John Locke

Descartes commenced his philosophic investigations with these words: " I resolve to reject as absolutely false every thin which is subject to the smallest doubt. I will deny the validity of mathematical evidence, the existence of a God, of external objects, of my body, and even of myself."

It is easy to see the freshness and imagination of youth in Cartesiansim, there is a chivalric daring in the tremendous odds DesCartes gives to doubt in his fight for truth. For this declaration is not the compelled disbelief of a man forced from his tenets by irresistable logic. It is the perfect confidence in some truth that makes him ready to demolish so lavishly. For philosophy to youthful eyes is not a dreary waste of barbarous terms, an inextricable labyrinth of fallacies. There are dangers or there would be few attractions, but there is a noble confidence in a truth to be discovered through danger. There are quicksands and pitfalls, but a sure foundation for him who digs aright. There are intricacies of thought, and blinding contradictions that demand the coolest head and clearest analyses, but beyond them all there is a country to seek, a city not made with hands.

"The youth who daily, farther from the east
Must travel, still in Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended."

And so Descartes plunged boldly into philosophic doubt, because it was a foregone conclusion that he would find some truth. And what did he find after all his denials? Two postulates Cogito ero sum You cannot deny the thought that denies all else, says Descartes, nor the thinker, unless you can admit motion and not a body moved. The second postulate is the existence of a God, which stands upon his doctrine of Innate Ideas, that every true clear idea must accord with the reality, for the effect cannot be out of harmony with its cause. For example, the idea of God could not be attained from the experience of the finite and imperfect phenomena nor from the combination of finite and imperfect elements, but must come from the being itself whom it represents. So DesCartes could build up a system having his own existence and the pledge of the character of a perfect Creator for the harmony of the outside world with his conceptions.

It was into this philosophy that Locke was born. For Cartesianism was philosophic orthodoxy from the Pillars of Hercules to the Northern Sea, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the barbarism of Russia. And his first philosophic work overthrew the doctrine of Innate Ideas. Locke's system is the sensational. He believes that the human mind receives all its knowledge through experience, that at the time of birth the mind is a "Tabula Rasa" -- a white paper -- ready to receive any impression that may be made upon it. The first book of Locke's "Treatise on Human Understanding" is devoted to the destruction of the doctrine of Innate Ideas. Once having destroyed this, the only other conception of the mind was of a Tabula Rasa, unless he had forestalled modern systems and asserted the reason as a faculty capable of perceiving necessary truths; but lock took only one step, and probably did not see the pos-

(218)-sibility of this doctrine, even if he would have accepted it if he had seen.

But it is the incompleteness of Locke's philosophy that we turn especial attention. He carries his sensational philosophy no farther than the destruction of Innate Ideas. And so lame are his analyses beyond this point, that he sees no necessity of looking beyond individual experience for an idea of a necessary relation of cause and effect. "In the notice," he says, "our senses take of the constant vicissitudes of things, we cannot but observe that several particulars both substance and qualities, begin to exist; and that they receive this their existence from the due application and operation of some other being. From this observation we get our ideas of cause and effect."

How can we get from the observation of mere succession of two phenomena the conception of a necessary active relation between them if we do not assume the relation before our analysis? And yet this is all of Lock's explanation of this relation. He analyses of Space and Time and the Laws of Thought are equally faulty. In a word, we are more impressed with what Locke left undone that with what he did. He builds all his philosophy upon the reality of which he offers no explanation, and for the validity of which he offers no proof.

He is a true Englishman, in that he seems more exercised for the practical workings of his system than for its reasonableness. He argues at length with the Bishop of Worcester to prove that there is no contradiction between his system and the orthodox doctrine of the resurrection and the Trinity.

Let us look at the position which his philosophy should have left him. There is nothing in the mind save that which is attained through the senses, "Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius in sensu." Now those assertions of the mind, if such they be, and such Locke regards them, commonly called intuitions, cannot be arrived at through the senses. Space and Time the analyses of Kant have placed irrevocably beyond empirical truths. The similar position of the relation of cause and effect needs no analysis to prove. So of all the Laws of Logic upon which our reasoning rests. Now, not only does Locke assume their existence, he sees no necessity of finding out their validity, and ridicules those who deny them. He is only half a Metaphysician. He uses vulgar common sense instead of logical analyses in laying the most important foundations of his philosophy. He is so sure of the existence of the outside world, which with him rests upon an unwarranted assumption that he banters with the skeptic who denies it. It is marvelous how blind he was to the precipice upon which he had build his philosophy. To see this we have only to consider that Hume carried his philosophy to its logical outcome and ended in absolute doubt.

There is something very sad in the unconsciousness of Locke to the tremendous struggle he had introduced in philosophy -- to see him upholding so confidently an orthodox creed, so satisfied with his system, when he should have stood with Hume and absolute skeptic, unwilling to afirm the existence of his doubt. As a philosopher he is a strange combination of metaphysical acuteness and boorish impenetrability. Though he had a confidence which modern intuitional philosophers hardly dare maintain, he was the father of French infidelity and atheism and English agnosticism. But there is another view of this philosopher's influence that claims our attention. Lock has in reality given the impulse to all modern thought. All modern philosophy has been called into existence as the friend or foe of his sensational system. Hume, the consistent expounder of the philosophy, called out the Scottish school. To his influence we owe the tremendous throes of thought that have shaken our modern thinking world. The two assertions, the pillars of modern philosophy, that knowledge presupposes being, and that we have a direct knowledge of the external world, have been impossible without the impulse of this philosophy. We have been driven into them to save ourselves from complete agnosticism. And yet they stand as assertions still, they have not been carried to their logical consequences. It is still held that we do

(219) not and cannot know substance, that we only know phenomena or qualities, for consciousness revolts an assertion that we know substance and can form no conception to answer to it. But qualities are modes of substances; how then can we know substance in a mode and not know substance itself. If we do not know substance directly, surely the phenomena are but ideas and we are again philosophers who believe in representative perception, and make no connection between the soul and the object. Again, take the other assertion, that we are sure that the objects of intuition exist in reality, and we are confronted by some of the ablest philosophers who deny them utterly. Kant, the greatest modern philosopher, affirms that Space and Time do not exist outside of the mind. Hamilton says that the law of cause and effect is a mere inability of the mind to conceive of any beginning. Plato affirms that pleasure can never be a good and yet every human being knows absolutely that it is the only good, if our philosophy is correct. Mill, Hume and the sensational school deny the intuitions in toto. And yet one proof of their validity is the universality of acceptance. Surely the end is not yet, and Locke, the author of the struggle, was more orthodox than his opponents.


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