont feel a special electrical shock or anything unique to the necessary connection by itself.
  2. In the absence of an appropriate outward or inward impression, we must then reject the traditional notion of necessary connection as an objective force or invisible explosion.
  3. He suggests an alternative, though.

There is a more moderate notion of necessary connection that comes from an inward feeling of expectation that occurs when we repeatedly see A followed by B. Consider again the example of billiard balls: it is only after repeatedly seeing ball A move B that our minds feel a transition from the cause to the effect.

He writes, The first time a man saw the communication of motion by impulse, as by the shock of two billiard balls, he could not pronounce that the one event was connected : But only that it was conjoined with the other. After he has observed several instances of this nature, he then pronounces them to be connected,

What alteration has happened to give rise to this new idea of connection ? Nothing but that he now feels these events to be connected in his imagination, and can readily foretell the existence of one from the appearance of the other. In the end, Hume does not completely reject the idea of necessary connection and causality.

  1. But he does reject the traditional idea of it being something like a primary quality within objects themselves.
  2. Instead, he suggests that necessary connection is like a secondary quality that we spectators impose onto A-B sequences when we repeatedly see A and B conjoined.
  3. Its just a habit of our minds, not a reality in the objects themselves.
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Belief in Miracles One of Humes lifelong goals was to help rid the world of religious superstition and fanaticism, and nowhere is this better seen than with his attack on the belief in miracles. To properly understand exactly what Hume is criticizing, three things need to be clarified.

  1. First, Hume as in mind a very precise notion of the term miracle, which is that it is a violation of a law of nature.
  2. It is not simply an unusual event that occurs at just the right moment, such as if Im saved from drowning by grabbing onto a vine that just happens to be hanging from a tree within my reach.

Rather, it must break some law of nature, such as if my arm gets chopped off and a new one instantly appears. Second, Hume focuses specifically on reports of miraclesstories about miracles that we hear about from other people or read about in books such as the Bible.

He does not consider miracles that we might directly witness ourselves. Third, Hume focuses on whether it is reasonable for us to believe reports of miracles, not whether the miraculous event actually took place. It is impossible for us to go back in time and prove with absolute certainty whether any reported miracle was genuine.

The best we can do is consider whether the evidence in support of a miracle report is compelling enough for us to believe the report. Humes precise position, then, is that it is never reasonable to believe reports of violations of laws of nature. Hume offers a series of arguments against belief in miracles, but his main one is this: it is never reasonable to believe in reports of miracles since those reports will always be outweighed by stronger evidence for consistent laws of nature.

  1. Suppose, for example, that the Mayor and all the city officials say that they witnessed a genuine miracle.
  2. As they report, a car rammed into city hall, causing the wall to collapse, but seconds later all the smashed pieces of the wall floated into the air, and reassembled themselves just as they were before.

Should we believe their report? According to Hume, our first step is to weigh the evidence for and against this miracle, sort of like we were placing the evidence in the pans of a balance scale. On the one side, the evidence that we have in favor of the miracle is the credibility of the witnesses.

They are reporting what theyve seen with their eyes, and we know from past experience that they are people of their word. On the other side, the evidence against the miracle consists of the accumulated experience that we have in favor of uniform laws of nature. The natural world behaves in an orderly way based to natural laws.

We count on this every moment of the day as when, for example, I open a door and expect it to swing on a hinge, rather than do something like transform into a bird and fly away. According to Hume, the evidence that we have in favor of consistent laws of nature is overwhelming, and will always outweigh even the best evidence in favor of a reported miraculous violation of a law of nature.

  • He writes, A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.
  • There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation,

And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof from the nature of the fact against the existence of any miracle. For Hume, since miracles are defined as violations of laws of nature, any alleged miracle report is instantly outweighed by overwhelming evidence that we have of consistent laws of nature.

  • The wise thing to do, Hume says, is to proportion our belief to the evidence.
  • With the above City Hall example, we should thus disbelieve the report that the wall miraculously reassembled itself since the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of consistent laws of nature.
  • In addition to this main argument against belief in miracles, Hume offers four additional criticisms.

