The Political Writings of John Locke

Study Analysis on the Examination of Actions of Michael Brutsch Through the Lens of Locke

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

The political validity of this judgment is tenuous, and I will go about examining it in two parts. In part one, I will discuss the “intolerability” of Michael Brutsch through the lens of Locke. Having established this intolerabilty, I will examine why the judgment of Brutsch is rightfully kept outside of the state, and why the punishment should be, as I have already declared, aresult of public judgment, using Hannah Arendt’s appropriation of Kant’s Aesthetic Theory of Judgment.

It is important to remember that Brutsch, as well as being part of the larger community of the United States citizenry, as I have mentioned, was also a member of a powerful sub-community of the internet: the community of reddit itself. It is an ambiguous community; it is anonymous, it is not exclusive, and it is not geographically consolidated. However, reddit has curated a culture amongst its users. In this way, reddit is not dissimilar to faith. It has many members, all of whom, to varying degrees, conform to the rules and ideology behind the site, much like members of any given religion. Similarly, members can be excommunicated. Most importantly, reddit has ideological principles that shape the culture of its community, just as a religion shapes its community.

Recognizing that reddit can occupy the same space in the larger culture as a church would have in Locke’s world allows Locke’s discussion on toleration to be transferred onto the site and specifically onto Brutsch. Locke’s view of toleration was broad for its time, and “leads directly to modern doctrines of freedom of thought and speech” (Chambers, 6). However, Locke did not support unbounded pluralism. The two notable restrictions in Lockean toleration are regarding Catholics and Atheists (C 8). These examples of intolerance are seen largely as a product of Locke’s time, for as Grey notes, “[l]iberal toleration developed at a time when moral variety did not extend to diversity in the virtues that are given recognition in different ways of life” (324). But while Locke did find some people to have an intolerable faith (or lack thereof), he also found people to be intolerable depending on their specific practices of a tolerable faith. This is a better place to extrapolate intoleration from Locke, for it can be used to judge intolerable acts in modern, pluralistic societies where many more “virtues,” as per Grey, are tolerated.

It is helpful to conceive of reddit as a faith with many sects, wherein reddit has created an overarching ideology that is interpreted by its members and preached differently by different sub-cultures in the userbase. Thus, we can tolerate the ideology of reddit, but we cannot tolerate the interpretation of that ideology by Brutsch and his defenders. Locke contends that “another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, some peculiar prerogative covered over with a specious show of deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil right of the community” (Toleration, 25). A particular tenant of reddit ideology is freedom of speech, a value common to the United States citizenry and many others. Brutsch and his particular sect of reddit culture exploit this fact by using it as a defense for their less tolerable internet habits. This is precisely the “specious show of deceitful words” that Locke describes. It is free speech to post voyeuristic pictures of women to a website, but the of the photographs themselves constitute an invasion of privacy, as does the appropriation of minors’ photos from Facebook or other websites. Many of the other subreddits that Brutsch managed promoted hate speech that could conceivably fall under exemptions from constitutional free speech: the lewd and obscene, the libelous, the profane, and fighting words.

If Brutsch’s interpretation of free speech is indeed “opposite to the civil right of the community,” the question remains, why is there not validity in the state punishing Brutsch for his actions? Locke would say they “have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate” (25). The answer comes down to practicality. It is difficult for the state to regulate the internet due to fear of censorship and the vast nature of the web. The two concerns are interrelated. Because of the size of the internet, one would have to “design [an] algorithm for excluding material” (Cohen-Almagore 12).The notion of an algorithm blindly removing all content that gets caught in its net begins to feel like censorship because context is important to the meaning of content. For instance, a nude photograph is not pornographic, it is deemed pornographic through context. There is not enough manpower in the world to go through the entire content of reddit, piece by piece, let alone the entire internet. In punishing Brutsch, the state would set precedent for a regulated internet, which could be harmful to legitimately exercised free speech.

Furthermore, the state could only get to the point of punishing Brutsch after a determination of what constitutes a legal expectation of privacy on the internet, whether or not some of Brutsch’s speech is not protected by constitutional free speech, and whether or not Brutsch’s moderation of others’ speech on reddit makes him culpable for what he allows to be said. These concerns could result in legal battles being appealed for years, and perhaps never settled. All of these factors render the state ineffective in judgment and justice in the case of Michael Brutsch.

But where the state is incapable, the people are not. The people can still judge Brutsch. Not only can we judge him, but we should judge him according to Hannah Arendt. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt condemned Eichmann for his failure to judge, “[f]or politics is not like the nursery; in politics obedience and support are the same” (375). For the purposes of the Violentacrez case, I imagine that Arendt might have rephrased her claim to the effect of “in society, permission and support are the same.”

For Arendt, judgment is a world-building practice, “[t]he notion of judgment, she notes, is based on a sense we have in common—a sense that should be understood as one among the several through which we experience reality” (Azmanova, 126). Failing to pass judgment on Brutsch weakens thesensus communis, the “‘community’ sense of a common realm of shared, communicative meaning” (Hayden, 177). I forge my community with others based on the process of determining what is acceptable to us. Thus, my judgment of Brutsch helps me determine my community, and also shapes the community by presenting a view that others can then, in turn, judge.

Beyond the simple fact that I judge Brutsch, which fares well in Arendtian philosophy, my judgment is further validated by several other Arendtian claims. To begin with, my judgment of Brutsch does not stem from any law or religious maxim. Arendt takes issue with both of these methods of judgment, for they are not processes of judgment, they are prejudices. The rule is determined, and it applies itself to the particular. Arendt saw this as a “fatal flaw in Kant’s (…) moral theory, a flaw associated with rule following” (Garsten, 1077). Kant advocated for the Categorical Imperative, not any religious or state law to provide the non-consequentialist procedure for judgment, but as Arendt pointed out in the case of Eichmann, it is easy for one to abuse this theory by replacing the Categorical Imperative with any other law derived from any other authority (Arendt, 136).

This is not to say that state laws or moral convictions (religiously derived or otherwise) are unnecessary or unwanted in a process of judgment. On the contrary, “prejudices are an elementary condition that make possible living in common with others” (Hayden, 171). The important distinction is that my judgment of Brutsch is the result of a process, not the application of a universal standard. Arendt claims that a process of judging should utilize “reflective judgment” and “enlarged mentality” (Azmanova, 123, 127). This requires empathy: judging from the perspective of imagined others. In my judgment, I make repeated claims on behalf of the community, specifically claims of harm done to my community by the actions of Brutsch. I can only make these claims by populating my mind with imagined others, for instance, a young teenage girl whose photo was posted in r/jailbait.

The flipside of this enlarged mentality, however, is the need to enlarge it as far as possible. In order to judge in the case of Brutsch, one must imagine the judgments of Brutsch and of his many supporters on reddit and around the internet. There are arguments to be made on his behalf. Brutsch supporters argue most plainly for two things: anonymity and free speech. These are two powerful ideals that I judge to be important. Many of the Arab Spring revolts are attributed to the anonymity and free speech provided by social media sites (Rosen). That’s not only an example of the democratizing power of free speech and anonymity, but also an example of a public engaged in a process of judgment. It is important to build up the arguments of imaginary others in this way when engaging in reflective judgment, such that one might be able to give reasons for one’s own judgment, for “where truth compels, judgment persuades” (Azmanova, 126). In Arendtian judgment, no one can know the truth (this is her rejection Kant), one must recognize that all judgment is an attempt to persuade the judgment of another.

Thus, I develop reasons for judgment of Brutsch. It would be a fallacy to “simply [adopt] the opinions or judgments of others as one’s own, since that would thoughtlessly subvert the activity of reflective judgment itself” (Hayden, 178). I cannot adopt the viewpoint of my imagined victim of the jailbait subreddit, as I might be tempted to do based off of my various prejudices. Instead, I offer these reasons to the imagined supporter of Brutsch before I come to my judgment: The freedom of speech that you value, in this case, in in direct conflict with the value of anonymity. Adrien Chen simply exercised his free speech by outing Brutsch. Brutsch could have been more careful with his identity, it did not take an act of the state with massive surveillance resources to discover his identity. Furthermore, in the case of the Arab Spring, a positive example of anonymity, the power of anonymity was used to promote public judgment, whereas Brutsch’s anonymity hindered the ability of the public to judge. In this practice of giving reasons to satisfy others, I can reflectively examine and strengthen my initial prejudice of Brutsch, effectively moving “from prejudice to judgment” (Hayden, 168).

