"There is usually a reason for human actions, however strange..."
Locke's work proves again the adage that extremism in the defense of moderation need not be a vice. His management was in fact so good that we have largely forgotten what is remarkable, bold and revolutionary in him. His is not a name that conjures visions of excitement and romance. It seems rather that Locke promotes a thin and flat souled character. He may not himself be as tedious as the industrious human type he advances but his works appear more to plod than to dance. His earnest discussions of stools and sly ones of bottles bring to mind the small town physician as know it all bore. His only rival in sobriety is pedantic Aristotle, the physician's son. Or, of one likes, Locke is the careful bank manager inflicting his cautious views on spendthrift supplicants who for an hour must nod in judicious approval. The "non-Lockean" actually non-Straussian Locke now so often discussed is at root the same character. Where in Locke is the music, poetry, religious passion, mystery, uncompromising pride or taste for violence and destruction that people who promote "reenchantment" worry or pretend to worry about?
Not only the character Locke advocates or shares but his arguments too strike many as pedestrian. He says things we think we already know. He transports us to no new Hegelian land where everything is what it is not. He uncovers no wonderful Socratic paradoxes. He claims to say nothing that any other intelligent, fair-minded and diligent man of "parts" might not also say. The bustle of fresh discovery that rushes through even as labyrinthine a work as Kant's First Critique or Heidegger's Being and Time is only occasionally audible in Locke's more placid essay. In general, neither his works not his heroes inspire.
As is true of other thinkers, the genuine Locke proves to be more refined theoretically than the man one expects, but not so far from his practical caricature. He makes a series not of obvious but of quietly novel and startling arguments but his purpose in doing so is to attack the enemies of liberal common sense and he creates a bold, but boldly bourgeois, human type whose knowledge, power and freedom replace monkish ignorance, passivity and slavery. Locke is not a man who would lament the exit of ghosts and goblins, having spent so much of his own spirit brilliantly showing them the door.
Locke's Rhetorical Starting Point
Locke begins his major works the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and the Two Treatises of Government by dealing with the opinions that block our access to what he wishes to argue. The way that he treats the path from these opinions to his own understanding follows from his view of the origin and place of belief, opinion, faith, language and reason generally. He does not start with his views on these matters, however, but with the relevant opinions themselves. He does not build carefully from errors in these opinions to his own position, however; he neither exposes their mistakes and leaves us wondering, elicits a harmonizing standpoint that explains the full or partial truth in them or sets their pretensions to completion (or the pretensions to completion of the activities they form) into conflict. Locke is not Plato, Aristotle or Hegel. Rather, he simply shows that these opinions are wrong so he can start with a clean slate, or so we might consider his evidence without bias. Locke does not argue that we necessarily see things partially because we must see them through the scrim of certain inevitable opinions. We are not doomed to live in foolish or historically limited times or forced to reflect inadequately the whole of things. He argues, rather, that we can know many things up to a point, that certainties and high probabilities are available, and that interest, group, or party prejudice, words of unclear reference, habits, accidents, failed discovery and the uncertainties of matters about which we can have only probable knowledge come together to cause many of us to know less than we might. There is nothing permanent about these inadequacies, however, and the evidence on which to build true understanding of the most important matters is readily available. (IV 16-20)1
Central to achieving clear access to this evidence is to shake the reigning scholastic or religious dogmas. In the Two Treatises Locke clears away what scripture indicates about rule and authority or what he tells us others mistakenly believe that scripture indicates. He then tries to put government on a natural base and re-interprets scripture to conform to this base. In the Essay he does not begin by dealing not with scripture directly but with the theoretical views of scholastics about knowledge and the disputatious ways of attaining it, views that among other results support particular dogmas. (III 10, IV 4) Scripture as such is a more immediate bar to practical than to theoretical health.
In the Essay, on which I will concentrate, Locke's chief immediate enemy is the doctrine of innate ideas, his deeper ongoing enemy is the doctrine of essential substances, and the scholastic practice most in question is disputatious word mongering. These failures are caused by the characteristic mistakes I mentioned. To the degree that they do not stem from interest, mistaken judgments of probability or failure to love truth, however, they flow ultimately from religion. Religion that does not see its links to reason or believes itself not to improve but to supplant or ignore reason is rooted in enthusiasm. Against enthusiasm Locke argues unqualifiedly. (IV 19) In the Essay's conclusion Locke even suggests that theory is completely speculative, with no practical effect, an opinion belied in the body of the work and in the very section in which it is stated (IV 12, I 3) We might say that in the Essay Locke seeks to separate theoretical inquiry from irrational faith as much as is possible lest practical authority cannot be fully or sufficiently placed on a natural base.
The Essay's Rhetorical Goals
The attempt to separate theoretical speculation from ideas that stem from religious dogma is the or at least one clear goal of the Essay's rhetoric. A second, less obvious, is to free practice from these results to the degree that it is distorted by them, although here as the Two Treatises show scripture itself must be addressed. It will be useful briefly to summarize what Locke says about God in order to clarify this issue.
The first point is that Locke does not make reason conform to scripture but the opposite. He nowhere decides against something reasonable because scripture tells him otherwise but interprets scripture to conform to reason. (IV 15-20) The second is related: however faith might answer more certainly what reason can answer only probabilistically if at all it never dictates actions that reason has not dictated already. Just reward and punishment in an afterlife are not required for moral behavior to be choiceworthy. Our theoretical inquiries do not rely upon choosing some direction that only faith can set. In general no intelligible statement or directive of faith can dispense with reason or fail to indicate (even if inadvertently) the superiority of the love of truth to other arts and of reason as the instrument or expression of this love. Indeed, an omnipotent yet unreasonably willful god would hardly differ from a tyrant.2
Keeping these central points in mind we can now examine several specific points and arguments. Locke believes we can prove that God exists, i.e., however unknowable God's concrete powers, existence and the general outline of these powers can be reasonably well grasped. (IV 10) Because everything has a cause and the immaterial or, at least, thought, cannot arise from the material some thinking being must have existed eternally. We know it is not us. We also know that all spiritual or intellectual power must come from this eternal cause, for it could come from nowhere else. An eternal omnipotent power therefore exists, and Locke further claims that because he must have made other beings his omniscience and providence also have been established.