First, he says, the witnesses who report miracles typically lack credibility. Sometimes they lack sufficient education and good sense, which makes them gullible. Other times they are consciously deceptive. Even in the above example of the City Hall miracle, our first reaction would be to suspect that the Mayor and the city officials concocted the story to hide something politically sensitive.

Second, Hume argues that human beings are predisposed to enjoy hearing sensational stories, and this creates an instant audience for accounts of miraculous events. In recent times, we see this in the success of tabloid publications such as the National Enquirer that specialize in stories about alien abductions, monsters such as Bigfoot, and every possible type of miracle.

This vulnerability within human nature itself casts doubt on the truth of such sensational claims. Third, Hume states that reports of miracles typically come from pre-scientific and primitive countries whose cultures are obsessed with the supernatural.

  • The most ordinary natural events are ascribed to supernatural causes, and reliance on omens and oracles is the norm.
  • The very location of such miracle reports counts against their credibility.
  • Fourth, Hume argues that reports of miracles support rival religious systems, and thus nullify each other.
  • There are reports of miracles within virtually every religious tradition around the world.

Christian miracles support the Christian plan of salvation. Muslim miracles support the Muslim plan of salvation, and so on. The problem is that these religions are rivals to each other and typically discredit the others legitimacy. Taken as a whole, then, rival miracle reports are mutually undermining.

Hume recognizes that the Christian religious tradition not only contains reports of miracles, but is in fact founded on miraculous circumstances in the lives of the Biblical characters. Nevertheless, Hume argues, the reasonable thing to do even here is to disbelieve these reports. In fact, belief in such miracle stories is so irrational that it would take an act of God to make an otherwise reasonable person suspend all the principles of his understanding and make him believe a miracle story that is most contrary to custom and experience (ibid).

Morality: Reason vs. Sentiment Throughout the history of philosophy, the traditional conception of morality was that it consists of objective universal truths that can be discovered through human reason. Platos view of the forms is the clearest example of this.

For Plato, moral standards such as justice and goodness exist independently of human society in the higher spirit-realm of the forms. And, for Plato, it takes a mental act of reason to grasp moral truths, in much the way it takes an act of reason to grasp mathematical truths which also reside in the realm of the forms.

This is largely the view of morality that moral philosophers in Humes day held: we discover objective universal moral principles through reason. Hume rejects this view: morality is not grounded in an objective feature of the external world, but rather on internal mental feelings of pleasure and pain.

  • Humes main argument for his position is that, as hard as we may try, we can never discover any special fact about an action that makes it either moral or immoral either within the physical act itself or in any alleged higher realm of moral truths.
  • All that we will find is a feeling of pleasure or pain in reaction to the action.

He writes, Take any action allowed to be vicious; willful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In whichever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions, and thoughts.

There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact; but it is the object of feeling, not of reason.

It lies in yourself, not in the object. So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it. Thus, morality does not involve making a rational judgment about some objective moral facts.

  • Instead, moral assessments are just emotional reactions.
  • If I see someone robbing a bank and determine that action to be morally wrong, I am not making a rational judgment about some objective moral truth or fact; rather, I am experiencing a feeling of emotional pain, and that feeling constitutes my negative assessment of the robber.

Using the terminology of primary and secondary qualities, Humes point is that morality is not a primary quality thats part of external things, but is instead like a secondary quality that spectators impose onto actions. He writes, Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compared to sounds, colors, heat, and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind (ibid).

  1. As obvious as this all seems to Hume, he notes that most moral theories insist on linking moral assessments with some factual judgment of reason.
  2. They begin by listing some kind of fact, such as a fact about moral Forms, moral truths, divine commands; from these facts, then, they immediately jump to some moral statement, such as Stealing is wrong.

He makes this point here: In every system of morality which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not.

The problem, for Hume, is that you just cant rationally deduce a statement of moral obligation from a statement of factstated more succinctly, you cannot derive ought from is, Rather, the obligation comes from feeling, not from deduction of facts. When I see a bank robber and state that The robbers act of stealing is wrong, I am expressing the painful feelings that I am experiencing.

Thus, statements of moral obligation are introduced through an emotional reaction, not through a rational deduction. Radical Skepticism and Natural Belief Hume was a chronically skeptical philosopher, and weve already seen several expressions of this.

