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To Choose or Not to Choose: Locke and Lowe On the Nature and Powers of the Self

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 December 2010

Barbara Hannan*
Affiliation:
University of New Mexico

Abstract

I compare Locke's views on the nature and powers of the self with E. J. Lowe's view, ‘non-Cartesian substance dualism’. Lowe agrees with Locke that persons have a power to choose or not to choose. Lowe takes this power to be non-causal. I argue that this move does not obviously succeed in evading the notorious interaction problem that arises for all forms of substance dualism, including those of Locke and Descartes. However, I am sympathetic to Lowe's attempt to give a metaphysical account of a robust sort of agency that would explain how human beings might be genuinely autonomous.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 2011

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References

1 See Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chapter XX VII, ‘Of Identity and Diversity’, section 23.

2 See Lowe, , Locke on Human Understanding (London: Routledge, 2005), 114115Google Scholar.

3 See Lowe, , Personal Agency: The Metaphysics of Mind and Action (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), Ch. 5CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 See Locke, , An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, edited by Nidditch, Peter H. (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975)Google Scholar, Book II, Chapter XXIII, ‘Our Ideas of Substances’, sections 30–32.

5 Ibid, Book IV, Chapter III, ‘Of the Extent of Human Knowledge’, section 6.

6 Perhaps ‘dream’ is not the right word for what Leibniz terms ‘phenomena bene fundata’ (well-founded phenomena). At any rate, I read Leibniz as saying that the world of physical objects is less real than the monads.

7 Heil explains this view to me in a personal communication. He also points out that similar worries infect talk about events having properties. We might ask: did this event cause behavior B in virtue of being mental or in virtue of being physical? But, if an event is a substance's having a property at a time (a's being f at t), what could be the bearer of the properties being mental and being physical? Not a, because then you'd have two separate events – a's being mental at t, and a's being physical at t. What, then?

8 For the distinction between strong emergence (a metaphysical doctrine) and weak emergence (an epistemological doctrine), see Clayton, Philip and Davies, Paul (eds.), The Re-Emergence of Emergence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 128Google Scholar.

9 See Kim, Jaegwon, ‘The Non-Reductivists’ Problems with Mental Causation' in Heil, John and Mele, Alfred (eds.), Mental Causation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)Google Scholar. See also Kim, , ‘Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction,’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LII, No. 1 (1992)Google Scholar.

10 See, for example, Essay Book II, Chapter XXIII, ‘Our Ideas of Substances’, section 6.

11 Locke's views can be confusing. What he calls ‘a man’ is, perhaps, the physical human being, the body. The self or person for Locke is the consciousness, which is taken to be a mode of a spiritual substance. Another possibility is that ‘the man’, for Locke, is a sort of Cartesian union of both spirit and body.

12 See Williams, D.C., ‘On the Elements of Being’, Review of Metaphysics 7 (1953), 318, 171–192Google Scholar. See also Williams, , ‘Universals and Existents’, an essay read to the Yale Philosophy Club in December, 1959 and published in 1986 in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 64, No. 1, 114CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 See Armstrong, D. M., Universals: An Opinionated Introduction (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989)Google Scholar.

14 Martin, C.B., The Mind in Nature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Heil, John, From An Ontological Point of View. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 See papers by Kim cited previously in n. 9.

17 Modern physics tells us that the physical world is not deterministic at the quantum level. Quantum events such as the spontaneous decay of a radium atom are uncaused. Still, such quantum indeterminacy does not appear to ‘translate up’ into the world of ordinary, middle-sized physical objects. Determinism appears to be true, for all practical purposes, in the non-quantum world.

18 See Locke, Essay, Book II, Chapter XXI, ‘Of Power’, sections 14 and 16.

19 See Locke, Essay, Book II, Chapter XXI, ‘Of Power’, section 8.

20 See Locke, Essay, Book II, Chapter XXI, ‘Of Power’, section 10.

21 See Locke, Essay, Book II, Chapter XXI, ‘Of Power’, sections 47, 52, 56, and 71.

22 Lowe, E.J., Personal Agency: The Metaphysics of Mind and Action (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 9394CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

23 Ibid, 94.

24 Ibid.

25 Lowe, 95.

26 Ibid, 96.

27 Lowe, 96–98.

28 Ibid, 99.

29 Ibid, 149–150.

30 Lowe, 155.

31 Ibid, 157.

32 A similar view is defended in Lowe, 's earlier work, Subjects of Experience (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996CrossRefGoogle Scholar).

33 I would like to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for sponsoring my participation in John Heil's Summer Seminar on Metaphysics and Mind in summer 2009. I would also like to thank John Heil and E.J. Lowe for generous and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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