As I show, both Locke and Arendt validate my judgment of Brutsch. I find him to be intolerable in Lockean language, and I reach that conclusion through an Arendtian process of reflective judgment, even though that process is not explicitly written in my address. What I must turn to now is my sentencing of Brutsch. I contend in my address that the punishment for his actions is the public knowledge of his real name. There is power in public judgment, and this is why Garsten uses Arendt to advocate for the “Spectator-Judge”, “they watch politics and they judge what is going on. A certain type of watching and judging is, it seems to me, a defensible way of being a democratic citizen” (1072). This power of public judgment is crucial to democracy, and was, according to Arendt, what was lacking in the public during the Third Reich as demonstrated by Eichman.

In the case of Brutsch, a member of the public, such as myself, is unable to judge him until his name is revealed. A judgment passed on Violentacrez is a judgment of the actions of trolls, which is a generality; it fails to capture particular judgment of the person Michael Brutsch. In this way, Brutsch used anonymity to curtail public judgment. Anonymity, as I show, does not inherently threaten public judgment, for it can often facilitate it. But Michael Brutsch’s anonymity put us in the place Eichmann, unable to judge, and therefore I find it indefensible. His doxing allowed the public to exercise the power of the spectator-judge, a power that, when deprived from us, weakens the community that we share. Thus, the only punishment that is fitting for Brutsch is judgment itself.

“Michael Brutsch, you have been identified as the creator and user of the reddit account ‘Violentacrez.’Under this alias, you have moderated and contributed content to subreddits such as‘Jailbait,’ ‘Creepshots,’ and ‘Beatingwomen.’ You have worked tirelessly to ensure that these subreddits, as well as thefour-hundred-some others under your moderation, were kept free of strictly illegal content, such as legally defined child pornography. You have not yourselftaken any action on the website that could be construed as illegal under state or federal law.

“What you have done, through subreddits you moderated or created, is endorsedvoyeurism, pedophilia, and hate speech. The citizenry of the United States, as a community, condemns acts of voyeurism, pedophilia, and hate speech on moral grounds, and in many cases finds them to be illicit. While your actions have managed stay within legal boundaries, and are thus exempt from state-sanctioned punishment, they are not exempt from judgment. I, as a citizen of the same country, and a user of the same internet, share community with you. It is your right to remain part of those communities, for you have not committed any crimes determined by their laws. However, I condemn your actions as intolerable to said communities, as they occupy a space in between what is benignly immoral and what is illegal. You are still deserving of punishment, to be exacted by the community that we share.

“I can think of no better punishment for your actions than the one that has already been doled out: the public revelation of your identity. You have been made accountable for your actions. The public’s ability to judge you, not just the faceless Violentacrez, has resulted in the termination of your job, your de facto ban from reddit, and your revilement by the community at large (Abel). These are punishments that any law abiding citizen can and must face as consequences of their actions, and they are consequences that you should not be exempt from.”

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The Life Story of John Locke the English Philosopher and Physician

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

What is There to Tolerate?

In the thoughts of the contemporary advocates of Liberalism, one of the most noticeable and extensive accomplishments of the Early Modern time period is the expression, protection, and justification of civil toleration. During the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a number of distinct argumentative policies and approaches to preserve a moniker mechanism of Western liberal egalitarianism evolved. Some founded their denunciation of religious intolerance on mostly realistic reflections of the welfare and prosperity of the commonwealth. Others presented a more honorable and righteous justification of toleration, frequently founded on the uninfringeable rights of a person, namely: civil rights, constitutional rights, civil liberties, and basic human rights. Locke and Kant supplicated to the more ethical and religious cynicism of the time.

Throughout history, a close relationship has existed amongst proponents of a system of metaphysical skepticism and activism of religious toleration. There are evident similarities between them almost to the degree that pious bigotry is grounded on a stable credence that one retains the certain religious difficulties, while the skeptical occurrence on intransigence might demonstrate a relaxed association. So, expressively, the refusal of arrogance could undeniably be favorable to the endorsement of spiritual modification. Nonetheless, skepticism gives the impression mainly unsuitable to the duty of increasing a vigorous theoretical defense of cynicism. Naturally, each of these resistances of acceptance and consideration, ascended in a precise historical background as a response to the predominant governmental and societal conditions in which they were transcribed. Frequently, Locke and Kant’s intentions were as much the creation of concrete political alteration as the appearance of nonconcrete philosophical attitude. Clearly, an appropriate interpretation of the writings cannot disregard the historical environment in which they were written.

John Locke was born in August of 1632 after the separations generated by the Lutheran Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. After the separation, Europe was devastated by violence and a war broke out “in the name of religion”, known as the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). John Locke was born when the conflict was fourteen years in and knew nothing but war. The Thirty Years War ended when he was around the age of 16. Due to being surrounded by war, Locke became highly aware of the dangerous influence of intolerance and pursued limiting this negative potency by re-examining the theological backgrounds of toleration and re-considering the relations concerning spiritual credence and governmental authority. War was not the only thing occurring as this time as “Locke lived, as the Chinese curse goes, in interesting times. The 17th century in England was a time of war, taxes, religious intolerance and political shenanigans.” Locke wrote his Letters Concerning Toleration in the reverberation of the European wars dealing primarily with religion. He conveyed a definitive perception for religious tolerance. Three quarrels are fundamental, when it comes to religion. First off, earthly judges as well as human beings, cannot consistently assess the assertions of opposing religious viewpoints. Secondly “enforcing a single ‘true religion’ would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence.” Finally, forcing religious equality would lead to added societal chaos than permitting diversity. Forcing religious views on someone would only create an unruly hatred toward the pusher and would eliminate any diversity that was developing.

In contrast to the birth of Locke, Immanuel Kant was born in April of 1724 when the Enlightenment was in full swing. During the 18th Century, conversation of understanding and toleration was tangled with the opposing view of cynicism and to a further persistent analysis of totalitarianism in government.

“Voltaire (1694-1778), who expressed his admiration for the development of religious tolerance in England in his Philosophical Letters (1734), was extremely worried about the tendency of religion to become violent and intolerant. Moreover, he suffered under the intolerant hands of the French authorities: he was thrown in jail for his views and his books were censored and publicly burned.”

Immanuel Kant was entering adolescence during the years that Voltaire was being oppressed and publicly humiliated stating his view. This exchange remained with Kant as he matured, leading his publications to be more developed and reasonable with justification compared to criticizing and disagreeing with the positions he did not have confidence in. Kant learned from great thinkers and curious minds such as Voltaire and strained to circumvent skepticism while concentrating on the “limits of human knowledge” as well as the “limits of political power.” In his paper, “What is Enlightenment?” Kant contends for a progressive and tolerant practice of governmental command that would permit citizens to discuss anything amongst themselves, as long as they continued to be compliant to the governmental authority in place. Kant further clarifies his positions stated in “What is Enlightenment?” throughout the course of several other books including Perpetual Peace and Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.

According to Kant, “it is very harmful to propagate prejudices, because they finally avenge themselves on the very people who first encouraged them.” Public disputes and discussion hint to reality and that sovereigns ought to have nothing to dread after the reality. Kant disputes against religious intolerance by indicating that while we are confident of our ethical responsibilities, humans do not have complete confidence of God’s instructions. Therefore, religious belief that stresses an infringement of ethics can never be reasonable.

