The term “Liberalism” has historically been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries but its core meanings must be connected to both Liberty or freedom and given the political history of the concept of freedom since its appearance in Plato’s Republic we are still confronted with ambiguity over the exact meaning of Liberalism in the twentieth-first century. Plato in his Republic referred as we know negatively to the concept of freedom in his critique of the democratic form of the polis. He paints largely a negative picture of how the sons of oligarchic fathers, corrupted by false ideas of the benefits of the wealthy life end up not respecting their parents or teachers, lounging about the agora plotting the downfall of the oligarchs in the name of “freedom”. Aristotle also viewed the early Greek form of democracy with suspicion and regarded this form as one of the three perverted forms of the polis. One of the key differences between the political Philosophies of Plato and Aristotle was that the former believed the polis is destined for ruin and destruction if Philosophers do not rule the polis or alternatively rulers embrace philosophical thinking. Aristotle, in contrast, believed that rationally constructed laws of the city plus a common understanding of the meaning and relevance of these laws would suffice to provide us with a well-run polis which could take three different forms: a benevolent monarchy(one ruler), a benevolent aristocracy(a few rulers) or a benevolent constitutional “democracy”. Aristotle believed that this last form was the best because he believed that the greater number of people involved in decision making produced better decisions. For both Plato and Aristotle, then, rationality and knowledge of The Good are the greatest enablers of the flourishing life for the citizens of a polis. For Aristotle, such a flourishing polis was the result of as natural a process as the actualization of any biological developmental process: a teleological process of actualization was involved in both kinds of developmental change. So, although for Aristotle it was, for example, important for citizens to freely choose what kind of life they should lead he was not what we moderns might call an “individualist”, i.e. he did not believe that an individual’s desires and needs should in any straightforward manner decide what form the polis should take. He understood that these needs and desires were of many different kinds but not all of them would play important roles in the institution of just laws designed for the purposes or telos of the common good. One can imagine, for example, that the socially constituted needs of love and belongingness, self-esteem, cognitive and aesthetic needs and all associated desires connected with leading the “good spirited” life of eudaimonia would be uppermost in the minds of Aristotelian lawmakers over generations of lawmaking. Individual, private and solipsistic needs for the egoistic pleasures associated with the removal of the inconveniences of life and the provision of the commodious lifestyle of the Hobbesian and Lockean citizens would not on Aristotle’s view be the concern of the lawmaker or the philosopher.
Locke’s brand of individualism or “liberalism” is partly characterized by Russell in his “History of Western Philosophy”:
“…the tendency of early liberalism was towards democracy tempered by the rights of property. There was a belief– not at first wholly explicit–that all men are born equal and that their subsequent inequality is a product of circumstance. This led to a great emphasis upon the importance of education as opposed to congenital characteristics.”(p578)
Russell is clearly referring partly to Locke in the above quote. In Locke’s “state of nature,” all men are equal and the point of law is to regulate naturally occurring inequalities. The fluctuating consequences emerging from the fact that some men create more propitious circumstances for themselves by their own labour and hard work will be protected under the law. In a certain sense, then. Locke’ s commonwealth or Republic is in a certain sense a “labour” government given that he defines property in terms of the investment of labour in it. In this conception, there is a significant philosophical shift from constructing the polis on an absolute categorical Good toward constructing the polis on instrumental forms of life whose endgame is the commodious lifestyle of the Hobbesian citizen. The life dedicated to the pursuit of happiness has its political authenticity confirmed in Locke’s Philosophy.
Locke, like many Philosophers before him, was politically active and this contributed toward his fame as a Philosopher extending his sphere of influence to wider circles of society. His work “Some Thoughts on Education” was a testament to this influence. it was reputed to be an influential work in Europe for over a century. Examining this work might enable us to decide whether Locke is a liberal in the Russellian sense.
