John locke research papers


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John Locke speaks of personal identity and survival of consciousness after death. A criterion of personal identity through time is given. Such a criterion specifies, insofar as that is possible, the necessary and sufficient conditions for the survival of persons. John Locke holds that personal identity is a matter of psychological continuity. He considered personal identity or the self to be founded on consciousness viz.

The issue of personal identity and its determents has always been of concern for many philosophers. Questions are raised as to what does being the person that you are, from one day to the next, necessarily consist of. Personal identity theory is the philosophical confrontation with the ultimate questions of our own existence, such as who are we, and is there a life after death? This sort of analysis of personal identity provides a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for the identity of the person over time.


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In the modern philosophy of mind, this concept of personal identity is sometimes referred to as the diachronic problem of personal identity. The synchronic problem is grounded in the question of what features or traits characterise a given person at one time. There are several general theories of this identity problem. In this paper, the views of John Locke and a criticism of his theory of personal identity are presented.

JOHN LOCKE & EMPIRICISM PHILOSOPHY OPTIONAL FOR UPSC & PCS

John Locke 29 August October was one of the philosophers who were against the Cartesian theory that soul accounts for personal identity. Locke holds that personal identity is a matter of psychological continuity. For the brain, as the body and as any substance, may change, while consciousness remains the same. Therefore, personal identity is not in the brain, but in consciousness. The problem of personal identity is at the centre of discussions about life after death and immortality.

In order to exist after death, there has to be a person after death who is the same person as the person who died. Locke holds that consciousness can be transferred from one soul to another and that personal identity goes with consciousness. Consciousness can be transferred from one substance to another, and thus, while the soul is changed, consciousness remains the same, thereby preserving the personal identity through the change. On the other hand, consciousness can be lost as in utter forgetfulness while the soul or thinking substance remains the same.

Under these conditions, there is the same soul but a different person. These affirmations amount to the claim that the same soul or thinking substance is neither necessary nor sufficient for personal identity over time. One answer is that the distinction solves the problem of the resurrection of the dead. What is this problem?

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The problem begins with Biblical texts asserting that we will have the same body at the resurrection as we did in this life. Locke explicitly tells us that the case of the prince and the cobbler Feser, , p shows us the resolution of the problem of resurrection. The result of this exchange is that the prince still considers himself the prince, even though he finds himself in an altogether new body.

Locke focusses on the prince with all his princely thoughts because in his view, it is consciousness which is crucial to the reward and punishment which is to be meted out at the Last Judgment Uzgalis, This means, then, that an account of the identity of persons across time will have forensic - normative - implications. And so it does. But this interesting border case leads to this problematic thought that since personal identity is based on consciousness, and that only oneself can be aware of his consciousness, exterior human judges may never know if they really are judging - and punishing - the same person, or simply the same body.

In other words, Locke argues that you may be judged only for the acts of your body, as this is what is apparent to all but God; however, you are in truth only responsible for the acts for which you are conscious. This forms the basis of the insanity defence: one cannot be held accountable for acts of which one was unconscious - and therefore leads to interesting philosophical questions and criticisms. There are several philosophers who criticised the Lockean memory theory and stated that it was circular and illogical.

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But, if this reading is correct, then it becomes difficult to understand the many passages in which Locke insists that knowledge is a relation that holds only between ideas. Also relevant are debates about how to correctly understand Lockean ideas. Recall from above that although many understand ideas as mental objects, some understand them as mental acts. While most of the text seems to favor the first interpretation, it seems that the second interpretation has a significant advantage when responding to these skeptical worries.

The reason is that the connection between ideas and external world objects is built right into the definition of an idea. An idea just is a perception of an external world object. However the debates discussed in the previous paragraph are resolved, there is a consensus among commentators that Locke believes the scope of human understanding is very narrow.

Humans are not capable of very much knowledge. Locke discusses this is 4. We have already discussed the ways in which our ideas of substances are problematic. And we have just seen that we have no real understanding of the connection between our ideas and the objects that produce them. The good news, however, is that while our knowledge might not be very extensive, it is sufficient for our needs.