In contrast, Locke states that he believes “toleration to be the chief characteristical mark of the true church” and that “no private person has any right in any manner to prejudice another person in his civil enjoyments” in his message, A Letter Concerning Toleration. Locke believes in a great degree of toleration, especially in those who credit themselves to be true, born again Christians. Religious devotees should not degrade themselves by adjudicating others and by being narrow-minded of what others do. Locke’s interpretation of impartiality was not restricted to the political jurisdiction; he also endorsed religious toleration. The only exception to Locke’s view of toleration is those who classify themselves as atheist, Catholics, and Muslims. Locke sustained universal toleration of alternative religious principles but fortified the ex-communication of those who did not believe. It seems unusual that Locke would include exceptions into his strong belief of toleration others. “The irony is that it is his devout religious beliefs that lead him to the exclusion of atheists from societal favor.” Locke assumed that there is a separate and intimate assembly connecting faith and ethics. Basically, to Locke, if one does not believe in God or any higher and all-powerful being, one’s standards and principles would be debatable at best. Locke considers public discontent results from skirmishes caused by any official’s effort to preclude different convictions from being experienced, instead of tolerating their propagation.

In contrast to the simplicity of Locke’s view of toleration, Kant establishes reciprocated admiration on ethical notions that stimulate and inspire conduct to treat others as equals with amalgamated and unending reverence. The requirement for liberality in partisan lifetime is similarly understandable on Kant’s explanation. “In her essay ‘The Use of Public Reason,’ Onora O’Neill argues that the requirement of toleration, ultimately, amounts to a requirement that establishes the means for open and honest communication between members of society.” The honorable and radical viewpoint of Immanuel Kant is a main foundation of intuition into the morals that reinforce toleration, mostly the significance of independence. Kant’s effort in this respect remains a foremost attitude of positioning in modern deliberations such as Rawls Liberalism.

The sentiment of lenience is self-control. When we put up with a movement, we fight our longing to vehemently proscribe the appearance of accomplishments that we discover hostile. Theoretically, acceptance can be unspoken as a radical repetition directing at impartiality, detachment, or justice on the part of dogmatic mediators. These notions are correlated in that the objective of political participation is thoughtful limitation of the authority that political establishments have to refute the lifetime undertakings of its residents. Interrelated to understanding is the feature of forbearance, which can be distinct as a predisposition toward open-mindedness. Toleration is typically beached upon a postulation about the eminence of the independence of personalities. This supposition and the impression of toleration are dominant philosophies in contemporary liberal attitude and preparation.

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Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and the Ideas on Human Nature in Their Works

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Man’s State of Nature and How Ideas Are Formed

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke both have unique ideas about human nature and the way that ideas are formed in humans’ heads. Predicting human actions and analyzing what causes them is not something that can be easily done, but these writers have different opinions on how to do just that.
Hobbes insists that all humans are born with alike minds and mindsets. He also thinks that humans all have the same strength. He says that “though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he,” (95). Meaning, although one person may, indeed, be stronger or smarter than someone else, it is not by a great amount.
So, in a state of nature, where all people are basically equal, they will also share desire for the same things. Although it is possible for everyone to acquire what they desire, people get greedy very quickly. Once there is not enough for everyone to have as much as they want of something, conflict will arise. Hobbes is saying that this “war” in inevitable. In fact, Hobbes is quite sure that men are constantly in a state of war, simply because of their mindset. He says, “Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man,” (96), meaning he believes that someone must be in charge for order to be in place.
Hobbes makes it very clear that he believes that there can be no peace without law and order. Laws set up boundaries as to what is right and what is not, and how far a person can go to fulfill their desires. However, law cannot be put into place until “they have agreed upon the person that shall make it,” (97). Without some kind of government or an obvious person in command, no man will be afraid to break the laws that are set up. With law, comes justice. If one were to disobey their leader, there would be repercussions. According to Hobbes, this system is the only thing that will keep mankind from war. His ideas and this theory help us to understand why we need someone to dictate what we can and cannot do, and what will happen if we go against orders. He makes it obvious why conflicts arise and what can be done to prevent them from doing so.
Locke, on the other hand, has a bit of a different view on this subject. He believes that all humans are born with a sense of tabula rasa, or a blank slate. He says, “Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas: How comes it to be furnished? …To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE,” (101). In this, Locke is stating that all human ideas or concepts are formed through living, and are most certainly not formed on their own.
He writes in great detail about how ideas are formed through sensation. One can use their senses to understand the world around them. Locke says, “And thus we come by those ideas we have of yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, sweet and all those we call sensible qualities; which when I say the senses convey into the mind, I mean, they from external objects convey into the mind what produces there those perceptions,” (101). Humans perceive things in a certain way, through observation, and these observations then help to form ideas and theories.
He then goes on to say that ideas may also be formed by reflecting upon the ideas that come from these senses, and by understanding and reasoning with those ideas. According to Locke, external forces “furnish the mind with the ideas of sensible qualities, which are all those different perceptions they produce in us; and the mind furnishes the understanding with ideas of its own operations,” (102). Based upon his views, humans cannot form original ideas on their own at all and instead, they take inspiration from everything around them and form ideas based on what already exists.

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Theories of Knowledge of Descartes and Locke

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Descartes and Locke are both considered as two of the primary early modern philosophers in the seventeenth century. Descartes and Locke are both attempting to find an answer to the same questions in epistemology such as what is knowledge and is their certainty in knowledge? Descartes, a French rationalist who believes there is certain knowledge and that human reason, innate and deduction is the only foundation of such knowledge. Locke, who is an English empiricist, believes that knowledge is not certain, but an extremely probable knowledge that can gatherer from experience. The idea of certain knowledge arising from experience is inconceivable to Descartes, just as the existence of innate ideas in the mind is unacceptable to Locke.

Descartes went to school and received an education. He is the first great continental Rationalist, conceived of knowledge as entirely a priority. He questioned about knowledge what he had learned in school. He believed that school will be helpful even he doesn’t go school far enough in his life. He believed that school is the first a small part in life. It’s not just only he learned in school is enough for him and he believed that there was so much more to learn that he needed to know. He questioned himself that schools didn’t have the answers of what he is looking for and this led him to believe that school wasn’t going to help him in the future because he wasn’t getting answers of what he wants to know. When Descartes finished with school, he found himself in many doubts and want to know what the world was about. Descartes main theory is that knowledge relies on entire certainty and that some moralities are known by humans. He is also talking about Cogito Evgo Sum which is “I think, therefore I am”, the protest of Descartes is the bible. Descartes further believes that there is such knowledge of the being of the self and that God’s existence. Descartes think that it is true like mathematics and talk about God is powerful and loving. God is not lying, God is not devil and god exists, thinking you exist, and the world exists. You can’t trust your senses.

As for Descartes, he believes the knowledge is depending on the absolute certainty. He definite the knowledge cannot come from the outside world and he believes that experience and deductions are two ways of determining knowledge. If the knowledge didn’t come from within then the knowledge must come from the experience of the outside world. Further, he believes in contrast to the view that assumption can never be done wrong by brainpower which is in the least degree of rational. Therefore, deductive knowledge is the only certain of knowledge. These principles are exposed by natural light and cannot be in any way being open to doubt. He believes that these principles are innate.

As for Locke, he is the first of the great British Empiricists, conceived of knowledge as entirely posterior. He comes into two forms which are Sensation and reflection. From sensation and reflection, we form simple ideas and from simple ideas, the mind compounds complex idea. Locke doesn’t believe that there is certain of knowledge. He believes that all ideas come from sensation and reflection and that all knowledge founded on experience. John Locke questions philosophers like René Descartes. Locke argues that the human mind doesn’t have innate, intuitive ideas but rather humans are born with a reasoning. Locke took his model the experimental method of the new science, such as physics, astronomy, and medicine. He refuses the theory of innate ideas by charging that the arguments site in support of it do not actually prove it and that those who cite them do not pay enough attention to an altogether different and simpler explanation of the source of our ideas.