These arguments are or seem weak in several respects. Even if true they do not demonstrate that there is one god rather than many Locke believes that there could be any number of thinking sensible beings, angels, say, with powers greater than our own. Could there not be many gods sufficiently powerful to create or form everything material and immaterial? In any event, God's omnipotence is demonstrated only to the extent that, say, the first stone rolling down a hill causes an avalanche. The avalanche's power is not all in the stone nor could it reverse its effects. Providence and omniscience are not argued for at all. Moreover, Locke's view that the immaterial cannot arise from the material are perhaps plausible but hardly dispositive because the difference or gap between seeing red, thinking "red" and choosing to reach for a red flower and the bodily motions associated with these actions do not show that the "spiritual" action might not have arisen from material, however different they are in their meaning and quality once spiritual, reasonable or free action begin to exist.
Did Locke see these weaknesses and ignore them for his political or rhetorical purposes or was he persuaded by his arguments? It would be rash to claim the first because the supposed weaknesses of his argument may reflect not his but my own or any other challenger's mistakes. It would be rash to claim that he fully convinced himself by his own arguments, however, because some the brief mention of providence, say are visibly weak or non-existent. Perhaps the safest conclusion is this: nothing in Locke's arguments is necessary for or the ground of his practical arguments, nor would any mislead, limit or unalterably direct theoretical inquiry.
Locke also considers other concrete issues from the perspective of his basic points. Whatever God reveals beyond reason He reveals positively, i.e., by direct admonition, inspiration or through scripture. How could one know one is hearing the truth from God and not something fraudulent or the fevered concoction of one's own hopes, fears, pride and intellectual laziness? For Locke such inspired messages must be intelligible to our understanding and the evidence of their authorship must stand the usual evidentiary tests. Locke tells us why no serious person would doubt Caesar's existence but he implicitly shows how the evidence could be less certain for any of his acts. In any event, nothing that we hear from others can be certain, however likely it is. Locke does not give a convincing reason beyond his own sometimes noble efforts to show that scripture is reasonable why we should believe others who call it the word of God.3 Indeed, his discussion of assent, faith and error is conducted in fully secular terms which he then employs when he is discussing belief in particular revelation: there is no special capacity of assent engaged by or open to belief strictly. (IV 15-20)
The best direct evidence of a divinity who works beyond but not contrary to natural effects are miracles. Locke discusses them briefly in the Essay. (IV 16) He gives (in other contexts in the Essay) good reason to doubt others' reports of miracles: we trust another's accounts that, say, some region has a permanently frozen lake because we have seen frozen lakes ourselves and can extrapolate. Trust depends on similarity in experience. A Caribbean king who had never seen ice, however, would find such a story incredible. We ourselves listen with skepticism to stories of talking parrots who actually can reason and to Locke's third hand reports of them. Locke implicitly suggest that tales of miracles have this same value.
Miracles we experience for ourselves suffer from similar difficulties. Would the Caribbean king seeing the frozen lake believe his eyes? If he believed his eyes would he not think the event miraculous? If he thought the "miracles" could in principle be reasonably explained would he not sooner or later learn about natural ice? Locke believes or pretends to believe it possible that there are rational beings whose rational and/or sensual capacities outstrip our own. Assume, however, that we can see only what we can see. There is no way to know that an unusual event could not be traced to natural causes that we happen not to see or be able to see (now). Indeed, it is improbable that it could not be so traced, especially given the fact that we and Locke already know of a rational being with growing sensual powers, namely, ourselves with our microscopic and telescopic eyes and the sensory enhancements we have since developed. These powers become means better to discover nature and account for what might otherwise seem miraculous or merely random. (Locke does not attempt to differentiate the miraculous from the chance and random, from luck.) Given that we do not and Locke almost says cannot root a thing's powers or qualities in a real essential substance from which they all flow, our inability to understand a particular action is no surprise. So, not just reports of miracles but what look to be miracles one experiences oneself lack evidence of being miraculous although Locke does not deny their possibility. The unusual impact of strange events, which in a way credits their being miraculous, is an especially good reason to doubt that they are what they seem. An eclipse may for an inquiring mind be an outstanding clue to how nature works. Locke himself teaches in the Second Treatise that his strange doctrine is in fact a central natural one.
Locke' Common Sense
Locke's rhetoric, or staring point, or success in clearing away religious underbrush, in the Essay the doctrine of innate ideas, opens the way for a newly powerful yet permanently possible kind of common sense, namely, rational common sense. Locke's arguments are boldly unusual when compared to the scholastics and they require the steady application of reason and understanding. They are therefore well off the beaten track for many men of his time. They are not off the beaten track for all, however. Locke refers to the impatience many contemporaries have with scholastic word-mongering. More importantly, men of affairs reason well enough even if they have never heard of the syllogism. (IV 17) More important still, the evidence Locke points to to support his views is readily available. It requires no special training or equipment. All one need do is to look directly at one's own understanding direct and only occasionally difficult ways. Locke's Essay is one of the easier great works of thought, at least ostensibly. We have little difficulty in following him although it requires a bit of memory to get through his big book. Except when he means to leaves threads dangling on religious questions his meaning is usually clear. Many of the questions we bring to him come via other thinkers: it is not clear how much dissatisfaction we would have felt on our own.
Locke's Essay is commonsensical, therefore because it asks sensibly open-minded men to apply abilities they already have to follow arguments that are not stated technically and to use evidence always at their fingertips to check and validate these arguments.
The Essay also is commonsensical in the foundation and architecture of its teaching. Whether this seems clear to us because we are Lockeans or is truly as clear and obvious as Locke makes it out to be is a matter for debate. The elements of Locke's world may not seem commonsensical because they lack the "pre-philosophic" features that seem to be the heart of what now passes as commonsensical. Locke of course is aware of this what else is his attack on silly beliefs and his appreciation of their strength about? But in his judgment social or religious opinions and creations are in themselves ancillary. They are constructed, not original. What is original is the individual and his ideas and through direct evidence we can have fairly easy access to this true beginning. Complex or mixed ideas and especially ideas that are not as such found in nature (though their elements may be) are subject to or even exist only in language. Language is necessary to communicate and communication helps us to obtain what we need, quickly. Nonetheless, language and society need not dominate. Individuals can make up or reject many of the words they want, voluntarily. They can examine and break apart the ideas for which the words stand. Not whole 'things" but the individual and his ideas are the (common) sense we all see or can easily be led to see behind our madness and social posturing. They are first for us when we look at things naturally; for Locke they also turns out to be first simply, first by nature. Locke believes that, for example, the desire for preservation is primary. One in fact sees few people in society motivated primarily by preservation, fewer still motivated solely by it, and not many who under no circumstances would risk their lives. (Locke is well aware of this.) Yet, it is also clear enough that the desire for preservation is naturally present and powerful through all the social (or social-religious) noise and is immediately present to us with a minimum of opinionated shaping and unlike more disputed goods. Locke's appeal is not only to his grandchildren us but to anyone who lets down his social and religious guard. Every so-called common sense horizon for which much twentieth century illiberal thought searches and with which it criticizes Lockean "atomism" is in fact particular and conventional. It has, say, these gods, not those. This makes it impossible to call any one the horizon or even to say what common sense as prephilosophic truly means or how it is experienced substantively until one looks back philosophically. Locke replaces the authority and seeming inevitability of such horizons as much as is possible with the most commonsensical or immediately accessible natural horizon, a horizon that among other things allows (some) religion to be shown to be reasonable.