  • He began with a theory of meaning that ruthlessly dismembers any concept that is not grounded in an outward or inward impression, and the first victims were traditional notions of personal identity and causality.
  • He questioned the legitimacy of belief in miracles and, in essence, called into doubt anything supernatural.

Finally, he attacked the traditional notion of rationally perceived moral truths, and reduced moral assessments to emotional reactions. But there is an even more radical skepticism within Humes philosophy that goes beyond these particular issues. According to Hume, the underlying structure of human reason itself is inherently flawed, and thus completely untrustworthy.

Specifically, the human reasoning process, even at its very best, is on a collision course with itself and regularly contradicts itself. If we follow one rational train of thought we reach conclusion A; if we follow a different rational train of thought we reach a conflicting conclusion not A. Its like a computer that is running two incompatible programs that eventually cause the computer to crash.

Hume describes this collision course here: The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another.

Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? Whose favor shall I court, and whose anger must I dread? What beings surround me? and on whom have I any influence, or who have any influence on me? I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.

For Hume, then, the most central questions about human existence are incapable of being adequately answered because of the inherent flaws in the human reasoning process. Whatever reason tells us about these matters can never be fully trusted, and thus we slide down the slope of philosophical despair.

Amidst all this skepticism and despair, though, Hume has a strangely optimistic solution. Human nature has embedded within us some very concrete natural beliefs which enable us to get through the day. Nature forces us to believe in external objects, causal relationships, personal identity, moral responsibility and a host of other notions that are crucial for our normal routines.

These are not innate ideas per se, but are normal beliefs about the world that emerge through natural inclinations. For example, when I look at a chair and Im naturally inclined to think that it exists in the external world exactly as I perceive it. The fact that we have these natural beliefs doesnt mean that they are entirely true, and Hume warns that many are not.

  1. However, they are functionally important for our lives.
  2. Also, they serve as a natural antidote to philosophical despair.
  3. When radical skepticism causes us to mentally crash, all that we need to do is back off from our philosophical inquiries and let our natural beliefs take over: Nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium (ibid).

Hume warns that natural beliefs are no replacement for philosophical inquiry, which, even with all its skepticism, is still important to keep us from giving in to gullibility and superstition. As flawed as human reason is, it is still preferable to superstition of every kind or denomination (ibid).

  • READING 1: LOCKE AGAINST INNATE IDEAS (from Essay 1.2) Introduction: John Locke argued that our minds are from birth a blank slate and all of the conceptions we have originate from experience.
  • His first step in establishing this is to attack the view that there are foundational innate ideas that we are born with.

In the following he presents this attack, and specifically targets the common philosophical view that there are two laws of thought that are innate: Whatsoever is, is, and It is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be. According to Locke, these notions are not innate, but arrived at through experience.

  1. Innate Ideas Debunked by Showing how we Actually get our Ideas 1.
  2. It is an established opinion among some people that there are in the understanding certain innate principles (some primary notions, common notions, characters) as it were stamped upon the mind of man, which the soul receives in its very first being and brings into the world with it.

It would be sufficient to convince unprejudiced readers of the falseness of this supposition, if I should only show (as I hope I shall in the following parts of this Discourse) how people, barely by the use of their natural faculties, may attain to all the knowledge they have, without the help of any innate impressions, and may arrive at certainty without any such original notions or principles.

Universal Assent the Main Argument for Innate Ideas 2. There is nothing more commonly taken for granted than that there are certain principles, both speculative and practical, (for they speak of both), universally agreed upon by all men: which therefore, they argue, must needs be the constant impressions which the souls of people receive in their first beings, and which they bring into the world with them, as necessarily and really as they do any of their inherent faculties.

Universal Consent Proves Nothing Innate 3. This argument, drawn from universal consent, has this misfortune in it, that if it were true in matter of fact, that there were certain truths wherein all men agreed, it would not prove them innate, if there can be any other way shown how people may come to that universal agreement, in the things they do consent in, which I presume may be done.

