Locke on Substance Essay

Abstraction: First. I explore John Locke’s construct of substance. After. I argue that Locke’s theory of substance is necessary for his theory of individuality. and hence philosophically critical for Locke’s ethical and political theories. I consider expostulations to Locke. but finally defend Locke’s theory of substance and its primacy in Locke’s overall doctrine through a different interpretative attack. Locke’s Substrata:

John Locke’s philosophy of substratum—a metaphysical theory that posits that an unperceivable substance underlies all objects—unites belongingss into one discrete object ( I use ‘properties’ synonymously with ‘qualities’ ) . See day-to-day experience: we individuate an array of sensory informations into distinct objects. mentally entering which belongingss seem to constellate. For case. we perceive inkiness. softness. and smallness all traveling together in one form and we assume these qualities make up the individual object of a Canis familiaris.

However. we do non merely believe this bunch of belongingss is the object itself. but instead we believe the belongingss of the Canis familiaris inhere in something—it bases to ground that we as worlds do non merely believe that the qualities of objects could drift off in infinite. instead we believe that the qualities of an object stick together. John Locke himself asserts. “substance in general contains properties” that must belong to something ( ( Locke Essay. II. eight. 42 ) . As Locke farther states. qualities “ can non subsist…without something to back up them” ( Locke Essay. II. eight. 41 ) .

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We might look at substance a different manner: surely Locke maintains qualities belong to objects. but what are objects over and above their belongingss? Consider depriving an object of its belongingss: all that seems to be left is a bare ‘something. ’ which on strivings of reasoning backward. has no belongingss of its ain. except the belongings of being the holder or protagonist of other belongingss. Locke names this bare ‘something’ substratam—the metaphysical entity which holds the belongingss of a distinct object.

Ultimately. as The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes. “substance is he nondescript substance that supports properties of world. Expostulations to Locke’s Substance: Critics. such as Ron Priest. argue that Locke’s philosophy of substrate is logically contradictory and hence untenable. Locke himself recognizes this glowering trouble: “our Idea of Substance. is every bit vague … in both cases of stuff every bit good as immaterial substance ; it is but a supposed. I know non what. to back up those Ideas. we call Accidents” ( Locke Essay. II. eight. 10 ) .

Locke provinces substratum is something ‘we know non what. ’ which is something unknowable ( Locke Essay. III. seven. 8 ) . Priest argues it defeats the intent of raising a substrate to say substrate capable of possessing belongingss of their ain. instead than of the things whose substrate they were: for if things with belongingss need substrata to back up these belongingss. so if substratum are themselves things with belongingss. they likewise will necessitate yet other substrata in support of their belongingss and so on ad infinitum.

Therefore. it seems Locke’s constructs of substrate can non be propertied. because that would necessitate substrate ad infinitum as Priest argues. On the other manus. Locke’s construct of substance would at least demand to possess the “property of being a carrier or protagonist of properties” in order to carry through its ontological function ( Priest 114 ) . If this is the instance. so substrate can non perchance be absolutely property-less. Therefore. substance must be both property-owning and property-less. Thus Priest’s review is that. on footings of contradiction. Locke’s substrate can non be.

However. Priest’s expostulation fails because it conflates one-place belongings predicates and relational predicates. Indeed. the definition of substrate requires the belongings of being a thing that holds belongingss ; nevertheless. the belongings of keeping belongingss is non a primary belongings ( a nominal relationship ) or secondary belongings ( a predicate relationship ) . but instead a relational belongings. We might state substratum bases in a relationship to the belongings of back uping belongingss. but this does non intend that substrate possess belongingss the same manner an apple possesses the belongings of inflammation.

It is this differentiation that the aforesaid expostulation fails to see and finally why the several expostulation fails. The 2nd major expostulation from Priest and others maintains that Locke is excluded from utilizing the substrate philosophy because of his empiricist background ( Priest 117 ) . Indeed. Locke is emphasized that substrate is ‘something’ in which belongingss ‘inhere’ and that substrate ‘supports’ belongingss. but Locke is every bit emphasized in his contention that this ‘something’ is ‘something we know non what.

’ In other words. substrate is unknowable. Additionally. Locke says we have no ‘positive idea’ of substratum’s nature. Priest maintains that because Locke can non account for our mental acquisition of substrate on empiricist evidences. Locke can non systematically espouse the thought of substrate. Ultimately. I argue that Locke evades this expostulation but merely if we read Locke in a more loose mode. Locke maintains that the head perceives it can non gestate how any aggregation of co-instantiated qualities. such as colour. weight. denseness. etc. . can be and be united together without something to “support their existence” ( Locke Essay. II. eight. 10 ) .

Basically. the head finds free-floating qualities inexplicable ( Locke Essay. III. ten. 2 ) . Locke so argues that ground prompts us to say the being of something that supports the qualities of a individual object—the substrate. Ultimately. the head possesses the stuffs for this sound illation. and these stuffs are supplied by the empirical simple thoughts of sense and contemplation.

Explicating Locke’s doctrine this manner. Locke evades the expostulation that an empiricist can non keep the philosophy of substrate. Critics of my statement will keep that Lock does non explicitly reason for this defence. I acknowledge that Locke himself does non explicitly hedge these expostulations in the text ; nevertheless. I pull the basic premises from the text and so do sensible illations. Therefore. in order to get the better of my statement one would necessitate to show the defectiveness of my illations from Locke’s original propositions.