The Basic Elements of Locke's Thought
Let us discuss more generally the elements of Locke's common sense his uncovering of what in nature is first for us or the things in nature that are first for us before we turn to his teaching on human action or happiness.
The first and most basic element of his common sense is his attempt to root matters in what is simple and evident. What is simple and evident are the matters that cannot be doubted, overcome or avoided. These prove always to be separated or isolated individuals. Compounds are either constructed altogether or regular associations of separate ideas that we happen to notice regularly. (Their association may even have a deep cause, but this we can hardly know.) Our understanding is built up from separate ideas that we grasp through our senses or by reflecting on our own understanding, the actions of our mind, themselves largely (or perhaps even exclusively) occasioned by dealing with sensory ideas. Everything that we do not sense directly or observe in ourselves is in some sense made up or put together and is not really found in nature beyond our construction and its elements. Certain, very few, basic qualities inhere in things themselves extension, solidity, figure, motion and number: these in turn cause us to sense secondary qualities such as color.4 Locke is less clear whether the qualities of our understanding on which we reflect thought, memory, doubt, etc. are themselves (all) primary or (some) merely the way these primary processes affect us when we turn to look at them. He does not make or clearly make this distinction. In any event, the inner essence of either bodies ('matter") or understanding ("spirit") is beyond our understanding, if it exists at all.
The questions we might raise about all this should not detract from the immediate obviousness of what Locke is saying. It is the first thing or very much among the first things that come to mind once we reflect on our actions. This is so because it is what is most beyond dispute. Many would now say that what we see first are not ideas but things, cows, not brown and white breathing bodies that make a distinctive sound, have a distinctive figure, regularly give milk and so on. Locke does not believe that we see such things first of all and this is all the more true for, say, "just" things for several reasons. The more complex the idea the more difficult to say it is known by us all originally, known by the true "naturals," children and what Locke calls idiots or at least those who are simple. (II 11) Moreover, the properties that make up a supposedly real substance, say gold, vary with sophistication: to yellow is added hard, to both are added soluble in aqua regia, etc. The things we think we see are actually stable only as they answer to a definition given in advance. Moreover, many other such things that we believe are mere fantasies and chimeras.
What is never fantastic and chimerical are the ideas we understand through sense or self-reflection. Locke does not treat these ideas as first coming to light only after we analyze things, i.e., as being secondary to things because only the simplest ideas are seen by naturals from the beginning, because these ideas are the evidence to which we appeal when we discuss things and because they are as such indubitable. One's own sense of what one sees and thinks and one's own understanding of free action according to preference are the only terra firma. Locke's appeal is to the evidence to which we must all appeal once we begin to reflect: whether we actually see separate ideas first of all they are the firm ground we do not make, the firm nature that is first and most obviously visible to us. I would argue that far from reflecting some arbitrary methodological individualism or atomism (and rather than appearing powerful to us only because it has shaped us) Locke's idea of the clearest natural grounds individuals seeing ideas and the root of happiness in the ideas of pleasure and pain is true, or at least naturally beguiling. It is, however, not the whole truth.
Another way to see this is to reflect honestly not about cows and roses but about unjustly stealing someone else's cows and roses. One cannot see justice. One cannot see the relation between property and justice. One cannot see it internally as a mental operation it is not reasoning, remembering or desiring. It is a construct that is "there" in one's own speech and standards and in the ideas of objects and actions, of ownership and taking and ultimately the simplest ideas to which these can be resolved. All else is talk, though perhaps proper talk depending on our standard of justice. Locke's notion appeals to the simple and natural commonsensical difference between actions and the ideas into which they resolve, which are the factual grounds to which we appeal in moral judgment and while interpreting these facts. (I 3, III 11)
Some Limits to Locke's Common Sense
Locke's common sense is vulnerable in several ways that I will now discuss. It is important nonetheless that we do not lose sight of its power. For one, it seems as obvious to say that we see whole objects as that we see ideas of which they are composed. If one likes one can say that we see ideas of whole objects. Either way, the separateness and distinctness of objects, up to some point, is as apparent as their ideas. Even when we see objects as red under some light and black or pink under others the colors look to belong to the objects. Above all, it is whole objects that we deal with and use.
Locke agrees with some of this he knows that we believe we see colors in objects, not as caused by them in us. His point, however, is that they are in fact not in the objects few qualities are. What, then, connects these qualities or, perhaps more pertinently, what connects the ideas that are effects of what we see or even what we reflect on? Locke talks of connection and regularity without making clear the kind and variety of connections or how we connect things together as this, not that. He is very concerned to say that there is no subject or substratum in which things are connected of if there is that we cannot know anything much about it. Nonetheless, the force and substance of ideas as open to and holding together with each other, as this group not that, is not made evident. Nor, to repeat, is the fact that we arguably see things or ideas of things first, not simple ideas.
Nonetheless, even if we do see things first, they prove to be matters of dispute, with different ideas making them up, and with unsure boundaries and qualities. Philosophical reflection shows that the things we see first or believe we see first are largely conventional. Locke's philosophical common sense, as we have suggested, argues that we first see ideas because these alone are the grounds of evidence for dispute, or indeed, indubitable, although we argue even about them! We might say that in Locke the "what is" question does not point upward or universally to an essence, but outward to a variety of qualities and downward to those qualities in their separateness. Actions and powers are more important and revealing than supposedly unchanging essences..