  • Two Laws of Thought Not Universally Assented To 4.
  • But, which is worse, this argument of universal consent (which is made use of to prove innate principles) seems to me a demonstration that there are none such.
  • Because there are none to which all men give a universal assent.
  • I shall begin with the speculative, and instance in those magnified principles of demonstration, Whatsoever is, is, and It is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be; which, of all others, I think have the most allowed title to innate.

These have so settled a reputation of maxims universally received, that it will no doubt be thought strange if anyone should seem to question it. But yet I take liberty to say, that these propositions are so far from having an universal assent, that there are a great part of men to whom they are not so much as known.

  • Not on the Mind Naturally Imprinted, Because Not Known to Children, Idiots, etc,5.
  • For, first, it is evident, that all children and idiots have not the least apprehension or thought of them.
  • And the want of that is enough to destroy that universal assent which must needs be the necessary concomitant of all innate truths: it seeming to me near a contradiction to say, that there are truths imprinted on the soul, which it perceives or understands not: imprinting, if it signify anything, being nothing else but the making certain truths to be perceived.

For to imprint anything on the mind without the minds perceiving it, seems to me hardly intelligible. If therefore children and idiots have souls, have minds, with those impressions upon them, they must unavoidably perceive them, and necessarily know and assent to these truths.

  • That People Know Them when they Come to the Use of Reason, Answered 6.
  • To avoid this, it is usually answered, that all people know and assent to them, when they come to the use of reason; and this is enough to prove them innate.
  • I answer: 7.
  • Doubtful expressions, that have scarce any signification, go for clear reasons to those who, being prepossessed, take not the pains to examine even what they themselves say.

For, to apply this answer with any tolerable sense to our present purpose, it must signify one of these two things: either that as soon as people come to the use of reason these supposed native inscriptions come to be known and observed by them; or else, that the use and exercise of peoples reason assists them in the discovery of these principles, and certainly makes them known to them.

  • If Reason Discovered them, that would not Prove Them Innate 8.
  • If they mean that by the use of reason people may discover these principles (and that this is sufficient to prove them innate) their way of arguing will stand thus, viz.
  • That whatever truths reason can certainly discover to us, and make us firmly assent to, those are all naturally imprinted on the mind.

Reason does not Discover Them: Reason deduces Truths, but Deduced Ideas are not Innate] 9. But how can these people think the use of reason necessary to discover principles that are supposed innate, when reason (if we may believe them) is nothing else but the faculty of deducing unknown truths from principles or propositions that are already known? That certainly can never be thought innate which we have need of reason to discover.

  1. The Coming to the Use of Reason Not the Time we Come to Know These Maxims 12.
  2. If by knowing and assenting to them when we come to the use of reason, be meant that this is the time when they come to be taken notice of by the mind; and that as soon as children come to the use of reason, they come also to know and assent to these maxims, this also is false and frivolous.

First, it is false because it is evident these maxims are not in the mind so early as the use of reason. And therefore the coming to the use of reason is falsely assigned as the time of their discovery. How many instances of the use of reason may we observe in children, a long time before they have any knowledge of this maxim, That it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be? And a great part of illiterate people and savages pass many years, even of their rational age, without ever thinking on this and the like general propositions.

Not Innate, because not Universally Assented To 24. To conclude this argument of universal consent, I agree with these defenders of innate principles, that if they are innate, they must needs have universal assent. For that a truth should be innate, and yet not assented to, is to me as unintelligible, as for a man to know a truth, and be ignorant of it, at the same time.

But then, by these mens own confession, they cannot be innate; since they are not assented to by those who understand not the terms, nor by a great part of those who do understand them, but have yet never heard nor thought of those propositions; which, I think, is at least one half of mankind.

  1. But were the number far less, it would be enough to destroy universal assent, and thereby show these propositions not to be innate, if children alone were ignorant of them.
  2. READING 2: BERKELEY AGAINST MATERIAL OBJECTS ( Three Dialogues, 1 and 2) Introduction: In the following dialogue by George Berkeley, the character of Philonous represents Berkeleys idealist position that material objects do not exit, and the things that we perceive exist only our minds or Gods mind.

Hylas represents the ordinary person like you and I who believe that material objects exist. Berkeley presents two arguments against the existence of material objects below. The first is an attack on primary qualities, that is, qualities like three- dimensionality that are believed to be features of the external material world.

