Locke&dualism

Locke&dualism - 1 LOCKE AND METAPHYSICAL DUALISM...

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1 LOCKE AND METAPHYSICAL DUALISM José Luis Bermúdez Metaphysical dualism is not a topic that receives much attention in Locke’s Essay. 1 In one sense this is rather surprising, given that so many of his contemporaries and near-contemporaries were preoccupied with the case for and against Cartesian dualism. In another sense, however, the lack of discussion seems all too natural a consequence of his scepticism about the possibility of gaining knowledge of real essences. If we can know only nominal essences and never what really lies behind them (the “real internal, but generally in Substances unknown Constitution of Things, wheron their discoverable Qualities depend” 2 ), then it seems pointless indulging in the sort of speculation required to come out either for or against Descartes’ position. Nonetheless, just as Locke’s official position on the unknowability of real essences did not prevent him from tentatively espousing the “corpuscularian Hypothesis” (IV, iii, 16), nor did it stop him from occasionally engaging with dualism. There are commentators who hold that Locke not only engaged with dualism, but was in fact a dualist himself. Aaron is one. He describes Locke's views as ". . . the traditional ones, accepted by the Church and upheld by Cartesianism". 3 He explains: Following traditional ways of thinking Locke regards the mind as a substance, but a substance which is immaterial. He accepts the usual dualism, the 'two parts of nature', active immaterial substance and passive material substance. . . It is a fundamental point with him that the universe cannot be explained in terms either of matter alone or of mind alone. 4 Roger Woolhouse is a more recent commentator of the same opinion: What Locke says about body and mind is said against the background of Descartes’ dualism. Generally he accepts that, besides God, there are two distinct kinds of thing, material substance or body, and immaterial substance or mind or spirit. 5 1 References to Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding will be to the Nidditch edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975). They will take the usual form, so that 'II, ii, 2' should be read as 'Part Two, Chapter Two, Section Two'. 2 III, iii, 15. 3 Richard I. Aaron, John Locke , (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955, second edition) p.143. Aaron notes, of course, that Locke's views on the essence of the mind were far from Cartesian, given his denial of the Cartesian thesis that the mind is always thinking. 4 Aaron, ibid , p.142. 5 R. S. Woolhouse Locke (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1983) p.180. In the remainder of this paper I will follow Woolhouse in bracketing God’s status as an immaterial thinking substance. In referring to
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2 Douglas Odegard, in a paper devoted to the question, is careful to distinguish Locke from Descartes and attributes to the former a strict dualist theory according to which ". . . a mind and a body are different entities and each is "had" by a man". 6
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Locke&dualism - 1 LOCKE AND METAPHYSICAL DUALISM...

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