To some degree Locke has a further answer to the question of connection or takes less for granted here than we might think. There are no spiritual or material substrates, or have no useful access to them. Nonetheless, I do have my own identity in my reflection on my will, my power of rational suspension and my remembrance and consciousness as mine of activities and passive reception. Locke does not always clearly differentiate perception and (self) consciousness but he clearly means to say that when I perceive I always perceive or reflect on an idea as my perception or reflection. This self-consciousness together with the unity of "I" as directly seen in my will provides a link among my various ideas. Similarly, all sensible ideas go back to bodies. A body is a cohesion of solid, separable parts. It is (consequently) also countable and shaped. Shaped, countable, extended bodies are by the nature of these ideas distinguished from each other. (I 23)
Locke also discusses modes at length. Indeed, most ideas are modes of simpler ideas. Modes are differences created by variation in the same thing. (II 13) The obvious example is the difference among different numbers. We may therefore find the connection among different things in their being additions of more of the same. This does not work very well for the connecting principle in mixed modes, however, which are compositions among different ideas. Moreover, universals, which also are a clue to composing and composition are for Locke only names we usefully put on similar things-robins, say, so we needn't call each by its own name. They are not found in nature but are as it were subtractions from true connections individuals with names given to the remainder (robin, bird, flyer, animal and so on.) In fact, one reason Locke thinks that philosophical questioning that works down from or takes apart what is is more sensible or at least more fruitful than a move upward is that in the latter case one concentrates on vapid classifications with no causal or explanatory power. Nonetheless my point here is that Locke's view of universals does not help us to see what if any natural ground exists for connections as connections or in the connected thing. In general, Locke does not visibly clarify the varieties of connections, the modes of attraction, the way we see and know them, and their status as (among) things we see.
Locke makes other points, more indications than arguments fully worked through. Ideas are independent and yet some are necessary for each other. There is no color without light and no light that is not an effect of the sun. Ideas do not show their full power in each circumstance but show different powers in different circumstances, as a plant or chemical proves to cure a disease only when one tries it, having faced the disease in the first place. Everything in Euclid is contained in triangles, but this knowledge is not easily available.
One might liken Locke's views here to his notions of toleration and government. The whole (toleration) in which religions interrelate allows each religion freedom to be what it is, and frees government from religion in ways it otherwise impossible. But we might say in contrast (as Locke does not) that some religions need more than necessary room to be what they are. They also needs to organize and educate, to rule and direct in certain ways. They cannot be fulfilled except in tandem with something else law and the force and persuasion of law. This something else is not in these religions merely a necessity but is implicated in their very activity and fulfillment. Similarly, individuals need government to make the most use of their freedom, but this utility (or pleasure) is thinkable prior to politics and political relationships are not implicated in the delight or fulfillment.
The ways that Locke sees ideas coming together have to do with addition, accretion, accident and the necessity of means and environment, not full interdependence or completion. He does not discuss the modes of attraction and the place of imperfection. Again, it is important to see how sensible this is, whatever the limits. For, if we look from the first natural perspective is this not precisely what one would say, namely, that things exist separately, that on reflection they are compounds of various ideas or perceptions only some of which are in the things, that these ideas often rely on others to be present or be noticed, and that in different circumstances or "experiments" we see more and more about their powers? These points seem especially true if the central places that hold ideas together in one are not only or primarily differentiated bodies but especially the unity of my will, perception and reflection. For, other things may be necessary for but they are not directly implicated in free action, perception and understanding themselves.
Some Additional Limits to Locke's Common Sense
The question of the unity of the will or self becomes central for many of those who follow Locke. It also becomes a reason to question some peculiarities of Locke's philosophical common sense. We can develop our points by contrasting Locke more firmly with differing views. Looking backward from Hegel or to Plato there is a certain static nature to Locke ideas and the things that cause them in us, and to our own constructions. We do not now and perhaps never will know everything about things and ideas or see them in every circumstance that can reveal to us more of their effects. But they do not in their own activity point to circumstances or situations that alone enable them to fully be themselves. They require different media to be what they are, and they therefore depend on other ideas to be what they are: as we said there is no color without light, and no light without the sun's activity. There is nothing in these circumstances or in our understanding, however, to which these powers themselves tend. They are means or media not necessary places of completion, just as men need food, but it is not part of or implicated in singing or thought. Food does not belong, say, to courage itself. Locke's picture of connection is, as we indicated, something like that of political societies that individuals need actually to achieve a greater degree what is conceivable and possible before them. Our will or freedom before we choose do not reach out or form in such a way that it is contradictory to state their scope independent of their fulfillment. We act voluntarily issue by issue as if we are fully capable of choosing preferences, acting on them and acting freely all by ourselves, one at a time. Others are useful, not necessary, or if they are necessary it is as means, medium or environment; we (and ideas) are not inherently partial in our fulfillment, activity or expression. It is as if "mother" can be the woman she was before childbirth, just with a new relationship rather than this relationship becoming a new whole or standpoint for the will (and itself an imperfect standpoint), one needed to fulfill one that is the source of earlier yearnings. Our reason points to no special use. Instances of justice are not necessarily incomplete. Rather, they meet our standard for justice, or they do not; this standard is not forced on or recommended to us by reflection on the proper use of our powers or the conditions for living together freely. They are connected to this but no concept is required by it. Desire can be satisfied by pleasures one at a time; the more or less here is formless and quantitative. "Gold" is a shifting agglomeration of qualities that can fully define it. Defects in nature prove to Locke that there are no natural essences, not that these essences cannot be embodied perfectly
So, from an Hegelian or Platonic standpoint Locke fails to account for some elements of the essential openness of what appears complete, for how ideas are connected in things and therefore ultimately to each other and how we notice this. 5 The instability of what we take for granted, the inability of colors, desires, thoughts, memories to stand on their own without reaching out and belonging to (and not merely needing an environment) does not come out. Moreover, it also seems that independent simple ideas (and even minimal complex ones?) cannot truly be stated as Locke does. This is the same problem looked at from the other direction. Does one in fact perceive red without color can one isolate it meaningfully or at all or bare thought without its always being thought about...? Does not our or Locke's theoretical act itself proved a complicating context without which we could not see clear and distinct "simple" "ideas?" It is unclear how simple ideas can be meaningful or intelligible apart from some context or, therefore, how our construction of mixed modes and other complex ideas can be independent of context. Need we not reflect on the supposedly neutral way in which we first put them together?
Our general point may be stated thus: Locke's simple ideas are not so simple. They require context for meaning and lack independence from context. They are imperfect and point to what is more perfect or at least more general. Yet, his way of understanding has an undeniable and compelling common sense attraction.
Locke's Moral Ontology
We can take our next step toward understanding Locke's view of human action by considering more immediately the context, horizon or perspective within which he works. What is it that enables or even compels him to see things as separate individual ideas, not wholes, thereby (it seems) leaving open important questions about the wholeness of what he analyzes what is the nature of resemblances that allow us to connect things, how do we see order, organization and regularity, how can we be guided in grasping the way particular instances conform to archetypes and in forming them in the first place?
We have said that Locke means to combat scholasticism with a more obvious kind of naturalism, i.e., another ground for what cannot be questioned (simple ideas) and that the basic instance of unity he has in mind is our own unity in the consciousness that accompanies each of our perceptions and reflections and each use of our powers.