Locke argued that any worthwhile educational system would possess three essential components: a focus on the development of a healthy body, a focus on the development of a virtuous character and a focus on the development of a “relevant” academic curriculum. With respect to this last component, Locke believed that it was time to challenge the scholastic view of Education in which the study of Greek and Latin texts played a prominent role. Locke proposed instead that pupils from both the aristocratic class and the “middling” affluent mercantile class study Modern Languages, Maths, Science, Drawing and Geography. It is, however, ironic that Locke’s largely anti-Aristotelian attitude toward scholasticism caused him to ignore the suggestion of the Liberal program of education that Aristotle provided us with: a program that was also largely ignored by the scholastics. Indeed, the focus on virtue and character in Locke owes its origins to Aristotelian ethical theory and was part of the canon of Practical science and its desire to understand man, suggested by Aristotle. The desire to understand Nature was embodied in the theoretical sciences that attempted to develop the intellectual virtues of man and the desire to understand man’s creations was embodied in the study of the Productive sciences. Indeed a full so-called “Liberal “educational program inspired by the Philosophy of Aristotle would look something like this:
Theoretical sciences(Metaphysics, Theology, Mathematics, Physics( including biological sciences)
Practical sciences(Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, Politics, Economics)
Productive sciences(mimetic arts, craftsmanship)
The above would be a complete program for an educated man and certain subjects would have to wait until manhood to be studied systematically, e.g. ethics). Character building for Aristotle was a long process. If there was a valid criticism of the above program it might take the form of suggesting that it does not strive to provide us with a complete picture of the world we actually live in: what Kant would later call an “orbis pictus”. Locke’s brilliance in his suggestions above might well then have awoken the world from its dogmatic slumbers but in so doing it might have also contributed to the abandoning of the more difficult aspects of becoming completely educated to the extent that Aristotle envisaged. Locke’s brilliance should also be measured by the extent to which, as an early Enlightenment figure, he anticipated some of Kantian metaphysics, Philosophy of mind and epistemology. In a work entitled “Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, we find Locke arguing that there are important limits to human understanding in a manner very reminiscent of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”:
“…the first step towards satisfying the several inquiries, the mind of man was apt to run into, was to take a survey of one’s own understandings, examine one’s own powers, and see to what things they were adapted. Till that was done, I suspected that we began at the wrong end and in vain sought for satisfaction in a quiet and secure possession of truths, that most concern us when we loose our thoughts into the great ocean of Being, as if all the boundless extent were the natural and undoubted possessions of our understandings, wherein there was nothing that escaped its decisions, or that escaped its comprehension. Thus men, extending their enquiries beyond their capacities and letting their thoughts wonder into those depths where they find no sure footing–were the capacities of our understanding well considered–men would perhaps with less scruple acquiesce in the avowed ignorance of the one: and employ their thoughts and discourse with more advantage and satisfaction in the other.”(Book 1 Chapter 1 , 7 N:47).
Yet these anticipations of the limitations of our understanding are themselves limited by the anti-Aristotelian “liberalism” of the times. Descartes had set the agenda for the modern world with his rational individualism and Locke, although regarded by many as an empiricist because of his insistence that all knowledge is derived from experience, is, at least insofar as Religion and Morality are concerned, middle of the road rationalist. He claimed categorically that the truths of Religion and Morality are logically demonstrable. He did, of course, object to the rationalist suggestion of innate ideas and somewhat paradoxically claimed that our minds are like white wax tablets waiting to be formed and shaped by experience. Yet, at the same time, we find him in his work on Education urging parents and teachers to be sensitive to both the inner capacities and powers of children(as well as the limitations of those capacities/powers)
Locke, was, however, clearly an empiricist insofar as his epistemological reflections are concerned and this is evident in the following passage from his “Essay Concerning Human Understanding”:
“Whence comes the mind by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this, I answer in one word, from experience: in that, all our knowledge is founded: and fro that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed either about external sensible objects or about the internal operations of our minds, perceived and reflected upon by ourselves, is that which supplies our understanding with all the materials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas that we have, or can naturally have, do spring. First, our senses, conversant about particular sensible objects, do convey into the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do affect them(i.e. the senses)..This great source of most of the ideas we have, depending wholly upon our senses and derived from them to the understanding, I call Sensation. Secondly, the other fountain from which experience furnisheth the understanding with ideas is the perception of the operations of our own mind, within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got: which operations, when the soul comes to reflect on and consider, do furnish the understanding with another set of ideas which could not be had from things without: and such are perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing and all the different actings of our minds: which we being conscious of and observing in ourselves, do from these receive into our understandings as distinct ideas, as we do from bodies affecting our senses. This source of ideas every man has wholly in himself: and though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with external objects, yet it is very like it, and might properly enough be called internal sense. But as I call the other Sensation, so I call this Reflection.”(E ii, i,2-4)