Locke believes that humans are not born with simple principles of sense such as a triangle has three sides because these ideas are innate. Locke assesses the possibility of innate theoretical principles. Locke’s response to the idea of innate ideas is that it is unclear. He questions the concept and believes that it is impossible for something to be in the mind without one being aware of it. He concludes that in order for something to be in the mind, to be mental, it has to be conscious. Locke analyzes the problems of memory. He said People are not conscious of memories however they are in the mind. There is also non-conscious principles and knowledge. In order for innate ideas to get into the mind, we had one time to be conscious and aware of these memories. He also says the mind is mirror natural.

Locke criticizes the truth of innate principles. He questions that the theories and emphasizes that if in fact there are any innate principles, then everyone would agree to them. There are no principles that everyone will agree upon therefore, there are no innate principles. Locke is very right in indicating that there are no moralities to which everybody would agree upon. He proves his logical argument as proof, the nativist (which it believes in the existence of innate principles) believes that there are certain theoretical principles to which everyone would agree to which Locke disagrees. Locke instead is an empiricist, and therefore he directly criticisms Descartes epistemic system and tries to prove his own foundation of knowledge. Lock believes that our knowledge comes from what our sense tells us.

The comparative of Descartes and Lock is that both beliefs in methods, they started with doubtful about knowledge and they are not grounded in the religion. Anti-authority isn’t grounded first in faith. Descartes was a rationalist, one who holds that knowledge of the world can be gained by exercise of pure reason, while Locke was an empiricist, one who believes that knowledge of the world comes only through the senses. Descartes is more into an innate idea, accountable to reason and Lock is not into the innate idea and reason ground. Accordingly, Descartes in his meditation attempts to deduce from intuitive first principles existence of the self, of God, of the mind as a thinking substance, and of extended bodies as a material substance. Lock, however, asserts that we acquire knowledge by sensation, direct sensory impressions of the external world and reflection, the mental process of breaking down complex impressions into simple ones and comparing them, abstracting them and recombining them to form new ideas.

I agree with both of Descartes and Lock. As for the Descartes, both philosophers are abandoning older traditions and offering new ways of looking at knowledge and skepticism. I believe that it is not entirely right to say that their philosophies are different and leave it at that. Everything that happens will dependent upon, and follow from, the nature of a God, who is the creator of the world and that’s in it and the constant cause of its continued existence and activity. God is extremely good, so the world that He chooses to create and sustain must be good as well. He is saying that the knowledge of God is innate in us. For me, Descartes is right, that God’s will and providence are beyond our understanding.

Descartes and Locke are both considered as two of the primary early modern philosophers in the seventeenth century. Descartes and Locke are both attempting to find an answer to the same questions in epistemology such as what is knowledge and is their certainty in knowledge? Descartes, a French rationalist who believes there is certain knowledge and that human reason, innate and deduction is the only foundation of such knowledge. Locke, who is an English empiricist, believes that knowledge is not certain, but an extremely probable knowledge that can gatherer from experience. The idea of certain knowledge arising from experience is inconceivable to Descartes, just as the existence of innate ideas in the mind is unacceptable to Locke.

Descartes went to school and received an education. He is the first great continental Rationalist, conceived of knowledge as entirely a priority. He questioned about knowledge what he had learned in school. He believed that school will be helpful even he doesn’t go school far enough in his life. He believed that school is the first a small part in life. It’s not just only he learned in school is enough for him and he believed that there was so much more to learn that he needed to know. He questioned himself that schools didn’t have the answers of what he is looking for and this led him to believe that school wasn’t going to help him in the future because he wasn’t getting answers of what he wants to know. When Descartes finished with school, he found himself in many doubts and want to know what the world was about. Descartes main theory is that knowledge relies on entire certainty and that some moralities are known by humans. He is also talking about Cogito Evgo Sum which is “I think, therefore I am”, the protest of Descartes is the bible. Descartes further believes that there is such knowledge of the being of the self and that God’s existence. Descartes think that it is true like mathematics and talk about God is powerful and loving. God is not lying, God is not devil and god exists, thinking you exist, and the world exists. You can’t trust your senses.

As for Descartes, he believes the knowledge is depending on the absolute certainty. He definite the knowledge cannot come from the outside world and he believes that experience and deductions are two ways of determining knowledge. If the knowledge didn’t come from within then the knowledge must come from the experience of the outside world. Further, he believes in contrast to the view that assumption can never be done wrong by brainpower which is in the least degree of rational. Therefore, deductive knowledge is the only certain of knowledge. These principles are exposed by natural light and cannot be in any way being open to doubt. He believes that these principles are innate.

As for Locke, he is the first of the great British Empiricists, conceived of knowledge as entirely posterior. He comes into two forms which are Sensation and reflection. From sensation and reflection, we form simple ideas and from simple ideas, the mind compounds complex idea. Locke doesn’t believe that there is certain of knowledge. He believes that all ideas come from sensation and reflection and that all knowledge founded on experience. John Locke questions philosophers like René Descartes. Locke argues that the human mind doesn’t have innate, intuitive ideas but rather humans are born with a reasoning. Locke took his model the experimental method of the new science, such as physics, astronomy, and medicine. He refuses the theory of innate ideas by charging that the arguments site in support of it do not actually prove it and that those who cite them do not pay enough attention to an altogether different and simpler explanation of the source of our ideas.

Locke believes that humans are not born with simple principles of sense such as a triangle has three sides because these ideas are innate. Locke assesses the possibility of innate theoretical principles. Locke’s response to the idea of innate ideas is that it is unclear. He questions the concept and believes that it is impossible for something to be in the mind without one being aware of it. He concludes that in order for something to be in the mind, to be mental, it has to be conscious. Locke analyzes the problems of memory. He said People are not conscious of memories however they are in the mind. There is also non-conscious principles and knowledge. In order for innate ideas to get into the mind, we had one time to be conscious and aware of these memories. He also says the mind is mirror natural.

Locke criticizes the truth of innate principles. He questions that the theories and emphasizes that if in fact there are any innate principles, then everyone would agree to them. There are no principles that everyone will agree upon therefore, there are no innate principles. Locke is very right in indicating that there are no moralities to which everybody would agree upon. He proves his logical argument as proof, the nativist (which it believes in the existence of innate principles) believes that there are certain theoretical principles to which everyone would agree to which Locke disagrees. Locke instead is an empiricist, and therefore he directly criticisms Descartes epistemic system and tries to prove his own foundation of knowledge. Lock believes that our knowledge comes from what our sense tells us.

The comparative of Descartes and Lock is that both beliefs in methods, they started with doubtful about knowledge and they are not grounded in the religion. Anti-authority isn’t grounded first in faith. Descartes was a rationalist, one who holds that knowledge of the world can be gained by exercise of pure reason, while Locke was an empiricist, one who believes that knowledge of the world comes only through the senses. Descartes is more into an innate idea, accountable to reason and Lock is not into the innate idea and reason ground. Accordingly, Descartes in his meditation attempts to deduce from intuitive first principles existence of the self, of God, of the mind as a thinking substance, and of extended bodies as a material substance. Lock, however, asserts that we acquire knowledge by sensation, direct sensory impressions of the external world and reflection, the mental process of breaking down complex impressions into simple ones and comparing them, abstracting them and recombining them to form new ideas.

I agree with both of Descartes and Lock. As for the Descartes, both philosophers are abandoning older traditions and offering new ways of looking at knowledge and skepticism. I believe that it is not entirely right to say that their philosophies are different and leave it at that. Everything that happens will dependent upon, and follow from, the nature of a God, who is the creator of the world and that’s in it and the constant cause of its continued existence and activity. God is extremely good, so the world that He chooses to create and sustain must be good as well. He is saying that the knowledge of God is innate in us. For me, Descartes is right, that God’s will and providence are beyond our understanding.

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Locke’s Philosophy on the Concepts of ‘Substance’, ‘Nominal essence’ and ‘Real essence’

July 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

Within his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke picks up where his predecessors in epistemological theorizing left off and proceeds to shift the study towards a more empiricist approach. Amongst the complexities of his theory, the notions of ‘substance’, ‘nominal essence’ and ‘real essence’ are fundamental and relate, in Locke’s view, to explain the nature of the things that we perceive. In this essay, I will aim to explain the theory which binds these three concepts together and, in turn, examine their role in the overall framework. As is often the case with early philosophical works, however, we find opposing interpretations of his meaning amongst commentators; I shall endeavor to examine the points of contention and, ultimately, give an account of what seems to be the natural reading.