Locke also employs a particular sense of cause and effect: causes make things happen. They are efficient causes. (II 26) That some think there is another meaning whereby a spiritual or material essence grounds all the elements of "gold" or "human" is one of Locke's objections to the theory of the existence of such substances. (III 6, 9)
The importance of simple ideas, the basic natural unity understood as the unity (identity) of the self, the core notion of causality as efficient, the key notion of human liberty as suspension and consideration before effecting, and the notion of human reason as putting particulars together and taking them apart (abstraction) and therefore seeing likenesses and generalities always afterwards but never implicitly first or at the same time all this fits together. In what way?
Locke's intellectual goal is to free us from dogmatic scholasticism. It is also one of his religious and political goals. As an intellectual goal such freeing allows though it does not require increased knowledge. As a political goal it allows increased satisfaction and freedom. As a religious goal it allows religion to be rationalized.
These purposes increased useful knowledge, satisfaction, freedom and rational faith are projected ahead of his claims about human understanding and political authority. As Locke says, our powers of knowledge and capacity for language are fitted to use or our "concernments." (I 4, II 1, 14, 18, III 1)
But how could Locke justify such subordination how could it be anything but ideological, and if it is only ideological how could his arguments and the actions that flow from them be rational and free? One answer must be that Locke believes his purposes can be justified and therefore that the means to them can be justified. Even so the doctrine of simple ideas would be a full or partial lie. It is not simply a lie, however, or not a lie at all if Locke's justification of what is good and our leading purposes direct a certain view of knowledge, reason, religion and the self not arbitrarily but in a manner in which the elements are or must be fully coordinated.
The chief element of coordination is that the meaning and experience of what is good that must precede or accompany a view that this or that is good is coordinate in its elements with the meaning or experience of the self and of knowledge. Pleasure and pain "are" as simple ideas; justice and morality serve pleasure and pain in a similarly coordinate way. This coordination is "ontological": the heart of Locke is a certain ontology of what is good and its fit with how we know what we know and how we ourselves are. What is even more evident is that the utility and possibility of knowledge (dependent on this ontology) flow from its end, or that the good drives the theoretical: all knowledge is ultimately practical i.e., it is judged as useful or not and is gathered and exists in a way that can make it useful, although indifference to immediate utility is crucial to its final utility.
To grasp the central elements here we begin by looking at pleasure and pain. Locke believes that the ideas we construct and even many of those we notice and differentiate are governed by utility. We make and see what we can use. The goal of our use is pleasure, and avoiding pain. The horizon of pleasure and pain is the first and most vibrant one in terms of which other ideas stand out.
Pleasure and pain are simple ideas. They are also natural in the sense that we do not make them (they are spontaneous), they cover us all and they are original. (II 7, 20) They are "original" because they are always present from the beginning. Pleasure is always present from the beginning because it directs our actions and helps differentiate what we look at into ideas (the many shades of red, say). It is always effective as it would not be were it merely a goal. It is always effective because it literally effects, moves or causes our action from the beginning and in this sense all the time, not as something we must understand in a complex way but literally as something we feel or perceive. It is always effective also in the sense that it moves "naturals," infants as well as adults. Pleasure and pain are simple ideas that are present and effectively push us all along from the beginning. They are not merely goals.
That pleasure and pain are always effectively pushing us along is less obvious than it seems. Pleasure is often a remote goal that we imagine or remember, even vividly imagine or remember, but do not always enjoy. Moreover, pleasure seems to move us by being desired, and desire, we would think, is yearning, more or less complex or expansive as our soul and its objects are more or less expansive. Yearning, however, places in the driver's seat the fleeting and variable end or goal rather than effective pleasure. So, the steadiness of pleasure or desire for pleasure as a motivation, its link to the mechanical operation of bodies, its universality and its being unmade by us require that to understand desire properly we look to a more neutral and effective quality than yearning. Locke therefore thinks of desire as uneasiness just as pain is uneasiness. Although we might try to differentiate types of uneasiness (pressure, irritation, stiffness, etc.) this would again place the emphasis on what one longs for specifically and pleasure would lose its simple universal effectiveness. Uneasiness itself, moreover, is a better way to grasp the sensation and movement of desire as it pushes us along or impels us without needing to ground it in its object. Pleasures as accretions of what is similar or identical are easier to grasp as relief or stoppage of unease or what relieves or stops unease than as fulfillment. Or, one might say that fulfillment or satisfaction in Locke is reduced to the continual motion of unease and equilibrium, with no substantive ranking of pleasures and no attempt to connect the different types of pleasures and unease to different human powers.6
Uneasiness for Locke is not limited to desire, a point that sometimes is overlooked. The other passions also move us by causing or being instances of unease. When one perceives a passion, senses it or reflects on it, one is perceiving a kind of unease. Naturally, if all unease is identical the passions are identical. What accounts for or how can we describe their differences? Locke connects these differences simply to different objects or durations as they thwart, can aid or define the approach of unease and its relief by being present and being removed. The flat road to composure or equilibrium is interrupted by different bumps that cause unease and therefore around which we move in different ways. (II 20, 21)
It should be apparent from this account that for Locke truly to explore our human understanding he should explore his notion of pleasure more capaciously. He does not do this. The varieties of satisfaction, enjoyment and equilibrium, the precise connections between unease and what fulfills it and the different kinds of complex motions that characterize our passions are not considered. A certain notion of "end" (stoppage, equilibrium, composure) and of "good" (what brings this about) dominates, and it is coordinated with seeing pleasures in an equal and summative manner. Locke does not explore what he calls the delight or sometimes the "relish" in pleasure as if it might go beyond relief: he treats it as the correlative of desire as uneasiness, not as yearning, openness or incompletion.7 This limitation is connected to the truncated view of wholes, parts and causality I mentioned earlier. There is a notion of the being and experience of satisfaction that, largely unexplored, is the perspective from which Locke understands the ideas of pleasure and pain that govern our action. This perspective or at least these ideas are commonsensical in the sense that on reflection we can all notice the dominance of pleasure, all see the variety of things that give us and others pleasure yet are all still somehow pleasure, and all see that whatever else it might be pleasure is what stops or relives irritation.8 Is not Locke's view the first thing that comes to mind when a cold eye is turned inward to consider the meaning and dominance of pleasure and the actual effectiveness of the necessities sleep, food, drink, even sex that are met as necessities? Does not everything that moves us, from selfish grabbing of the final morsel on the frozen tundra to selfless sacrifice for others' comfort need to move us as uneasiness?9
This picture of the dominance of pleasure and the concurrent horizon for Locke's argument is central in other ideas that come to light when he examines and discusses the self. Let us discuss freedom and power.
