How the philosophers have violated common sense, and thus furnished ammunition for skeptics and atheists.

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Nov 12, 2022


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REQUIRED Assignment Submission:
Once you have completed the assigned readings & viewings, and once you’re satisfied that you can answer the Reading/Study Questions, then please respond to the following question, remaining strictly within the length guideline. Your response should be between 100-250 words.
(1) Describe what Hobbes calls “the state of nature,” and explain why it has the character it does have. [Hint: are people cooperative in a state of nature?]
Hobbes, Locke, and Berkeley
Materialism and the Beginnings of Empiricism
Essential Points
Aspects of the new science accepted by Hobbes
Resolution and composition: The two phases of method
The mechanistic analysis of mind is best seen when one considers that, for Hobbes, human life doesn’t differ in principle from the operations of a watch. With respect to the human mind and its relation to the body, Hobbes is what is known as a metaphysical “monist”, which means that it’s “all one”.
Materialist or epiphenomenalist?
Regulated thoughts, words, and definitions. For Hobbes, all thought originates in sensation—that is, in the effect upon our senses made by external objects. These impacts leave traces in us that, especially when structured by words, succeed one another according to rules. In unregulated thought such as idle daydreaming, the rules are those of customary associations. When regulated by desire seeking means to its satisfaction, thought becomes reasoning.
Voluntary motions in the service of vital motions; will as the last appetite in deliberation
Pleasure is our natural end, as humans. In the state of nature there is war because people seek to maximize their pleasure and power. Hobbes thinks that life in a state of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” because humans are egoistic hedonists, each seeking to maximize his or her own pleasure, together with enough power to secure continued enjoyment. As a result, men are competitors, and the state of nature is a state of war—of “all against all.”
Seeking peace while defending ourselves. A “law” of nature is simply a description of how things proceed. So when Hobbes says that the first law of nature is to seek peace, he means that a prudent individual in the state of nature will naturally come to see that this is what is required to secure his or her life and happiness. A “right”of nature, correspondingly, would be whatever a prudent person would do to preserve and defend his or her own life.
The “contract” establishes a sovereign power. Hobbes thinks that a sovereign power is required to compel men to keep their agreements. Hobbes thinks that the establishment of a social contract demands a “coercive power”—or, a sovereign because individuals will have no good reason to trust each other to mutually limit their liberty unless there is a power to force them to keep their word. Since they are egoistic pleasure seekers, they will take an opportunity to break the contract when it is to their advantage, if it is not clear that it will be against their interest to do so. That’s what a sovereign can guarantee.
Aim: To understand our understanding—how it works, what materials it has to work with, and how far it can reach. When Locke says that he will use a “historical, plain method” in investigating human understanding, he means that he will try to trace our ideas to their origin.
Experience as the source of all our ideas
Ideas of sensation and ideas of reflection. All our ideas come from experience, Locke says; that is, from sensation and reflection. Basically, Locke says all our ideas originate in experience. There are no innate ideas. There are two sources: Sensation (the experience of external objects through our senses), and reflection (ideas obtained by reflecting on our own mental operations).
Simple and complex ideas
Operations on ideas
Our idea of substance, Locke says, is the idea of an unknown substratum that holds the qualities we experience. This substratum is unknown and unknowable, and inferable only by its necessity. We notice that in our experience some qualities regularly appear together. It seems implausible that this could be an accident, so we suppose there must be something that has these qualities. That substratum in which qualities have their being, we call substance. We never experience substances directly, and so have no proper idea of substances, nor knowledge of their natures.
The powers of substances
Our idea of the soul as clear as our idea of material substance
Our idea of personal identity is founded in consciousness, especially in memory. If Locke is right, the problem of personal identity arises because a person can have such different qualities at different times. Personal identity does not consist in sameness of substance, whether of body or soul. Rather, it is founded in consciousness, and in particular in memory. What makes me the same person as I was last year is my consciousness of the events in my life. Changes in body would not make a difference to my self-identity. I would be the same person were I to lose a limb or to undergo an organ transplant.
Words stand for ideas in the mind
Abstract terms present nominal essences, not real essences. A nominal essence is an abstract idea attached to a general name, like “tiger.” We create these nominal essences from our experiences of similarities in things. Nominal essences, then, since they are our creations, must not be assumed to match perfectly the real essences of things. Things, which are always particular, do have real essences, but they are unknown to us. So the idea of a nominal essence is important in Locke’s program of urging us to be modest in our claims to know.
Knowledge as agreement and disagreement among ideas
The kinds of agreement and disagreement
Real existence known by intuition in our own case, by demonstration in God’s case, and by sensation in the case of material things
Representative government– Locke’s views on representative government are formed in part by his views on what life is like in a state of nature.
The state of nature and the natural law
A “contract” is necessary to avoid people being judges in their own cases. The sort of government that a social contract would reasonably create would be a government of limited powers, designed to rectify the “inconveniences” in a state of nature. It would restrain the partiality and violence of men and guarantee people security in the enjoyment of their property. It would be responsible to the people who established it and incorporate a separation of legislative and executive powers. If it failed to provide for the safety and security of its citizens, they could rightly change or dissolve it.
Locke considers property a natural right, and forms the reason for government.
Limited government responsible to the people
Of toleration
The distinct spheres of church and state
Toleration as an essential means to civil peace
Berkeley as a defender of common sense: What that means
How the philosophers have violated common sense, and thus furnished ammunition for skeptics and atheists.
Criticism of the doctrine of abstract ideas: They are incoherent. Berkeley thinks that the doctrine of abstract ideas is one of the confusions that lead to atheism. Berkeley says that it is his intention to turn ideas into things.
Positive account of how general words (or ideas) work
The existence of spirits; for the rest, esse est percipi
Primary qualities of objects are in the same boat with the secondary. For Berkeley, things really do have the qualities they seem to have.
Ideas into things
God’s perceiving of things as the guarantee of their objectivity from our point of view. In addition to the usual religious functions—Berkeley was a bishop, after all—God functions as the guarantee of independence for things perceived by us. They do have their being in being perceived, but in being perceived by God, not by us. So they are not dependent on human perception of them.


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