To begin with, I would like to consider Locke’s conception of ‘substance.’ Locke provides us with two levels at which we can talk of substance; at the general level ( the ‘notion of pure substance in general (Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II. XXIII, 2)) and at the level of particulars or individual things (‘ideas of particular sorts of substance.’ (ibid, II, XXIII, 3)) Aside from this simply asserted distinction within the Essay, however, the remainder of Locke’s conception of substance is controversial and much debated. The way in which it at first appears in the Essay, and the way in which Locke’s view was traditionally interpreted, is that he conceives of substance as acting in a supporting role; the qualities or properties which an object possesses, both at a constitutional level and at an observable level, must be anchored by something. The properties which come together to form an object cannot simply exist as a collection of properties, they must be bound to something which Locke calls a ‘substratum.’ This substratum would be, essentially, property-less. As Locke explains, ‘ The idea then we have, to which we give the general name substance, being nothing, but the supposed, but unknown support of those qualities, we find existing, which we imagine cannot subsist, sine re substante, without something to support them, we call that support substantia, which, according to the true import of the word, is in plain English, standing under or upholding. ‘ (ibid. II, XXIII, 2)

It is open to debate how Locke actually views this unknowable substance which supposedly anchors all qualities; Ayers puts the problem succinctly: ‘the question is this: does Locke think of the ‘substance’ or ‘substratum’ of observable properties as an entity distinct from all its properties?’ or ‘is the unknown ‘substance’ or ‘substratum’ nothing over and above the unknown ‘real essence’?’ (M. Ayers ‘The Ideas of Power and Substance in Locke’s Philosophy’ in I. Tipton (ed.), p.77) It seems that either interpretation causes problems for Locke; if he wishes to maintain that the substratum does exist as distinct from all qualities, can it really be said to be anything at all? ‘How is an utterly featureless ‘something’ different from nothing at all?’ (E.J. Lowe Locke on Human Understanding ch.4, p.75) Conversely, however, if the substratum were not distinct from properties, it would have properties of its own which, according to Locke’s framework, would require anchoring or support.( ibid.) Scholars have suggested numerous ways of supporting the idea that Locke viewed ‘real essence’ as basically interchangeable with ‘substance.’ Lowe, for example, suggests that Locke may be using the notion of substance as a name for the basic microstructure of objects: ‘recalling…Locke’s sympathy for atomism, might we not suppose that what he understands by the ‘substratum’ of a macroscopic object like a tree is the complex, organised assembly of material atoms that are its ultimate substantial constituents- what he elsewhere calls the ‘real essence” (ibid.) An interpretation like this arguably can find textual support; Locke talks of simple ideas flowing ‘from the particular internal Constitution, or unknown Essence of that substance.’ (Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, XXIII,3) The conjunction ‘or’ here suggests an equality and interchangeability of the two notions. However, we cannot simply rely on grammatical nuances to establish a solid interpretation of Locke; it seems that if Locke were to hold that the substratum were not simply a way of expressing the constitution of an object, he would be adhering to the Aristotelian notion of ‘prime matter’ which, taking into account the philosophical climate in which Locke was writing, might have been embarrassing. As Ayers maintains, ‘it is improbable to the point of impossibility that Locke, who is an anti-Aristotelian corpuscularian of the school of Boyle, should himself, using the very term substratum, advance a view so analogous to what Berkeley describes as ‘that antiquated and so much ridiculed notion of materia prima to be met with in Aristotle and his followers.’ (M. Ayers ‘The Ideas of Power and Substance in Locke’s Philosophy’ in I. Tipton (ed.), p.78) Locke does seem to talk of a characterless substratum in a rather derogatory way: ‘ They who first ran into the Notion of Accidents, as a sort of real Beings, that needed something to inhere in, were forced to find out the word Substance, to support them. Had the poor Indian Philosopher (who imagined that the Earth also wanted something to bear it up) but thought of this word Substance, he needed not to have been at the trouble to find an elephant to support it, and a Tortoise to support his Elephant: The word Substance would have done it effectually.’ (Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, XIII, 19) It could be, however, that this comparison is simply indicating the level at which substance is unknowable.

As much as we might wish to claim that Locke was not inconsistent with his own rejection of Aristotelian prime matter and that of his contemporaries, we cannot deny that it does seem that way. Locke frequently reinforces the need for something to support qualities: ‘…we cannot conceive, how they should subsist alone.'(Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, XXIII, 4) And, as mentioned previously, something intended to support qualities cannot have qualities of its own which require support. If substance was basically equatable to real essence or to the constitution of objects at an atomic level, surely Locke would have made this more explicit. There is an undeniable distinction being made. As Lowe points out, the distinction is necessary for Locke’s theory; the substratum has a ‘metaphysical role to play above and beyond any merely scientific explanatory role which could be offered by the doctrine of atomism.’ (E.J. Lowe Locke on Human Understanding ch.4, p.76) The atoms themselves have qualities and properties which require supporting. Therefore, it seems to me that the most obvious reading is one in which Locke is espousing the idea of a supportive, characterless, underlying substance. Though this is contested, however, it is undeniable that whatever Locke is attempting to convey by talking of substance, this substance is entirely unknowable.

According to Locke, substances have two essences- their real essence and their nominal essence; this recognition of two distinct essences is crucial for the way in which Locke constructs his theory of how we come to classify objects. Locke defines ‘real essence’ as that which exists at the level of constitution; a substance’s real essence is what causes the qualities we can observe but the real essence itself is unobservable. As the name suggests, the real essence has its basis in reality as opposed to simply in the human conception. Nominal essence, by contrast, is comprised of the abstract, observable qualities of a substance, those which enable us to classify substances into different species or genera. Locke uses the term ‘nominal’ to demonstrate that noting the similar abstract ideas in a substance is an exercise in naming things. Locke offers many examples of how the real and nominal essences interact; his most common example is that of Gold. The nominal essence of gold is the idea that we have of gold which allows us to call it gold; certain substances will have certain qualities which match the nominal essence of the thing we called gold e.g. weight, malleability, yellowness etc. and we would call this substance gold also. Meanwhile, the real essence of the gold is allowing it to have the properties which constitute its nominal essence.

It has been noted that in postulating his theory of essences, Locke reacted against his scholastic predecessors, and even their predecessors, specifically Aristotle. He believed their investigations futile; as Mackie puts it, they had an approach to essences which ‘was not merely erroneous but seriously misleading, which had for centuries led thinkers to pursue wrong and fruitless methods of investigation and had made them ‘pretenders to a knowledge they had not.'(J. Mackie Problems From Locke ch.3) He strongly refutes the notion that in their classification of objects into categories, his predecessors actually had some knowledge of the reality of them i.e. of what he would call their real essence, ‘the true essential nature of things.’ (ibid.) Locke is adamant that what we perceive in objects is merely an abstract idea of what they really are; we categorize them according to these characteristics; the scholastic method, in Locke’s view, gives rise to the dual misconception that we can have knowledge of the fundamental nature of things and that nature organizes substances into separate species itself. Though nature provides the fundamental constitutions of substances which enable them to have the powers to produce certain perceptions in us, it is humans that organize them according to these perceptions.