Many philosophers and some psychologists have seen in the above words, the beginning of a movement to dissociate the subject from its rationality. Brett, for example, in his work “History of Psychology” discusses Locke in a chapter entitled “The Observationalist Tradition” and claims that Locke’s empirical training in medicine taught him to be especially skeptical of both traditional theories such as Aristotle’s and contemporary rationalist theories influenced by solipsistic Neoplatonism and Descartes. We also know that Locke worked closely with Boyle at Oxford, a scientist more concerned with methodical observation and experimentation than the broader metaphysical concerns of a Scientist like Newton from Cambridge. From a philosophical perspective, it can be maintained that Newton dealt with the “form” of Scientific thinking whilst Boyle was getting his hands dirty with its “matter”. Locke’s preference for the latter form of science in epistemological contexts runs, as we pointed out in a contrary direction to what we find occurring in Locke’s moral and religious writings. Kant in his synthesis of empiricism and rationalism denies that we solely know a posteriori about our own minds through inner sense. Knowledge of the phenomenal contents of our minds might well result from this type of reflection upon one’s experiences but the more important knowledge we have of ourselves, argues Kant, is what he calls a priori knowledge that is non-observational and not related to experience. This might be interpreted by empiricists as a commitment to innate ideas but such a position would be failing to appreciate the role of Aristotelian hylomorphism in the philosophy of Kant: failing to understand, that is, that we are dealing with the kind of capacity or power that locke himself was suggesting should be the concern of parents/teachers when they are educating their children/pupils. Kantian and Aristotelian powers are amongst the apriori conditions involved in the process of acquiring knowledge which seems to be one of Locke’s primary concerns in the educational process. The mind conceived as a white wax tablet from an empiricist point of view would still from a Kantian and Aristotelian point of view possess powers that would partially determine the form taken by the processes of experience. “Form” as we have pointed out earlier, for Aristotle is closely associated with the idea of a principle and Locke attacks the notion of innate principles in an anti-metaphysical spirit. Brett points to such an attack in his work. Locke, he argues:
“attacks the view that there are innate speculative principles such as the principles of identity and contradiction, and that there are innate practical principles, such as those of morals…He admits that there may be innate capacities, but asserts that the only grounds for maintaining that a truth is in the mind is that it is actually understood”
For Aristotle both the principles of identity and contradiction are metaphysical, i.e. it is in the nature of the world that a thing be what it is and not another thing or that a thing cannot both be what it is and something else. This, for Aristotle, is both the way we think about and understand the world and the way the world is: these are both transcendental truths and metaphysical principles. Locke, the rationalist must accept these points when he is reflecting upon moral and religious discourse. In epistemological contexts, however, he rejects the idea that intellectual powers are constitutive of our understanding. In such contexts, ideas, for Locke mean both “the object of the mind when it thinks” and “contents of consciousness” and the former of these alternatives fall away in the context of Sensation in favour of the content or material involved in the experiencing activity. This is also the case in the context of Reflection her the focus is on the material of the thinking activity rather than the capacity/power or the form/principle of thought.
To understand what is going on here we need perhaps to return to the form of Liberalism that Locke embraces. In some respects, it is a negative form of Liberalism, i.e. the form of Liberalism that begins as a reaction to the authorities of his time. Locke clearly regards the symptoms of his turbulent times as culturally problematic but his reaction may not carry with it an appreciation of the causes of the symptoms. He attached himself to a stream of Cartesian and Hobbesian criticism of Aristotle that probably to a large extent misunderstood the central principles of Aristotelian metaphysics and epistemology. Locke embraced the criticisms of Aristotle without taking issue with the actual arguments against the position. At the same time as he was doing this in epistemological contexts, he was committing himself to a form of rational/logical demonstration insofar as moral and religious truths was concerned. His defence of his position was Cartesian:
“..perhaps we should make greater progress in the discovery of rational and contemplative knowledge if we sought in it the fountain and made use rather of our own thoughts than other mens to find it…. So much as we ourselves consider and comprehend of truth and reason, so much we possess of real knowledge. The floating of other men’s opinions in our brains makes it not one jot the more knowing, though they happen to be true. What in them was science is in us but opiniatreity, whilst we give up our assent only to reverend names, and do not as they did employ our own reason to understand these truths which gave them reputation.”(E ii,i,23)
The above is no doubt directed at Aristotle and is not an argument for the abandonment of Aristotelian argumentation but at best psychological/sociological advice that it is best to understand the reasoning of Aristotle oneself rather than rely on Aristotelian conclusions blindly). Ironically, Aristotle himself would have agreed absolutely with most of what is said above and he would moreover point in emphasis to his definition of knowledge as justified true belief in order to support this position. Aristotle would claim that irrespective of whether we are discussing our own thoughts or the thoughts of others, the key to understanding is to see the complex relationship between what we are taking to be true and the reason or justification of what it is we are presuming to understand. If that is one relies merely on what is said and ignores why it is said one cannot be said to know.