Ultimately. I make logical illations from Locke’s propositions and simply widen his line of concluding. Import of Substance for Locke’s Moral Philosophy: Locke’s construct of substrata dramas a critical function for his moralss and political relations. Through the philosophy of substrate. Locke successfully establishes the temporal-spatial continuum of individuality. From Locke’s construct of individuality. he constructs a feasible ethical theory and political theory based on cardinal rights. belongings rights. and personal duty. First. Locke must set up the temporal continuity of personal individuality.

Would the qualities of an single individual inhere together. over clip. without substrate? As inanimate objects—collections of properties—require substrate to unify their belongingss. so do inspire organic structures require substrate to unify their assorted belongingss. If substrate is non a metaphysical world. so the unified. continual individuality of an person is doubtful for Locke. If the incorporate. continual individuality of an person is doubtful. so it becomes hard to keep persons responsible for offenses. because after the offense is committed the individual’s belongingss change.

Basically. without substance. Locke can non support personal liberty. so critical to his ethical system. For illustration. without substance we are so left inquiring if the person who committed the offense is really the person who we want to penalize. See this illustration: imagine that Jack kills Jane at clip T1. Thirty old ages subsequently Jack is captured at clip T2. However. at his apprehension. Jack’s visual aspect and character have changed. Jack no longer possesses the same belongingss as he did when he killed Jane at T1.

The difference in belongingss becomes debatable when keeping Jack culpable at T2 for Jane’s decease at T1. because Jack at T1 is qualitatively different than Jack at T2 ; Jack at T1 is entirely different than Jack at T2. Do we so penalize Jack at T2 for the actions of Jack at T1? If a qualitative difference exists between Jack at T1 and Jack at T2. so we can non keep Jack at T2 responsible for Jack at T1’s actions because they are qualitatively different entities and two. separate people. But this is counterintuitive! Ultimately. Locke’s philosophy of substrate resolutenesss this job.

If the qualities of Jack at T1 inhere in a property-less entity that subsists through clip and infinite such as substrate. so grounds exist for asseverating that Jack at T2 is the same entity as Jack at T1. because a subsisting substance exists. If that is the instance. so we might keep Jack at T2 responsible for the slaying committed by Jack at T1. because Jack at T1 is basically Jack at T2 with different qualities. but the same metaphysical nucleus ; the chief point is that Jack is merely the amount of his qualities and if any quality alterations over clip. so Jack at T1 is non indistinguishable to Jack at.

T2. Ultimately through his impression of substrate. Locke is able to decide jobs associated with individuality and set up personal duty and single autonomy—both indispensable to Locke’s ethical theory. Critics of my statement might object that Locke does non necessitate the theory of substance to keep persons responsible because of his theory of individuality. Ultimately. the philosophy of substance addendums Lockean impressions of individuality but it more significantly helps to supply continuity in clip and infinite of single liberty whereas the theory of individuality entirely does non.

Substratum besides serves as a foundation for Locke’s theory of rights. Harmonizing to Stephen Priest. Locke maintains “People… carry the cardinal. God-given. natural rights to ‘the saving of the life. autonomy. wellness. and goods. ’” ( Priest 112 ) . The theory of cardinal rights is inexplicable without the philosophy of substrate. Ultimately. a aggregation of belongingss can non keep cardinal rights without a substrate because a aggregation of belongingss is non an entity. but merely a aggregation of belongingss. How would a aggregation of belongingss hold cardinal rights?

The same job associated with secondary belongingss. viz. the absence of a substance to inhere in. besides exists with the impression of cardinal rights. One can non gestate of rights without first conceiving of an entity in which rights inhere. With substrate. cardinal rights may inhere in an person ; without substrate. rights have nil to inhere in. Therefore. cardinal rights merely become relevant when the philosophy of substrate is established. Last. Locke’s philosophy of substrate establishes Locke’s theory of belongings rights.

Locke contends that belongings is a map of one’s metaphysical ego. For illustration. harmonizing to Locke. an single acquires belongings by ‘mixing’ his labour with the land. We might state an single owns the land when he metaphysically extends his substance into the land. Harmonizing to Locke. this mixture of labour and land entitles the person to ownership of the land and hence Locke establishes belongings rights. However. without substrate or metaphysical substance. how would an single extend herself into the land?

Clearly. a mere aggregation of belongingss possess no ability to blend itself with the land. unless the construct of substrate exists whereby the substance might be mixed with the land. Thus. Locke’s philosophy of substrate besides proves important to his theory of belongings rights. It becomes really hard for Locke to support his theory of belongings rights without his impression of substance. Decision: Locke’s philosophy of substrate unifies non merely belongingss of objects. but more interestingly Locke’s philosophy of substrate unifies his system of moralss.

Ultimately. Locke’s doctrine bents from the philosophy of substrate. Possibly this is why Locke’s philosophy of substance is most scrutinized amongst modern-day philosophers ( see Priest and Priest ) ; if we can level Locke’s construct of substrate. so we might present oppressing blows to Locke’s individuality. ethical. and belongings theories. As I demonstrated. Locke’s theory is at least defendable against common expostulations. Therefore. we must look to other agencies of unfavorable judgment when measuring the legitimacy of John Locke’s philosophy of substrate. Mentions: 1. Priest. Stephen.

2004. The British Empiricists. Oxford University Press. 99-154. 2. Priest. Ron. 1999. Reacting to Locke. Owl Purdue Publishers. 34-62. 3. John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Harper Edition. 4. Nimbalkar. Namita. 2011. John Lock on Personal Identity. National Library of Medicine. 268-275 5. Locke J. Of Identity and Diversity. In: Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Berkeley: University of California Press ; 1694. p. 51. 6. Butler J. 1975. ’Of Personal Identity’ in the Analogy of Religion. Berkeley: University of California Press ; 1736. p. 100.


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