  • He argues here that primary qualities are spectator dependent just as secondary qualities are.
  • Second, he attacks the view that somehow God created material objects as an instrument for us to perceive things.
  • Against Primary Qualities of Three-Dimensional Extension in Material Objects Philonous: But what if the same arguments which are brought against Secondary Qualities will hold good against these also? Hylas: Why then I shall be obliged to think, they too exist only in the mind.

Philonous: Is it your opinion the very figure and extension which you perceive by sense exist in the outward object or material substance? Hylas: It is. Philonous: Have all other animals as good grounds to think the same of the figure and extension which they see and feel? Hylas: Without doubt, if they have any thought at all.

  1. Philonous: Answer me, Hylas: Think you the senses were bestowed upon all animals for their preservation and well-being in life? or were they given to men alone for this end? Hylas: I make no question but they have the same use in all other animals.
  2. Philonous: If so, is it not necessary they should be enabled by them to perceive their own limbs, and those bodies which are capable of harming them? Hylas: Certainly.

Philonous: A mite therefore must be supposed to see his own foot, and things equal or even less than it, as bodies of some considerable dimension; though at the same time they appear to you scarce discernible, or at best as so many visible points? Hylas: I cannot deny it.

Philonous: And to creatures less than the mite they will seem yet larger? Hylas: They will. Philonous: Insomuch that what you can hardly discern will to another extremely minute animal appear as some huge mountain? Hylas: All this I grant. Philonous: Can one and the same thing be at the same time in itself of different dimensions? Hylas: That were absurd to imagine.

Philonous: But, from what you have laid down it follows that both the extension by you perceived, and that perceived by the mite itself, as likewise all those perceived by lesser animals, are each of them the true extension of the mites foot; that is to say, by your own principles you are led into an absurdity.

Hylas: There seems to be some difficulty in the point. Philonous: Again, have you not acknowledged that no real inherent property of any object can be changed without some change in the thing itself? Hylas: I have. Philonous: But, as we approach to or recede from an object, the visible extension varies, being at one distance ten or a hundred times greater than another.

Does it not therefore follow from hence likewise that it is not really inherent in the object? Hylas: I own I am at a loss what to think. Philonous: Your judgment will soon be determined, if you will venture to think as freely concerning this quality as you have done concerning the rest.

  • Was it not admitted as a good argument, that neither heat nor cold was in the water, because it seemed warm to one hand and cold to the other? Hylas: It was.
  • Philonous: Is it not the very same reasoning to conclude, there is no extension or figure in an object, because to one eye it shall seem little, smooth, and round, when at the same time it appears to the other, great, uneven, and regular? Hylas: The very same.

But does this latter fact ever happen? Philonous: You may at any time make the experiment, by looking with one eye bare, and with the other through a microscope. Matter not an Instrument since God needs no Instrument to Cause Perception Hylas: I give up the point entirely.

But, though Matter may not be a cause, yet what hinders its being an instrument, subservient to the supreme Agent in the production of our ideas? Philonous: An instrument say you; pray what may be the figure, springs, wheels, and motions, of that instrument? Hylas: Those I pretend to determine nothing of, both the substance and its qualities being entirely unknown to me.

Philonous: What? You are then of opinion it is made up of unknown parts, that it has unknown motions, and an unknown shape? Hylas: I do not believe that it has any figure or motion at all, being already convinced, that no sensible qualities can exist in an unperceiving substance.

  1. Philonous: What mean you by the general nature or notion of instrument? Hylas: That which is common to all particular instruments composes the general notion.
  2. Philonous: Is it not common to all instruments, that they are applied to the doing those things only which cannot be performed by the mere act of our wills? Thus, for instance, I never use an instrument to move my finger, because it is done by a volition.

But I should use one if I were to remove part of a rock, or tear up a tree by the roots. Are you of the same mind? Or, can you show any example where an instrument is made use of in producing an effect immediately depending on the will of the agent? Hylas: I own I cannot.

Philonous: How therefore can you suppose that an all-perfect spirit, on whose will all things have an absolute and immediate dependence, should need an instrument in his operations, or, not needing it, make use of it? Thus it seems to me that you are obliged to own the use of a lifeless inactive instrument to be incompatible with the infinite perfection of God; that is, by your own confession, to give up the point.