It sometimes seems that Locke is arguing that the existence of natural kinds is an empirical question and he wants to assert that our knowledge of the nominal essences of substances isn’t enough to infer that there actually are natural kinds.( J. Mackie Problems From Locke ch.3) However, it does also seem that Locke argues towards the denial of natural species on numerous occasions. For example, he claims that if nature were responsible for the separation of substances into species, we couldn’t account for the number of cases whereby substances don’t seem to fit into any species; he states that the view ‘which supposes these Essences, as a certain number of Forms or Molds, wherein all natural Things, that exist, are cast, and do equally partake, has, I imagine, very much perplexed the Knowledge of natural Things. The frequent Productions of Monsters…Changelings, and other strange Issues of humane Birth, carry with them difficulties, not possible to consist with this Hypothesis: Since it is as impossible, that two Things, partaking exactly of the same real Essence, should have different Properties, as that two Figures partaking in the same real Essence of a Circle, should have different Properties.’ (Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, III, III,17) In addition, he argues that the fact that humans have to be selective in deciding the necessary and sufficient conditions for a substance to fall into a specific species is testament to nature’s lack of categorization. Often, substances have too many similarities, humans must sift through them to decide the most important; this selection process is not something which nature can do. Ayers summarizes Locke’s stance regarding real and nominal essences succinctly: ‘…the Lockean nominal essence is intrinsically an epistemological essence and nothing more, a criterion by reference to which we mark off the members of the species. The boundary marked is a precise one which owes its existence to our drawing it: reality itself simply could not, in Locke’s view, supply such a boundary. Reality can supply resemblances, but resemblances do not constitute natural boundaries.’ (Ayers,’Locke versus Aristotle on Natural Kinds’, Journal of Philosophy 1981)

In conclusion, the individual notions of substance, real essence and nominal essence are inextricably linked within Locke’s epistemological theory; though there are certain points within the Essay Concerning Human Understanding at which one might pause to question how we interpret Locke, overall, the way in which the three elements relate to one another is clear. Locke certainly made a considerable leap in the direction of empiricism and, as Ayers observes, ‘Locke was neither alone nor the first in the field but his argument is the most extended, elaborate, and sophisticated, and certainly the most widely read and influential of his time on the subject of natural kinds.’ (ibid.)

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“The Current State of John Locke’s Theory on Knowledge Acquisition”