Locke and Boyle were committed to the corpuscular theory of matter and yet we find Locke because of his commitment to the primacy of perception and observation in the process of the acquisition of knowledge, at the same time expressing skeptical doubt as to its certainty:
“But whilst we are destitute of the senses acute enough to discover the minute particles of bodies and to give us the ideas of their mechanical affections we must be content to be ignorant of their properties and ways of operation: nor can we be assured about them any farther than some few trial we are able to reach. But whether they will succeed again another time we cannot be certain. This hinders our knowledge of universal truths concerning natural bodies…And therefore I am apt to doubt how far soever human industry may advance useful and experimental philosophy in physical things scientifical will still be out of our reach”(iv, iii, 25)
This challenged Newton’s view of the physical universe and it would, in turn, be challenged by Kant who saw Newton to be steering a middle road between skepticism and dogmatism in the domain of natural science. It is worthwhile mentioning in this context the later experiments by Wundt in the name of the science of Psychology in the 1870s. the results were dogged by skepticism because they could not be repeated or indeed understood. As a consequence, the definition of Psychology as the “science of Consciousness” was abandoned in favour of the “science of behaviour” because consciousness could not be observed ad behaviour could(it was argued).
Brett claims that Locke’s psychology has to be extracted from his works but that his method is psychological. Does he mean to refer to the Cartesian skepticism we have encountered or the materialistic dogmatism we encounter in a discussion of the Sensations? Experiments relating to the different sensations of two hands held in the same water after experiencing different initial temperature conditions reveal only subjective Wundtian results. Locke calls such results subjective in virtue of only so-called secondary qualities of the events being involved. the primary qualities of such an event are, according to Locke, “nothing but the increase or diminution of the motion of the minute parts of our bodies”. This argument is reminiscent of Cartesian discussions where a demand is made for clarity and distinctness. The problem with this argument is that it has to cohere with Locke’s claim that universal knowledge about physical things may be beyond human understanding. In Locke’s Psychology Sensation is clearly a physical process, or state that brings to the mind the material that determines the nature of its activity and although this may relate to the assumption of the motion of physical corpuscles or articles, Locke also says in his “Essay” (ii,i, 3) that
“when I say the senses convey into the mind I mean, they from external objects convey into the mind what produces there true perceptions”.
Clearly, sensation plays an important role in the production of truth and understanding. Sensation appears then to hover ambivalently between being a passive receptive phenomenon and an active power. Locke is clear elsewhere that Sensation is a power. A power that links up intimately to the power of judgment that will later be so important in Kantian thought. Memory also appears to be ambivalently active and passive. Which of these alternatives apply to memory will depend upon whether it is a memory of a passive sensation or active perception or motor activity. Active memory will compare the relations of things and the activities of naming and abstraction will be involved. This presumably connects perception via memory to language. We can detect in these remarks the complexity of an Aristotelian account in which powers relate to powers and powers build upon powers, transforming them in the process.
Somehow the Kantian use of the term “faculty” for a collection of these powers generated a simplistic criticism that falsely claimed, for example, that the act of willing could be completely explained by having been generated by a faculty of willing. Aristotle discusses not willing but the act of choosing in relation to voluntary action. He would certainly have denied that a complete analysis or explanation of choice could refer back to anything that was only a part of the mind. There is only the barest trace of Aristotelian thinking in Locke and this is evidenced in an almost complete absence of a holistic perspective of the person. We use the words “almost complete absence” because Locke is famed for his arguments relating to personal identity.