Unperceived things do not Disappear since God Sustains Ideas of all Things Hylas: Supposing you were annihilated, cannot you conceive it possible that things perceivable by sense may still exist? Philonous: I can; but then it must be in another mind.

When I deny sensible things an existence out of the mind, I do not mean my mind in particular, but all minds. Now, it is plain they have an existence exterior to my mind; since I find them by experience to be independent of it. There is therefore some other mind wherein they exist, during the intervals between the times of my perceiving them: as likewise they did before my birth, and would do after my supposed annihilation.

And, as the same is true with regard to all other finite created spirits, it necessarily follows there is an omnipresent eternal mind, which knows and comprehends all things, and exhibits them to our view in such a manner, and according to such rules, as he himself has ordained, and are by us termed the laws of nature.

  • READING 3: HUME AGAINST A CONTINUOUS SELF ( Treatise, 1.4.6) Introduction: David Hume was skeptical about many concepts that people ordinarily take for granted, such as the existence of external causal power, miracles, God.
  • One of his usual skeptical techniques is to argue that if we do not have any experience to support a particular concept, such as external causal power then that concept is just a meaningless set of words.

He uses this skeptical technique in the following where he questions the idea that we have a self or personal identity that is unified and continues over time. According to Hume, we have no experience of a unified and continuous self, and, instead, all that we experience about ourselves is a fleeting bundle of mental perceptions.

No Direct Experience of a Continuous Self There are some philosophers who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our self; that we feel its existence and its continuance in existence; and are certain, beyond the evidence of a demonstration, both of its perfect identity and simplicity.

The strongest sensation, the most violent passion, say they, instead of distracting us from this view, only fix it the more intensely, and make us consider their influence on self either by their pain or pleasure. To attempt a further proof of this were to weaken its evidence; since no proof can be derived from any fact of which we are so intimately conscious; nor is there anything of which we can be certain if we doubt of this.

Unluckily all these positive assertions are contrary to that very experience which is pleaded for them; nor have we any idea of self, after the manner it is here explained. For, from what impression could this idea be derived? This question it is impossible to answer without a manifest contradiction and absurdity; and yet it is a question which must necessarily be answered, if we would have the idea of self pass for clear and intelligible.

It must be someone impression that gives rise to every real idea. But self or person is not any one impression, but that to which our several impressions and ideas are supposed to have a reference. If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through the whole course of our lives; since self is supposed to exist after that manner.

But there is no impression constant and invariable. Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never all exist at the same time. It cannot therefore be from any of these impressions, or from any other, that the idea of self is derived; and consequently there is no such idea.

Personal Identity Only a Bundle of Fleeting Perceptions But further, what must become of all our particular perceptions upon this hypothesis? All these are different, and distinguishable, and separable from each other, and may be separately considered, and may exist separately, and have no need of anything to support their existence.

  1. After what manner therefore do they belong to self, and how are they connected with it? For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure.
  2. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception.

When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions removed by death, and could I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate, after the dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is further requisite to make me a perfect nonentity.

If anyone, upon serious and unprejudiced reflection, thinks he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer with him. All I can allow him is, that he may be in the right as well as I, and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may, perhaps, perceive something simple and continued, which he calls himself; though I am certain there is no such principle in me.

But setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.

Our eyes cannot turn in their sockets without varying our perceptions. Our thought is still more variable than our sight; and all our other senses and faculties contribute to this change: nor is there any single power of the soul, which remains unalterably the same, perhaps for one moment. The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations.

There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different, whatever natural propension we may have to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the theatre must not mislead us. They are the successive perceptions only, that constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion of the place where these scenes are represented, or of the materials of which it is composed.

STUDY QUESTIONS Please answer all of the following questions.1. What are the so-called speculative and practical innate ideas, and what is Lockes main argument against them? 2. Explain Lockes distinction between ideas of sensation and ideas of reflection.3. Explain Lockes view of simple ideas, complex ideas, and the three mental processes involved in forming complex ideas.4.