March 27, 2019 by Essay Writer

“Our knowledge in all these enquiries reaches very little farther than our experience” (Essay). Locke asserts the principle that true knowledge is learned. As humans, our knowledge about the world around us and the subjects within it come from a study of our surroundings. Locke’s theory of ‘tabula rasa,’ or “blank slate” is inconsistent with the human mind and psyche. He asserts the premise that humans are not born with knowledge about anything and that the only way humans acquire knowledge is through their own experiences. Locke’s theory of human knowledge and the acquisition of that knowledge does not allow for the probability of an individual who possesses an innate genius and natural ability toward a particular subject or talent, for example: the natural artist. This does not mean that Locke’s theory fails because it does not cover all possibilities. His theory is weakened when he asserts that knowledge only comes from the five senses (Essay ch.iii). Therefore, knowledge is acquired through a human’s ability to see, smell, touch, taste, and hear. Locke dismisses the innately talented and the musical and artistic genius of his day. However, Locke’s theory is consistent with the typical Empiricist’s theory that insight comes from what one can experience (Studies p.1). Empiricism “is a collective name given to a variety of philosophical doctrines concerned with human knowledge. Empiricists believe that knowledge comes exclusively through experience and that humans are born completely without knowledge” (Locke 1). Therefore, modern day Empiricists must stretch their existing theory to allow for exceptions to their conclusions. If Empiricist’s would embrace this idea of innate knowledge and talent that exists among members of society, they would strengthen the theory of knowledge through the senses.There are many documented cases of unusually talented children with musical and artistic abilities that far exceed the talents of their predecessors. Oprah Winfrey dedicated an entire show to children of unusual genius. The children ranged in age from four to sixteen years old. One particular child, of middle school age, displayed several different pieces of artwork on the stage. Her artwork has been compared to Rembrandt and Picasso. She is far more gifted than the majority of adult painters. In fact, she is so talented that her art teacher did not believe that she had painted a picture turned in as an assignment. He was convinced a very talented adult had painted the pictures for her. One day after school, he made her paint a picture and she produced on of equal greatness as the one before. She claimed she never took one art lesson. One day she picked up a paintbrush and started to paint a picture and consequently, she and her family discovered her exceptional talent as an artist. Considering this scenario, Locke’s theory of knowledge acquisition would be poured down the drain with the dirty paint water from the young girl’s paintbrushes. Locke claims that the “mind can not cannot have its own ideas independent of sense-perception” (Studies 1). It is apparent that this young girl’s talent stemmed from a natural inclination toward art and painting. She did not sit in on a single art class and she was never taught how to paint. It is impossible to reconcile Locke’s theory with the case of this young girl. She has a natural talent for art. Swami Krishnanaanda, in Studies in Comparative Philosophy, points out that the “truth of mathematics and logic are not exclusively derived from sense-experience. Though the material necessary for the formulation of mathematical and logical laws is received by us through sensations, the laws themselves are not got from empirical observation; they are inherent in the mind itself as its essential make-up and method of working (p. 5). Mathematics and the rules of logic are innately understood by a human through the process of abstract thought. Abstract thinking is not natural and fails to be empirical because it cannot be experienced through the five senses. This method of thinking forces a person to understand complicated rules and symbols on an unnatural level. If this type of thinking were natural, everyone would be able to think and understand mathematical principles on an abstract level. If abstract thought were analogous to natural thought, than all humans would be able to understand trigonometry when they are taught the subject in the classroom. However, because mathematics and logical reasoning cannot be comprehended in a natural way, only a select number of people can fully grasp the principles these subjects have to offer. Locke’s conception of knowledge has been interpreted to include “facts, which are things said or done, not dreams, visions, opinions, or even deductive systems” (Restoration Review 2). The problem with this definition of knowledge is that facts are only made factual because society ultimately comes to an agree that they are facts. If society did not agree that the ‘sky is blue’ for example, than those who observed the sky to be blue would only possess the opinion, not the factual knowledge that it is blue. Therefore, facts only become facts through consent, not observation. This assertion is supported through considering the different denominations of Christianity. Mormonism for example, does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They only recognize Jesus as a prophet because Mormons, as a group, consents to this realization. The Baptist denomination, however, acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God because the Baptist convention accepts Jesus to be so. Neither denomination observed Jesus’ relationship to God, nor did they experience this conception with their five senses. Rather, they accept this idea as truth or ‘gospel’ because their groups have consented that this was true. Even if the two groups observed the relationship of Jesus and God through their sensory experiences, than the two groups would have come to the same conclusion: either Jesus is the son of God, or he is a mere prophet, not both. The mere disagreement of the two groups on the same topic suggests that they gained their knowledge by agreement, consent, opinion, and tradition, not through the senses of their individual congregants. Locke acknowledges the apparent dichotomy in the understanding of what he considers an ‘experience.’ In fact, he acknowledges the premise “our observations may be employed either about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds”(Internet Encyclopedia 5). Therefore, Locke states that our five senses can take in or experience the external world. For example, one can taste a fine champagne-based dill sauce and comprehend its Moet and Chandon base. Locke goes further with his premise to include the ‘internal’ precepts of the mind within the scope of his definition of ‘experience.’ This would include, for example, the internal thought process that must take place before the next sentence of this paper is written. If knowledge must be acquired through the five senses in order to be understood, than a sixth sense must be created in order to understand originality of ideas and invention. Einstein, for example, invented several mathematical concepts, based on the knowledge he acquired through experience. However, his original ideas were not causally linked to the knowledge he acquired through the study of physics just because his ideas involved the subject of physics. A child may paint a picture in an impressionistic style, without any prior training to paint that way. Just because his painting qualifies as what society classifies as “impressionistic” does not mean that his ability to paint in this manner is at all related to a training in the style. Locke’s theory dismisses the concept that ideas can be original. According to Locke, ideas naturally flow from one’s sensory experience, and therefore knowledge, of a subject. However, only a select number in any population are equipped with the ability to take the knowledge they have acquired one step further in order to develop an original idea or invention. On the other hand, the definition of an original invention is that it is new and has never been created before. Locke acknowledges this argument through his second theory of knowledge acquisition: reflection. Locke defines reflection as a concept where “we turn our mind on itself” (Spark 1). In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke states that humans receive ideas “as thought, belief, doubt, and will” (Essay Book II). If doubt is supposed to be an object of how humans understand the world, than Locke’s theory is insufficient in that it does not account for doubt that has no rational basis. Locke believes that doubt can only result from experiences that cause doubt. Therefore, according to Locke, doubt cannot be unfounded because it is directly related to one’s sensory experiences. This theory can be countered by the very existence of phobias. Some humans are afraid of heights, dogs, and small spaces without any prior experience with the very object that caused their doubts and fears. Therefore, doubt can be unfounded and unexplainable. Doubt may arise from a force other than a person’s encounter with it. For example, one may be afraid of heights without ever leaving the ground. One may also be afraid of flying without ever having travelled by means other than motor vehicle. Contemporary philosophers evaluate Locke’s ideas in the context of how humans perceive the world around them. They have coined the term “veil of perception” to describe the wall or the “veil of ideas between us and the world” (Spark 2). Thus, according to Locke, an original idea is a natural result of one’s perception of a subject. This assumes that the knowledge acquired by humans does not remain static, but rather acts as a synthesis upon which ideas are built. Therefore, when humans acquire knowledge through observation, within the field of science, for example, the knowledge he gains does not remain in the same form that he received it in. Rather, the knowledge evolves into ideas and later inventions. This theory still does not explain why some people use their knowledge productively and others do not. Quite frankly, an answer to this theory would require non-empirical conjecture. When knowledge evolves into ideas, it becomes abstract thought because the idea that results is original and unique to the individual that conceives it. Often times, the ideas that result from acquired knowledge do not follow a logical set of steps that ultimately produce a final product or in this case idea or invention. The fact that one’s thought pattern skips logical steps that lead to a logical conclusion, that in this case is an invention, does not discount the notion that ideas cannot result from spontaneous and unlearned knowledge. For example, researchers and doctors studied the same concepts as Albert Einstein for years, as did the researchers before them. However, for some reason that defies the empirical acquisition of knowledge, Einstein was able to instinctively expedite the creation of theories of physics. Locke’s theories cannot explain the genius that is Albert Einstein or the artistic genius of a middle-schooler.Locke’s theory forces one to examine the origin of genius and whether the concept is learned, as Locke concludes, or biological. Steven Allen, in his “Observations on Genius”, states that genius does not originate from perspiration, as Edison once suggested, but rather, the thoughts and ideas of geniuses come easily, requiring little to no work at all (Allen 1). Society has agreed that geniuses do exist, thus we use the word ‘genius.’ Locke’s theory of ‘tabula rasa’ does not allow for the possibility of genius. In fact, it does not even explain the capacity for one individual to exhibit unusual talent while another does not. His theory cannot explain the five-year-old from MENSA that can add up columns of large numbers in a small amount of time. It does not account for the adult that can square a particular number one hundred times in a blink of an eye, or another person who can read the United States Constitution once and than recite it from memory verbatim. This, of course, only considers and evaluates the term ‘genius’ in the most classic sense. These are individuals that society has agreed are geniuses. For example, this would include Michelangelo, in the art world, and Einstein, in the sciences. Abstract theory, therefore, cannot be explained by empirical means. Abstract concepts such as calculus, which involves a lofty amount of symbols, involves a part of the human brain that is capable of processing and understanding information on an unnatural and abstract level. Genius, therefore, is understood to be a unique thought process, unexplainable by the laws of natural order. If it was natural, genius would be more common. However, true genius in its classic form, is extremely rare and exists in very few members of the human population. Thus, genius is a deviation from what is natural and therefore an unnatural occurrence in the population, according to Locke’s theory of ‘tabula rasa.’ Suppose Edison was correct and accurate when he stated that genius is “ninety-nine percent perspiration.” This would mean that if everyone in society worked as hard as they possibly could, than they would exhibit some form of genius. If this were true, than hard work would equate to genius and laziness would equate to stupidity. Locke would agree with this, but it is simply unrealistic and short-sighted. It does not account for the fact that some members of the population are born with an intrinsic genius. Steven Allen would therefore agree that genius can better be explained by biology and genetics, rather than the tabula rasa theory (Allen id). Genius can be better understood in terms of chemicals and brain structure, instead of the blank slate theory or religious doctrine. In fact, a posthumous dissection and subsequent analysis of Einstein’s brain was performed to determine if there were any marked differences between his brain and that of a ‘normal’ person. It was discovered that his brain was “fifteen percent larger than an average human brain and that it possessed a higher number of glial cells, the cells that support and nourish the network of neurons. This subsequently increased the metabolic speed of Einstein’s thoughts and brain waves” (Cardoso 1). Even though the relationship between the level of intelligence an individual possesses and his genetic makeup has long been debated, Einstein’s case cannot be ignored. Einstein possessed particular biological characteristics that set him apart from a person with average intelligence. Scientists are hesitant however, to claim that there is a definite causal link between intelligence and the biological and genetic makeup of an individual. Locke also proposes the notion that knowledge runs out at some point, that it is a limited concept (Essay). Locke proposes that, even though knowledge comes to the individual through experience, it is that experience that limits an individual’s capacity to understand everything he experiences. Locke’s theory does not account for the possibility of unsupported claims. For example, an individual can invent the idea of the internet without the understanding of how it works in cyberspace. Just because our experiences do not provide a lit path that leads to a logical conclusion or result, does not mean that the result cannot be achieved by other means, i.e. by using logic and deductive reasoning. For example, if there are three seats in a row and child A occupies seat one and child B occupies seat three and child C occupies neither seat, than it can be concluded through deductive reasoning, that seat two will not be occupied by a child. Even though this scenario did not explicitly state that seat two would remain empty it implied that it was empty because the other two seats were occupied. Even though one’s experiences may only produce lemons, it is natural to produce lemonade from the facts that are experienced by an individual through his senses.Understanding, knowledge, and genius can also be understood through religious theory and doctrine. If one believes that God created all things, than it can be concluded that knowledge is God’s creation. In addition, if one believes that God is in control and that man was made in God’s image, than the knowledge an individual possesses is unique to his person because God made each person different and unique. Therefore, one may logically conclude, if a person is classified as ‘genius’ or ‘idiot’ than it is because God created them to be so. Therefore one’s knowledge and intelligence is part of the divine order. Therefore, in Einstein’s case, he was supposed to be a quantum theorist and was intellectually capable of being so because God created some individuals to be average and others to be exceptional, as part of his divine order. This religious perspective asserts the claim that humans are not equal. Just because God created individuals with special talents and individuals with a natural tendency towards idiocy, does not mean it is to the detriment of that individual because this would presuppose that God wanted the worst, not the best for his creation. This would seem, on the other hand, to say that God is unaware of the stigmas that society gives to those people with less intelligence and the obvious benefits that society gives to people with unusual talents and genius. This premise cannot be true because God knows all, because God created all. Locke believes that “humans are the property of God” (Locke’s Idea). Therefore, God created some humans to be rich and other humans to be impoverished. This notion ignores the existence of freewill. According to the Christian concept of free will, God gave all humans the right to choose whether to believe in him or not to believe in him. Therefore, if humans do not believe in certain religious doctrines, than they are following their own imperfect path in defiance of the divine order. However, God wants the best for his creations, and that is why he gave humans the right to choose their path in life, through the teachings of God. Therefore, if an individual is born into poverty, it does not mean he must remain in poverty. If an individual is impoverished, he must work as hard as he can to reach his fullest potential. Just because a human is born in a particular state, does not mean that he must remain in that same state. In addition, if he works hard to improve upon his original state, his very act of improvement does not show defiance to God, but rather utilizes the free will that God gave him to improve the lives of himself and his family. Therefore, when a person works to improve his original impoverished condition, he is working in accordance with the divine order, not against it.Locke’s theory of ‘blank slate’ and his empirical understanding of reason and knowledge is insufficient when one considers the biological possibilities of genius and talent and the role that genetics and brain structure can play in one’s intelligence. Locke states that all humans are born without any prior knowledge and that as one ages; he acquires knowledge about the world around him through each of his five senses. Locke’s ‘tabula rasa’ fails to embrace theories that are more than mere exceptions to his doctrine of knowledge acquisition. Locke does not even care to acknowledge the theories that contradict his theory. In fact, his theory would be stronger if he reconciled the natural born genius with the human born with a ‘blank slate’, an empty head. Religious doctrine and theory play a role in describing not how certain humans acquire knowledge, but why they acquire it, while others are at an apparent disadvantage and are not as fortunate to be on the ‘gifted’ end of the divine order. Since all things in the world stem from God, all knowledge stems from God, which therefore creats a class inequality in society. People with more intelligence usually acquire special training and are in greater demand in a capitalist society than common, unskilled laborers of merely average intelligence. God however, gave each human a place in life, in terms of an existence rich or deficient in intellect. God created a divine order with his creation, however he gave his creation the capacity, through free will, to achieve the best possible outcome for himself. This is not in defiance of religious doctrine, but rather, it falls right in line with God’s order in the universe. Locke acknowledges God’s existence and even goes on to state that the state should not establish a formal religion because the state must operate by force, or ‘coercion’ which goes against the passively resistant nature of religious doctrine in general (Notre Dame 5). Locke’s theory about how humans acquire understanding about the world around them should expand to include, or at least reconcile itself with, the existence of genius. WORKS CITEDGottfried, Paul. “Distrusting John Locke.” Chronicles Magazine, January 2001. Internet Available: “John Locke (1632-1704),” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2001. Internet Available: , Alan. “John Locke and the Eighteenth Century Divines,” Review. Internet Available: , Swami. Studies in Comparitive Philosophy: John Locke, Rishikesh, India, 2004. Internet Available: https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/com/com_lock.html. Locke, John. “Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Edited by Peter Nidditch, Penguin, USA, 1998.”Locke on Religious Intolerance by the State,” The Philosophy Circle. Internet Available: http://articles.philosophycircle.com/index.php?k.html. “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Nuovo, Victor. Review of God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations of Locke’s Political Thought. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Harris Manchester College. May 4, 2003. Internet Available: . An Essay on How Locke’s Idea of Reason is Unreasonable. 2004. Internet Available: .