Locke’s argument characterises a person as:
“a thinking intelligent Being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places.”(ii, 27, 9)
“As far as this consciousness can be extended backward to any past Action or Thought, so far reaches the identity of that person: it is the same self now as it was then: and it is by the same self with this present one that now reflects on it, that that Action was done.”(ii, 27, 9)
It is also important to point out in this context that Locke distinguished what a man is from what a person is:
“For I presume it is not the idea of a thinking or rational being alone that makes the idea of a man in the most popular sense, but of a body, so and so shaped…” (ii, 27,8)
This distinction between “man” and “person” and the reference to the relation of a body “joined to” a man raises the obvious question as to whether “man” is the “substance” and “person” a mode or attribute of this substance. How we answer this question largely depends on what we believe Locke finds objectionable in the Philosophy of Aristotle. We have discussed earlier Locke’s tendency to avoid committing himself to the scope of logical principles as applied to the realm of nature and a preference for the observation of phenomena. In the above quote, however, there is an unmistakable suggestion of Aristotle’s hylomorphic view of the body of a man and its relation to man’s mind unless of course, one believes that what we are seeing in the quote is Locke subsiding into a monistic substantialism of the kind we find in Spinoza.
Whatever is the case the above quote appears to be the holistic bearer of both bodily and mental aspects. Is man conceived of here as a substance or is he too a mode or an attribute of a deeper materialistic reality that we find in the early work of Aristotle before substance became to be conceived of more non-materialistically as a form or principle. Man, in Aristotle’s more mature work is defined holistically as a “rational animal capable of discourse”. The concept of a person as an individual going forth in disguise in an actors mask was a later contribution to the problems relating to the self that concerned Aristotle. A person conceived of in terms of the origin of the term “person”(which Locke thought it was important to consider) is indeed a figment of the imagination and as such can have no ontological status. If we drop this more imaginative origin of the concept of a person and conceive instead of a person as an individual, we still find ourselves in the realm of the powers of intuition/perception rather than the powers of reason and understanding that Aristotle would refer to in such contexts. There can, of course, be true universal judgments made about individuals such as “All men are mortal” and this should be contrasted with singular judgments such as “Socrates is a man” and “Socrates is mortal”. There can also be logical relations between these judgments requiring the power of reason and understanding. One of the functions of the power of reasoning here is the connection of the universal to the particular. The logical relation between “man” and individual men is explored more logically in the following syllogism:
“All men are rational animals capable of discourse”
“Socrates is a man”
“Socrates is a rational animal capable of discourse”
This what the person or individual Socrates is.
Locke contributes to this discussion by insisting that Socrates will also know himself to be the same person over time in virtue of some cognitive function connected to consciousness or thinking and this is where the issue of personal identity arises. Socrates, for example, that he is the same Socrates that once thought investigations of the physical world would lead to knowledge and understanding of the world as a systematic whole. Socrates might have changed his mind on this issue but Locke’s account would not wish to insist that Socrates became a different person. So in virtue of what does he remain the same person? In virtue of his body being a recognizable spatiotemporal continuant? At the same time should we take the description “Socrates changed his mind” so lightly? He changed his mind when he read a work by Anaxagoras in which it was claimed that “All is mind”. For Locke, given his characterization of man, Socrates is certainly the same man when he changes his mind so radically. The question is whether he is the same person because he is the same man. To answer this question one might also ask whether it makes sense to say, for example, “I was a different person when I was a young man”. Of course, someone saying this might recognize that they are the same man and bear the same name but let us also in this context not forget that fundamental reorientations in our thinking might even give rise to a desire to change one’s names, from Saul to Paul to take one historical example. The question, then, is whether Socrates experienced the same kind of “conversion” when “he changed his mind”. Perhaps the extent of the change can also be measured by the extent to which one is prepared to accept the psychologically ontologically different description of what happened, namely “His mind was changed”. This suggests that Locke might have been right in regarding the “name” “man” as referring to what he called the species which he believes relates to the real essence of the human organism. Aristotle interestingly provided a broader definition which included what Locke would call mans “nominal essence”, namely ” a being capable of discourse”. It is, in this context, puzzling to find Locke saying:
“I think it is agreed that a definition is nothing else but “the showing the meaning of one word by several other not synonymous terms”. The meanings of words being only the ideas they are made to stand for by him that uses them.”(iii, iv, 6)
In remark 5 immediately preceding the above we also find Locke claiming that some names can and some cannot be defined and this leaves us wondering whether Locke believes the term man can be defined. He settles the matter however in Book III, 6, 27:
“So uncertain are the boundaries of the species of animals to us who have no other measure than the complex ideas of our own collecting: and so far are we from certainly knowing what a man is…..I imagine none of the definitions of the word “man” which we yet have, nor descriptions of that sort of animal are so perfect and exact as to satisfy a considerate inquisitive person, much less to obtain a general consent, and to be that which men everywhere stick by in their decision of cases, and determining of life and death, baptism or no baptism, in productions that might happen.”