Explain Lockes distinction between primary, secondary and tertiary qualities.5. Explain Lockes view of the state of nature, the fundamental law of nature, and the justification of revolution.6. Explain Berkeleys idealism and Gods role as the source of perceptions.7.

  1. Explain Berkeleys arguments for idealism from primary/secondary qualities and simplicity.8.
  2. Explain Berkeleys two solutions to the problem of God and evil.9.
  3. Explain Humes view of the origin of ideas and the test for meaning.10.
  4. Explain Humes three principles of the association of ideas.11.
  5. What is the traditional notion of the self, and what is Humes criticism of it? 12.

What is the traditional notion of necessary connection, and what is Humes alternative explanation? 13. What is Humes main argument against miracles and his four additional arguments against miracles.14. Explain Humes view about emotion and moral judgment, and his view that ought cannot be derived from is.15.

Explain Humes view of radical skepticism and natural belief.16. What is Lockes criticism of the argument for innate ideas from universal consent? 17. What is Lockes criticism of the view that reason discovers innate ideas? 18. Explain Berkeleys criticism of primary qualities of three-dimensional extension in material objects.19.

Explain Berkeleys criticism of the view that God created matter as an instrument to cause perception of external objects within humans.20. Explain Humes reasoning for his view that personal identity is only a bundle of fleeting perceptions.21. Short essay: pick any one of the following views in this chapter and criticize it in a minimum of 150 words.

What is John Locke’s point of view?

Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox – Sign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter But it stops there. As a skeptic of endowing a government with too much authority, Locke believed in the notions of individual governance and liberties: this is the “classical liberal” sense of Lockean thought, as it directly counters monarchic authority.

For Locke, the government must be a “neutral judge” of law with no right to interfere in the lives of the individual. The most radical idea to come from Locke’s pen was the idea of governmental legitimacy, Locke believed that a government should be beholden to the people rather than vice-versa. He became the first person in history to suggest that if a people disapprove of their government, they should possess the power to change it as they see fit.

This idea came to be known as the right to revolution, Vertumnus, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1590, via Skokloster Castle, Sweden John Locke was first to suggest that human beings, as human beings, have a set of inalienable rights. These rights, paraphrased in the American Constitution, are ” life, liberty, and property,” Fundamentally, Locke observed that the human right to property is rooted in that one’s property begins with oneself.

  • A person has the right to govern themselves; their essence is their property, and nothing and nobody can take that away.
  • This is the introspective right of an individual; their ownership over their soul.
  • Externally, an individual’s right to property is concerned with the world around them.
  • The Earth provides humankind with bounty, shared throughout the world.

This bounty is a gift to humankind, according to Locke, from God: we all have access in common to God’s bounty. If this bounty is commonly accessible, it is therefore ripe for the taking by any individual who sees fit. For Locke, mixing one’s labour with God’s bounty provided to us results in that bounty becoming one’s property.

What were John Locke’s main ideas?

John Locke The American revolutionary generation drew many of its ideas from the English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704). Often credited as a founder of modern “liberal” thought, Locke pioneered the ideas of natural law, social contract, religious toleration, and the right to revolution that proved essential to both the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution that followed.

What does Locke mean by a state of liberty not of license in the state of nature quizlet?

What does Locke mean by a state of liberty, not of license in the state of nature? There is a state of liberty in the state of nature but this does not license people to go out and do whatever they want or abuse others. Nature law still presides over the state of nature.

What is the difference between a state of liberty and a state of license?

Freedom versus license Freedom V License In and, there exists a distinction between the concepts of and, The former deals with the rights of the individual; the latter covers the expressed permission (or lack thereof) for more than one individual to engage in an activity.

How does Locke distinguish between a state of liberty and a state of Licence?

What does Locke mean when he distinguished between a ‘state of liberty’ and a ‘state of licence’? – Licence = freedom to do whatever you want, harming others/yourself, steal etc. – Liberty = still a great deal of freedom but law of nature exists.

Who said state of nature is a state of liberty not a state of license?

Locke (in the second of the Two Treatises of Government, 1690) differed from Hobbes insofar as he conceived of the state of nature not as a condition of complete license but rather as a state in which humans, though free, equal, and independent, are obliged under the law of nature to respect each other’s rights to life