John Locke (1632—1704)

Our Business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our Conduct. Locke thinks we have enough knowledge to live comfortable lives on Earth, to realize that there is a God, to understand morality and behave appropriately, and to gain salvation. Our knowledge of morality, in particular, is very good. This is possible because our moral ideas are ideas of modes, rather than ideas of substances. Finally, while the limits to our knowledge might be disappointing, Locke notes that recognizing these limits is important and useful insofar as it will help us to better organize our intellectual inquiry.

We will be saved from investigating questions which we could never know the answers to and can focus our efforts on areas where progress is possible. This was the arena of judgment or opinion, belief states which fall short of knowledge. Given that we have so little knowledge that we can be certain of so little the realm of probability becomes very important. Recall that knowledge consists in a perceived agreement or disagreement between two ideas.

Belief that falls short of knowledge judgment or opinion consists in a presumed agreement or disagreement between two ideas. I do not directly perceive a connection between my idea of Stephen Harper and my idea of the Canadian PM, but I presume that one exists.

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After offering this account of what judgment is, Locke offers an analysis of how and why we form the opinions we do and offers some recommendations for forming our opinions responsibly. This includes a diagnosis of the errors people make in judging, a discussion of the different degrees of assent, and an interesting discussion of the epistemic value of testimony. As discussed above, the main project of the Essay is an examination of the human understanding and an analysis of knowledge.

But the Essay is a rather expansive work and contains discussion of many other topics of philosophical interest. Some of these will be discussed below. A word of warning, however, is required before proceeding. It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether Locke takes himself to be offering a metaphysical theory or whether he merely is describing a component of human psychology. For example, we might question whether his account of personal identity is meant to give necessary and sufficient conditions for a metaphysical account of personhood or whether it is merely designed to tell us what sorts of identity attributions we do and should make and why.

We may further question whether, when discussing primary and secondary qualities, Locke is offering a theory about how perception really works or whether this discussion is a mere digression used to illustrate a point about the nature of our ideas.

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So while many of these topics have received a great deal of attention, their precise relationship to the main project of the Essay can be difficult to locate. Book 2, Chapter 8 of the Essay contains an extended discussion of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Locke was hardly original in making this distinction. By the time the Essay was published, it had been made by many others and was even somewhat commonplace.

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Locke defines a quality as a power that a body has to produce ideas in us. So a simple object like a baked potato which can produce ideas of brownness, heat, ovular shape, solidity, and determinate size must have a series of corresponding qualities. There must be something in the potato which gives us the idea of brown, something in the potato which gives us the idea of ovular shape, and so on. Locke motivates the distinction between two types of qualities by discussing how a body could produce an idea in us. The theory of perception endorsed by Locke is highly mechanical.

All perception occurs as a result of motion and collision.


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If I smell the baked potato, there must be small material particles which are flying off of the potato and bumping into nerves in my nose, the motion in the nose-nerves causes a chain reaction along my nervous system until eventually there is some motion in my brain and I experience the idea of a certain smell. If I see the baked potato, there must be small material particles flying off the potato and bumping into my retina. That bumping causes a similar chain reaction which ends in my experience of a certain roundish shape. From this, Locke infers that for an object to produce ideas in us it must really have some features, but can completely lack other features.

This mechanical theory of perception requires that objects producing ideas in us have shape, extension, mobility, and solidity. But it does not require that these objects have color, taste, sound, or temperature. So the primary qualities are qualities actually possessed by bodies. These are features that a body cannot be without. The secondary qualities, by contrast, are not really had by bodies. They are just ways of talking about the ideas that can be produced in us by bodies in virtue of their primary qualities.

So when we claim that the baked potato is solid, this means that solidity is one of its fundamental features. But when I claim that it smells a certain earthy kind of way, this just means that its fundamental features are capable of producing the idea of the earthy smell in my mind. Insofar as my idea of the potato is of something solid, extended, mobile, and possessing a certain shape my idea accurately captures something about the real nature of the potato.

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