This last reference to “productions that might happen” we are being invited to conduct a thought experiment and imagine whether we would call certain physical variations of an individual of the species a man or not. This “experiment” is certainly shifting the grounds of the definition from Reason and Understanding (and their relation to knowledge) to Imagination and the kind of judgment we use in hypothetical imaginative contexts. Locke is asking us to imagine a possible world in which something might to a certain extent resemble a human physically with respect to some characteristics but not in others. He then asks us to exercise our judgment in naming the problematic individual. He does not discuss what we should do If our existing concepts do not suffice to name this individual but presumably the only solution is to find or invent a concept that we can apply. Fortunately for us, the regularity of nature and the relative constancy of species reproduction is such that the variations imagined occur very seldom. Even if an exception to this occurs and such an individual is produced reproduction will be unlikely and this knowledge might suffice for us to find the hunt for a new and different concept unnecessary. It is not absolutely clear but perhaps Locke is using this thought experiment to cast doubt upon the Aristotelian definition of man. Wilfred Sellars has argued in an essay entitled “Substance and form in Aristotle” contained in his collection “Philosophical Perspectives: History of Philosophy” that Aristotle’s definition of man is not an essentialist definition but his definition of the soul as being necessarily alive is an essentialist definition. Perhaps Sellars too is objecting to what could be regarded as nominalistic components in the definition. What is clear, however, is that for Aristotle ma is a form of animal life that is capable of discourse, thinking, and rational thought. It should be recalled here that “form” does not connect to the physical shape of the body of a man but rather to the principle of his existence, which is indeed his life. Were there in some possible world physical beings that were shaped differently yet were alive, talking and listening, thinking rationally one can wonder whether this would force us to conclude that these beings were men, human beings? Not necessarily. Whole regions of our discourse and reasoning are related to our bodies and what we do with our bodies which of course is partly determined by their shape. It can even be argued that the shapes of our bodies with their configuration of limbs and organs very much determine the shape or form of the cities we live in: we walk in the streets of the city, sit at home or in the libraries of the city we sit in cafes talking about the sights we have seen and the books we have read.
Man, for Aristotle is a form of life that is not “joined” to his body as Locke claimed above: rather the form of life “inhabits” its body, not in the way in which a pilot is inside a ship but in the way in which a skill inhabits a muscle or group of muscles or the way in which a thought inhabits a poets or philosophers words. A human body, Aristotle would argue is “formed” for not just walking and seeing, talking and listening, but also for reasoning, understanding, and judgment. Three-year-old seeing men walking, talking listening, reasoning judging might not fully understand what he is witnessing until education can “form” his understanding.
Locke, in his view of the physical world, is fixated at the level of imagination and its relation to judgment and cannot see the nature of the relation between the individual or particular and the general or universal. He has not understood how Aristotelian logic is built out of the building blocks of hylomorphic metaphysics. The “demonstration”
“All men are rational animals capable of discourse”
“Socrates is a man”
“Therefore Socrates is a rational animal capable of discourse”
contains the elements and the form of rational thinking. What we encounter here is proof of the understanding of general terms, proof of the understanding of particular terms and proof of the understanding of the relation of the universal to the particular. the above “demonstration” follows the laws of logic which are the law of noncontradiction, identity, and sufficient reason. Whether or not one wishes to regard these laws of thought and discourse innate or not because the powers of thought, understanding, and reason appear essentially connected to the human form of life almost seems irrelevant. The answer might turn upon whether one judges “life” to be “innate”.
Kant was influenced by Locke who, like the skeptical empiricist Hume, must have helped Kant the Wolffian rationalist awaken from his dogmatic scholastic slumbers and return to the Philosophy if Aristotle as part the project of uniting empiricism and rationalism into one philosophical position. In the process, Kant also found new relations between science and philosophy, religion and philosophy, morality and religion, etc. In his work “On Education” Kant largely follows a hylomorphic program stressing the importance of bodily and mental discipline and work as opposed to the emerging more modern emphasis upon play and recreation. “man is the only animal who is obliged to work” argues Kant, on p69. He continues thus:
“Men ought to be occupied in such a way that filled with the idea of the end which they have before their eyes they are not conscious of themselves, and the best rest for them is the rest that follows from work. In the same way, a child must become accustomed to work, and where can the inclination to work be cultivated so well as at school?”