Action or motion is a form of power. The ability to make change is active power; the ability to receive it passive power. The best idea of active power is the idea of beginning a motion. We have this idea from reflection on ourselves, where we find that barely by willing it, barely by a thought of the mind, we can move the parts of our bodies which were before at rest. (I, 21) Now, the mind is made up of a number of powers, among them will. "That which we call the will," is "the power which the mind has... to order the consideration of any idea or the forbearing to consider it or to prefer the motion of any part of the body to its rest, and vice versa, in any particular instance." (I 21) To will is not precisely to prefer, however: we can prefer to fly rather than to walk, but no one ever wills it: volition comprehends only areas where man has dominion. So, the word will refers strictly to "the power of the mind to determine its thought, to the producing, continuing or stopping any action, as far as it depends on us" (I 21)
The next related idea is freedom or liberty. A man is free when he has power to move or not move, think or not think, according to the determination of the will: liberty refers to our power to either do or not do something according to our will. Doing something voluntarily means doing it because we will it even though we sometimes may not be doing it freely because we could not forbear from it even if we so desired. Any free action, then, must necessarily be willed and be voluntary; but an action may be done voluntarily without being done freely.
Freedom relates to action in general, the mind's thoughts as well as the body's motions: we are at liberty whenever we have the power to take up or drop a thought according to the will's determination. We necessarily have some thoughts, but whether to consider this thought or that is often our choice, though not always, e.g., under torture. So, we are not at liberty if there is "no choice, no volition" at all and if we lack the power to act or forbear to act according to our thought. A lack of freedom takes the form of compulsion or restraint: it would seem, then, that an increase in liberty can be attained only by an increase in power.
Given these analyses the question of whether the will is free does not make sense for Locke because liberty and the will are both powers; neither is a subject. Locke argues that the real question is this: "What moves the mind, in every particular instance, to determine its general power of directing to this or that particular motion or rest?" The answer is uneasiness. "The motive for continuing in the same state or action, is only the present satisfaction in it; the motive to change is always some uneasiness. Indeed, it is the "greater uneasiness" that determines the will: whenever a greater uneasiness occurs the will is "determined to some new action, and the present delight neglected." (I 21). But the greatest present uneasiness does not necessarily determine our will. Experience shows that the mind "has a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires, and so all, one after another." It "is at liberty to consider the objects of them, examine them at all sides, and weigh them with others. In this lies the liberty man has and from the not using of it right comes all that variety of mistakes, errors and faults which we run into in our endeavors after happiness..." One might say that this power of suspension is the source or heart of our liberty. "During the suspension of our desires and before the determination of the will "we have the opportunity to examine, view and judge the good and evil of what we are going to do." Moreover, it is possible for us to raise in ourselves a desire for something which we had not desired previously. An absent good will not be part of our misery until "due and repeated contemplation has brought it nearer to our minds, given some relish of it, and raised in us some desire: which then beginning to make a part of our present uneasiness, stands upon fair terms with the rest to be satisfied." (1 21) Desires, then, can be fostered in us and the choice of which desire to follow is not immediately determined by which uneasiness is strongest: we can sometimes suspend a desire's fulfillment, judge the degree of good or evil its fulfillment could bring, and then determine our will by "the last judgment of good and evil." The will can usually be held undetermined until we have the "knowledge of the good and evil of what we desire." (I 21).
Locke is reticent about how far or near our gaze and therefore our calculations of good and evil should be one day or one year and how much we are considering ways and means and how much we are worrying about consequences, family, friends, country and understanding. But he is clear that the heart of freedom is the suspension before determining the preferences that when followed make our actions voluntary. Suspension and indifference, or suspending so that for the moment all can be treated indifferently is what a man's freedom is (or its heart). From this flow the other senses in which freedom is self-determination, or pushing oneself along and not being hindered from doing what one wants.
Freedom as suspension and indifference is coordinated with pleasure as eliminating unease, or bringing us to equilibrium. The suspension has its meaning as a waiting for or calculation of relief from unease and as an extension of concern, not as a gathering for ebullience, overflow, energy, rule or the dance of thought.
The fullest freedom might seem to be dwelling within the fullest suspension or indifference with no choice ever being made. Utter suspension, however, would result in inaction and even in the lack of thought, for unease leads to industry in order to relieve it. Once we have judged that we have done all we "can or ought to do in pursuit of our happiness," then it is a "perfection of our nature" that we actually will and act in accordance with what we have determined. (1, 7, 21) The saving grace is that unease always will continue as long as preservation is challenged and our will is determined by unease, not placidity. The fullest freedom is suspension for the greatest possible relief from unease. The deepest or at least most lasting types of unease that Locke wishes to cultivate are desire for production, and desire to know the ways and means to satisfy our desires generally and the consequences of satisfaction. His goal is the maximum degree of productive thought and action. True freedom requires not only suspension but a broad enough outlook that narrow or peculiar religious or other conventional views do not dominant? It is suspension that allows rational calculation to direct preferences and that therefore requires preferences to come to light as amenable to rational control.
We still question, however, why equilibrium alone conscious dreamless sleep, reverie as it were is not sufficient. Locke believes that power is effecting, changing or acting upon others or material bodies. Voluntary action and attaining pleasure require active accumulation. They require that material be transformed into property by the body actively directed by the mind. Locke means for human beings to unleash our power and uncover our capacities for rational consideration, free action and propertied transformation. The qualities we can uncover in things become available only when we redirect ourselves to learning and accumulating and uncover new natural powers. Indeed, what is new is noticed primarily or only when we use things as our own. That is to say that we must transform ourselves, coolly directing our preferences to useful industry, spurred by unease, discovering what nature makes available for our workmanship, above all seeing ourselves primarily as free selves. In this sense Locke's goal for "man," his concern with others' preservation, not just his own, is not so much the end of unease or mere equilibrium as more and more conquest of more and more unease, the continuing movement from composure to discomfort to composure.10 The effective self, what later (and more politically) we would call the responsible self is Locke' goal, more than the accretion of delights themselves.
What justifies such a goal? One can justify it reasonably only in terms of our freedom, our reason and our capacities. How, rationally, could one step outside these phenomena to further direct or justify them or fail to employ them in that very effort? Locke justifies in precisely this way our freedom is set loose and increases, our reason becomes more powerful and effective, our capacities are reformulated, rediscovered and expanded. Conscious reverie does none of this even were we able to attain it for a lifetime as we are not, or in an afterlife. Locke's understanding of these qualities is coherent, moreover: freedom reason, and desire are all of a piece, dealing with or being constituted by simple ideas and making, producing and being struck by new qualities as a result. We may and must question the depth and range of Locke's understanding of these central qualities, in light of his rhetorical and political need, but it would be untrue to claim that Locke inconsistently imports or relies upon old beliefs, beyond the degree to which they are true beliefs.