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Religious Justification for Political Acts

March 22, 2019 by Essay Writer

While Locke first appeals to his readers’ passions to justify a separation between church and state, these arguments are weak; the true, more covert argument Locke makes for not allowing the magistrate to enforce religion is that having one uniform religion is not as good for the politics of society, nor is religion superior to the politics of ourselves, or our reasoning. Throughout Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration, he (like Socrates) often says one thing but means the opposite. So for example while Locke claims to be a Christian and support the separation between church and state because of religious reasons (the idea that no religion can truly be imposed on anyone as religion is an internal commitment), he also criticizes Christianity and gives examples in which politics are held to be more important than religion. Although he is subtle in how he shows them, understanding Locke’s priorities in which politics and one’s own reasoning are more important than religion is essential to understanding why he truly believes the magistrate cannot impose a religion on its people. It’s not a religious justification, it’s a political one well-disguised by appeals to religious passion that on the surface appear valid, but when more closely examined give way to his real reasoning behind the idea of separation between church and state.

Locke starts off with a very simple idea. He says that “the care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God” (7). This is Locke’s appeal to people’s passions, yet it is a weak one when this simple question is raised: can religion really not be influenced by external forces? It is easy to imagine that it can be. Personally, most of us got our religion from our parents’ beliefs. Historically, European settlers made almost the entire continent of central/south America adopt Christianity. Hypothetically, if a new ruler took over and imposed a religion on his people, sure maybe they might believe externally and not internally, but would their kids be the same way? What about their kids? Eventually, this magistrate would persuade people of their religion. Having proved that his first argument is invalid and a mere appeal to the simple reader’s passions, what then is the real reason why Locke believes that the magistrate can not establish religion through his political power?

Practically, believing in many different religions is safer for society. In terms of the safety of the government and in the laws, Locke says that “[the churches] will watch one another, that nothing may be innovated or changed in the form of the government, because they can hope for nothing better than what they already enjoy—that is, an equal condition with their fellow-subjects under a just and moderate government” (38-39). In other words, having multiple churches provides a check on each so that they do not change the government wrongly or do anything unjust. If there were only one church then it would simply operate in its own self-interest, regardless of if what it is doing is just or not. In terms of conflicts outside of society, allowing the magistrate to choose the religion for his people creates a dangerous precedent. If each magistrate believes his religion is the correct one, then he will want to impose it on other kingdoms as well through war, both as part of his duty to his beliefs as well as to “save” others. Locke notes that “no peace and security, no, not so much as common friendship, can ever be established or preserved amongst men so long as this opinion prevails, that dominion is founded in grace and that religion is to be propagated by force of arms” (15). If each magistrate thinks they have the true church, then trying to spread it to others will result in constant warfare (as history has shown). The only way to stop these conflicts can be the toleration of all religions. As such, the magistrate can not enforce a statewide church. In making these arguments, Locke’s focus more on the practical effects of tolerating all churches (such as staying out of war and controlling government tyranny) rather than the spiritual benefits to doing so show that he does not want a statewide religion not because he has a dedication to any religion, but rather because of the more positive political implications that would follow.

Locke proposes another political justification when asked if a person should obey the “conscience of a private person” (33), in other words oneself, over the magistrate when the magistrate enacts a law that one’s conscience disagrees with. He very specifically chooses his wording, first saying that “But if, perhaps, it do so fall out [of the public good], I say, that such a private person is to abstain from the action that he judges unlawful,” (33). He continues on to justify this by saying that “the private judgement of any person concerning a law enacted in political matters, for the public good, does not take away the obligation of that law” (33). Locke has cleverly switched from saying one should obey one’s conscience to the idea that one should obey one’s private judgement. This is important because our conscience is not really us. We believe it to come from a higher sense of morality, we believe it to come from God. Therefore to ask whether one should follow conscience or the magistrate is to ask what is more important, religion or state? It appears here that Locke holds religion to be more important because he answers with consciousness, yet he qualifies this answer by changing “consciousness” to “private judgement”, which is our own reasoning, not God’s. If our own reasoning is what really rules us (and not our consciousness, or religion, or the state), then Locke is saying that our own personal politics are more important than religion. Yet again, Locke has said one thing and meant the opposite. So how does this relate to the magistrate not being able to impose religion on a society? Having shown that Locke prioritizes man’s reasoning to be most important, it does not make sense that one religion should be thrust upon us. We can make our own judgements about what is right for us. If our own reasoning is the supreme judge, then we should have the power to choose our own religion.

An objection to this argument may be that this cannot be said, as I have previously claimed that Locke’s argument that religion can only be internal is invalid. This is a weak objection as his original argument is that external forces can’t influence our religious beliefs. I say that is false, but that is not to say however that external forces shouldn’t impose beliefs, because our own beliefs should be most important. There is room for both the idea that external forces can influence us, and the idea that our own judgement is still most important. Furthermore, one may reasonably ask if Locke can really believe in Christianity if he considers reasoning (or in other words himself) to be above God, and this is a reasonable argument, but there is not ample space in the remainder of this short paper to discuss all of Locke’s own beliefs (or lack thereof.) The important idea is simply that he may answer in a politically salient manner in which he suggests religious belief is supreme, but Locke really holds our own judgements to be superior to the church, and as such we should be the ones allowed to choose our religion, not the other way around.

Locke lived in a time where even this letter in all its subtleties was considered radical. He could not blatantly state that politics and the public good were superior to the church and that that is why the magistrate could not enforce a religion. Rather, he had to shroud this argument in other, weaker ones that appealed to religious people’s passions and made him appear as if he was supporting the church in his cause. This was not the case, as Locke argues first for the political benefits of a tolerant society that gets involved in less conflict and checks the power of both the church and the government. He then goes on to give the more personal answer that each person’s reasoning and politics are more important and above that of religion (although he of course does not overtly say this), implying that we should be able to choose our church rather than having it chosen for us by a magistrate. For Locke, the separation between church and state is necessary because it is good politics and gives us the choice we deserve, not because he is dedicated to the religious inclinations of others.

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