Recalling the definition of the person by Locke as ” a thinking Intelligent Being and the virtual identification of thinking with the consciousness of itself we can at once see a difference of perspective being offered by Kant. Kant believes that work shall concentrate not on the self but an end. Men should not in their work become self-conscious, Kant implies. For Kant, a person is a particular whose principle ought to be understood in general more holistic terms. Men as individuals(particular beings) can, of course, be more or less intelligent and for Kant, this indicates that the extent to which we “isolate” faculties of cognition from each other is the extent to which they become inferior in comparison to when they are functioning as part of an integrated structure of faculties. The principal rule of Education argues Kant is:
“that no mental faculty is to be cultivated by itself, but always in relation to others: for instance the imagination to the advantage of the understanding. The inferior faculties have no value in themselves: for instance, a man who has a good memory but no judgment. Such a man is merely a walking dictionary…Intelligence diverted from judgments produces nothing but foolishness”(p70)
The above reference to memory is particularly interesting in relation to Locke’s theory of personal identity which has often been mistakenly associated with the view that memory is a criterion for the self being the same self in the present as it was in the past. Nestor is Nestor and Napoleon Napoleon because Nestor possesses Nestor’s memories and Napoleon possesses Napoleon’s memories rather than Nestor’s memories. If Nestor had Napoleon’s memories, it is argued he would be Napoleon. But then there is the interesting case of someone who loses their mind perhaps through a brain injury. What if there was a historian that suffered such a brain injury where the only thing that was retained in the memory system was “memories” of Napoleon’s life and deeds? One could further imagine that he was not sure about the status of these memories, i.e. not sure that they were his memories. What should we say? He has, according to the criterion of Napoleon’s memories. is he not then Napoleon? Of course, we should not want to make such a judgment and what this then reveals is that the presence of particular memories is not a sufficient criterion of the attribution of self-identity. This is not to deny that memory as it is incorporated into what Locke called consciousness or Kant referred to as the superior faculties may be a part of the account of self-identity. Kant, in his account of these higher faculties in “On Education”, has the following to say:
“Understanding is the knowledge of the general. Judgment is the application of the general to the particular. Reason is the power of understanding the connection between the general and the particular…When a young man, for instance, quotes a general rule, we make him quote examples drawn from history or fable in which this rule is disguised, passages from the poets where it is expressed, and thus encourage him to exercise both his intelligence and his memory etc.”(p71)
Kant then also introduces Language into this discussion:
“Things are so constituted that the understanding first follows the mental impression, and the memory must preserve this impression. So it is for instance, in language. We learn them either by the formal method of committing them to memory or by conversation–this last being the best method for modern languages. The learning of words is really necessary, but the best plan is for the youth to learn words as he comes across them in the author he is reading. What is learned in a mechanical way is best retained by the memory and in a great many cases this way is indeed very useful. The proper mechanism for the study of history has yet to be found… History, however, is an excellent means of exercising the understanding in judging rightly. Learning by heart is very necessary, but going it merely for the sake of memory is of no use educationally.”(p71)
The superior faculties for Kant, then, are Reason, Understanding and Judgment and all have their respective principles and are connected to each other via our relation to what is general and what is particular. Sensibility is regarded as an inferior faculty, having as it does perception memory and the imagination which when used in isolation are not educationally useful. Kant, says, for example, in relation to isolating the imagination:
“Novel reading is the worst thing for children since they can make no further use of it, and it merely affords them entertainment for the moment. Novel reading weakness the memory. For it would be ridiculous to remember novels in order to relate them to others. Therefore all novels should be taken away from children. Whilst reading them they weave, as it were, an inner romance of their own rearranging the circumstances for themselves: their fancy is thus imprisoned but there is no exercise of thought.”(p71)
But there is a consciousness of themselves (that may not include their own particular memories), which for Kant does not meet the requirements of education.
Memory and language must, then, be integrated into the superior faculties by degrees and Kant outlines the strategy of an entire school career as a means of illustrating the complexity of the task of integrating the faculties or powers of the mind. We should begin, he argues, by reconstructing a picture of the present conditions of the world(orbus pictus) and this should include botany mineralogy, natural history and geography and use instruments such as drawing, mathematics, and maps. Having done that the teacher should proceed to the earlier condition of the world and instruct the pupil in ancient geography and history. In both phases of this process, the teacher should be careful to prepare a way for the understanding that is able to distinguish popular opinion and belief from knowledge. The child that is, should not be encouraged to become conscious of themselves but rather become conscious of the correct ways to follow rules, e.g. the rules of grammar. We are still not yet at the level of what Piaget would call abstract operations but we being encouraged to use practical reasoning to search for the causes and the explanations for events that require explanation.