The other way in which one might justify human action is legally or religiously. Here Locke seeks always to limit religious control over our judgment about preferences, the use of our reason and the ownership of property. If the God whose property we are asks that we make the best of ourselves he asks no more than what reason, i.e., Locke's understanding of reason, tells us. A religion that does not conflict with reason and adds nothing practical to it that could guide our life differently from what reason would itself demand loses its power. Or, more precisely, its priests and enthusiasts lose theirs.
We are not all members of the Royal Academy or faithful readers of Locke. Many of us can be such readers, however, because of the literal simplicity of his argument. Nonetheless, the direct care for others, for "man," for the species (even as it changes) belongs to the outsized responsibility of those who have taken "man," newly understood into their care. Their constant unease in the face of ignorance is needed for our relief from unease. How, then, can their outsized freedom be made useful beyond themselves and how can it be defended? Locke's politics are meant to protect most of us from the priests and their philosophers and to protect the genuine philosophers from the priests. This is accomplished by grounding everything on individual authority or right, by making what we owe others a matter of just and effective political law, by tutoring our character in a responsible direction, by rationalizing (Lockeanizing) religion and by allowing philosophy to become useful science, though not only this.
Let us now discuss several political elements of this seriousness or responsibility that will enable some to serve others or "man" (and what man needs as his common stock} and all to serve themselves. I intend to discuss the logic behind Locke's analysis, not every element of it. This logic is the frame on which Locke weaves his various rhetorical twists.
The two central goals of Locke's politics are to protect rights and to protect property. We are equal in our rights. This means that we are equal in our authority over ourselves, because a right is an authority. In Locke's developed argument it is the authority to choose how one might follow one's preferences and find the means to do so. Others can prevent me from acting voluntarily but none can prevent my being determined by my preferences and in time by my considered preferences.11 This liberty of judgment and voluntarism is the unalienable ground of our other freedoms. In this we are equal to each other. Of the various ideas that make up "man" Locke chooses the one most directly relevant to government authority, or rightful effecting and it is in this that we are equal. He does not make up or invent what is not there, but chooses a feature that is natural.
This trait or feature, however relevant to rule, is not the only one he could have selected, even naturally. Reason or understanding would be the other possibility given Locke's own view of the ideas that comprise us. Still another possibility would be the combined "man," the free action of our body or the combination of our freedom, reasoning and our body. Locke makes this totality the basis of what succeeds or follows the first grounding in equal freedom; it becomes the heart of his notion of property. But we are much less evidently equal in this totality or even in our bodily similarity than in the liberty of scrutinizing our preferences and being determined by our own unease. This totality is also less distinct as an idea. Whatever the utility or natural impulsion to sociality, moreover, it is not a source of right, choice or political authority: Locke spends much time telling us why paternal is not political power. Nor does he argue that there is a basic social feeling of sympathy on which to ground political authority.
One might ask even beyond this how Locke justifies the selection of liberty as the ground for authority. As I indicated earlier, his choice is of a piece with his rhetorical and political needs, with the simplest and most evident natural ground of authority, with his notion of good as naturally independent pleasure or relief from unease and the means to this, and with the conception or projection of satisfaction, completion, ends, freedom reason and causality that are correlative with these ideas.
Freedom and equality are coordinated at the ground of Locke's political thought because we are equal in our freedom. This suggests that our freedom is most fundamental for without it Locke could not defend our equality. Moreover, to suggest that equality is prior would be to suggest that equality as such rather than the advancing of pleasure, freedom from religious tutelage and discovery of nature (self-government in the widest sense ) is Locke's goal. These other purposes, however, are more fundamental for the reasons I have given: they more substantively explicate or express the connected realm of ideas Locke explores, his actual notion of human action, its goals, and the tutelage he wishes to overcome. Mere equality slavish equality is more easily and otherwise achieved.
The ground of freedom in suspended or indifferent voluntarism (i.e., in free choice of preferences) is necessary but insufficient as a platform from which to launch us to satisfaction or self-government. This is so for two reasons. One is the series of false opinions and poor understanding of nature that lead us to prefer what is destructive or unsatisfactory. Religious and party interests distort our clear view of the path to happiness and power. The antidote to this is the liberal politics Locke seeks to institute and the sensible education of which he writes. This antidote must be argued for, discussed and actually founded. Sensible politics and the character useful to it begin in time to interact in a way that changes the things that we believe we want and believe are good. They change the things that give us pleasure and our ability to consider deliberately how best to attain them. Freedom for industry and to keep what is one's own, moreover, and the discoveries by science of nature's powers, begin to overcome natural penury and to expand the means to satisfaction.
None of this, however, continues (once founded) without attention or occurs on its own. Science needs constant care even if tolerant religion and sound government are present. In general, the teachings that allow us sensible preferences need continually to be refreshed. Within limits liberal government allows this freshening to continue. Responsible figures whose scientific pleasures also have the effect of serving others are supported, not discouraged. Those whose pleasure is to serve "man," the common stock and permanent or "eternal" happiness are largely redirected in the Lockean political or scientific direction, or if pious limited by toleration in their effectiveness. Enlightenment is not automatic, but the institutions it helps to create help in turn to support it.
The second reason free choice is insufficient concerns free action, for our actions may not follow from our preferences or (because of constraint from doing otherwise) be free even if preferred. Locke's famously strange doctrine that each of us in nature executes the law of nature is inevitable if there is no effective common political authority, as he believes, because we each hold complete authority independently. If God speaks here he speaks through each of us and our reason. The law of nature impels us to seek pleasure or to overcome inconvenience and unease. When we deal with other men discretion is the better part of valor: after his usual twists and turns Locke brings us to see that we have no safe haven once we suspect ill of others. Justice, after all, is something we want from these others. It is most useful for us, we believe, if we do not at the same time practice it ourselves. Our voluntary actions without settled standing limits (or practical limits that imitate in the flesh our natural independence) produce inconvenience, death, dominion, slavery and fail to overcome nature's penury.
Law that we all enforce replaces the law that God does not enforce directly. This is better for us all but for me it is best if the others obey and I do not. To ensure that this does not occur government and punishment must be certain and strong. The satisfactions of life under a sensible liberal regime together with certain punishment make lawbreaking hardly worth the risk or even necessary as long as dominion or rule over others is not the source on one's pleasures.12 In various ways, especially the control of religion and the wariness of tyranny that Locke means to instill in his citizens, together with the transforming of pride to responsibility, of rule to industry and of scholasticism to science, the taste for dominion is limited and control.
Law that keeps us properly apart from each other is of no use to pleasure unless our voluntary action actually reduces unease or, more precisely, both reduces current unease and thrusts it onto a larger stage. Justice means respecting others' property. Property is the embodiment of free, voluntary action, of power that serves our preferences. This propertied embodiment of freedom and the further transforming of physical nature through our labor are crucial because through them we are serving our pleasures by exercising our independent humanity. Property is the outside as it were of our natural inner independence. Property places "me," my person, outside into the material, or it transforms what is other into an image of my preferences and (Locke especially hopes) my reasoned or industrious will. Industry relieves the inconveniences we freely choose to relieve: industriously overcoming bare nature through, say, agriculture and medicine is the ordinary man's version of scientific effort.13
The independence embodied in property and industriously accumulating it will likely lead to inequality given our unequal powers of industry and deliberation. This is economic inequality, however, not political inequality, and making access to obtaining one's own property equally available should not allow the wealthy to become a fixed class. It is also an inequality that serves common satisfaction, under proper laws, because work on property adds to the common stock. Science or philosophy, accumulating knowledge is another activity in which, under proper laws, the unequal reason or knowledge of a few serves all, because genuine knowledge is primarily a growing sense of the powers of nature as they can be used. (IV 16). The equality that Locke promotes is intended among other things to make inequality of effort and reason useful and in this sense to protect them.
We might ask whether Locke makes clear enough why the unequal will labor diligently. Money and law make industry possible but it is unclear why one would accumulate more than one needs even if one can. This becomes desirable only if the self projects its pleasures over wider and wider fields and takes on the long view.14 Needs can grow much beyond what at first seem natural, as one comes to need wealth and reputation simply. For these needs to remain useful, however, they must not resort to fulfillment through frozen class divisions or scholastic mystery. Pride and the wish for dominion need to be redirected to responsibility, where the pleasures in having and knowing more are not freed from industry and science. Although such characteristics are understandable in Locke's moral ontology and are touched on in his discussion of power he does not explore the question systematically.
Locke's greater concern is with inequality in politics. Economic and scientific inequality are not inequality in rights. By constitutionalzing government, warning against tyranny, turning spirit to industry, seeing thought as the labor of science and downplaying the attractions of politics Locke tries to foster useful inequalities that do not challenge the root natural equality and independence of human beings. One wonders of course, whether this is sufficient. Responsible characters may be able to maintain a good order, but can a Lockean revolution be made by anything short of extreme ambition and political virtue? Be that as it may, Locke's effect has been enormous and salutary. For longer than one might have dared imagine, he has succeeded in substituting the natural equality in freedom of the active for the traditional equality before God of the sinner.
1 References are to the four books of the Essay and to chapters in these books. href="#footnote1return">(Return)
2 Consider the discussion of tyranny in the Two Treatises href="#footnote2return">(Return)
4 Locke's list of primary qualities varies, sometimes not including number, sometimes including bulk and texture.href="#footnote4return">(Return)
5 Locke could point to his discussion of "relations," as another way he explicitly accounts for connections. Relations are not fixed substances, and we can make little headway looking at substances. His view of relations, however (no "father" without children) does not point to greater and lesser perfections but only to disposable (not universal or fulfilling) connections that we pick out and isolate because of our needs. Although we can verbally relate anything to anything else we are, we have suggested, impelled by some yearnings or desires toward other fuller relations that justify or explain these desires. Even if there is no final substance to which they point, or if they point to a substance that is no longer the whole story, many relations cannot be understood as if each instance could ever grasp it fully. Even god's perfection is just conceived by Locke as more of what we have, not a new and transforming organizing of faculties. href="#footnote5return">(Return)
6 Pleasure covers equally intellectual and bodily pleasures or, strictly for Locke, all pleasure is mental, "different Constitutions of the Mind, sometimes occasioned by disorder in the Body, sometimes by Thoughts of the Mind." (II 20, II 7) href="#footnote6return">(Return)
7 Pleasure and what is useful are the objects or objective goods coherent in their meaning and effectiveness with the secure equilibrium of the self. Locke passes by his remarks about the fit between pleasure and pain and the use of our senses (too much light hurts our eyes, say) and does not explore the modes of delight because such a path might point away from the identity or equality of pleasure except in amount or accidental source and would not fit simply with the notions of end, composure, and the other correlated ideas I have been discussing. This would also work against the equality in freedom that grounds Locke's moral, political and rhetorical purposes. href="#footnote7return">(Return)
8 Perhaps we also can see fairly easily that neither grand nor intense passion nor a mother's love are captured by this notion, let alone raging anger and offended pride. href="#footnote8return">(Return)
9 Locke does not invest full reason and understanding in the experience of enjoyment beauty true thought, and so on but, rather, in the accumulation of satisfactions and what brings them about. Nonetheless, such pleasures at least have their equal place along with the others. The discrimination of liberalism against what is high is perhaps the gentlest of such discriminations. href="#footnote9return">(Return)
10 Consider the discussion of preservation of self and others in the Two Treatises. href="#footnote10return">(Return)
11 As I have pointed, out I can in time develop preferences, or make absences painful, irritating, inconvenient, and I can choose which preferences will determine me in all but the most importunate cases. Not only means but also ends can be chosen, though the most important ends knowledge, property, justice or fear of punishment are as much means for others, for "man" generally, as they are ends (and means) for myself. href="#footnote11return">(Return)
12 Consider the importance of punishment in the Two Treatises. href="#footnote12return">(Return)
13 One might say here that Locke underplays the guidance we receive from nature to set the course for our own interventions. The natural course of plants and crops, the natural health of the body seem to direct our actions even if they do not guarantee success, preclude invention and discovery, or allow us to dispense with industry. One might even argue that the natural growth of the mind in sensible circumstances guides our liberty. (Consider here Locke's discussion of the link between pleasure and knowledge in I 7.)The question goes back to the issue we discussed earlier of whether and how we see things whole. href="#footnote13return">(Return)
14 Consider Peter C. Myers, Our Only Star and Compass (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), Chapter 4; Mark Blitz, "Modern Virtues" in Mark Blitz and William Kristol, eds., Educating the Prince (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000; and Mark Blitz, "Liberal Freedom and Responsibility" in T. William Boxx & Gary Quinlaven, eds., Public Morality, Civic Virtue, and the Problem of Modern Liberalism, (William B. Eerdmands Co.,2000). See also, on the Essay, Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (University of Chicago Press, 1953) and Ruth W. Grant, John Locke's Liberalism (University of Chicago Press, 1987). href="#footnote14return">(Return)