Kant then says the following:
“It is through reason that we get insights into principles. But we must remember that we are speaking here of a reason which still needs guidance. We are not dealing here with speculative reason, but only with reflection upon actual occurrences according to their causes and effects. It is in its arrangement and working a practical reason….In the culture of reason we must proceed according to the Socratic method…True, it is somewhat slow and it is difficult to manage so that in the drawing of ideas out of one child the others shall also learn something. The mechanical method of catechizing is also useful in some sciences, for instance in the explanation of revealed religion. In universal religion, on the other hand, we must employ the Socratic method. As to what has to be learned historically the mechanical method of catechizing is much to be commended.”(p80-81)
Self-consciousness does play an important role in Kantian education but here it is a universal and not a particular form of consciousness connected to my particular memories. It is the consciousness not of myself as a man but rather the consciousness of universal man implied in the universalization condition of the categorical imperative. In moral education the memory of what one did as a child(Napoleon burying a toy sword at the foot of a tree) before understanding the principles of morality will be largely irrelevant unless the memory concerned is linked up to a judgment of whether what was done was right or not: a judgment of what ought to be done. The moral judgment of oneself as a moral agent is thus guided by an ought system of concepts guided by the ideas of freedom and duty. Moral education will initiate the moral agent into the moral form of life and bring about an understanding that reasons from universal premises such as “Promises ought to be kept” to the particular actions involved in the keeping of particular promises. The principle of sufficient reason for believing that one ought to perform an ethical action, then, will operate by referring to both the universal premise, e.g. “Promises ought to be kept” and the particular premise in which a particular promise was made at a particular place at a particular time. This particular premise will have the logical form of a fact characterizes by is-statement that describes a particular action of a particular person or individual. Logically, it is important to point out that a statement of a fact or an is-statement could never of itself function as an argument for what an agent ought to do. This follows from Kant’s logic or practical reasoning but probably also follows from the virtue ethics of Aristotle: the virtues being part of the character of the virtuous man who does what he ought to do in the appropriate circumstances and at the appropriate time. Kantian ethics is deontological, meaning that an action is not good merely in its consequences but also good in itself meaning that it is good as an end-in-itself: worthy of being done independently of whether it is of any utility, for example, in bringing about my happiness. It is not clear that Aristotle’s ethics is deontological in this way and it may be that Glaucon’s challenge to Socrates in the early books of the Republic had to wait for the Categorical Imperative of Kantian ethics before it was fully responded to. If we remember he demanded that Socrates prove to him that justice is both good in itself and good in its consequences. Kant, therefore, would not accept instrumental, hypothetical imperatives as justificatory grounds for any moral action: not just any kind of ought judgment could find itself in the major premise position of a moral argument. The test whether the ought we encounter in the major premise position is a categorical ought is whether the negation of the action was either a practical contradiction or the action contributed to a world which was not worth inhabiting.
Now Locke believed that morality was an area in which it was possible to achieve rational certainty and this undoubtedly inspired Kant in his approach to moral questions. Locke’s moral justifications however were more tightly wedded to what Locke regarded as the demonstrable truths of religion. In his argumentation we find the presence of a natural law position reminiscent of Aquinas’ in which three assumptions are being made: firstly, that moral laws are founded in divine absolute universal laws, second, that these laws are revealed to human rationality, thirdly that these laws reveal themselves as divine imperatives. Kant’s position is very different rejecting as it does the theoretical dependence of morality upon religion. Kant’s position is also different in that it posits a humanistic practical idea of freedom that is in many important respects independent of the theoretical idea of God we humans possess. The domain of morality is autonomous for Kant. Indeed the practical idea of Freedom becomes the key idea for the Enlightenment insofar as Kant is concerned. Kant will also have been critical of the hedonism we find in Locke’s moral reflections. Many Lockean commentators such as von Leyden have suggested that natural law theory or moral law theory does not cohere with epistemological motivations related to happiness. For Kant the happiness principle is the principle of self love or self consciousness in disguise. He would not of course deny that humans desire happiness but to the extent that humans are moral agents is the extent to which they need also to feel worthy of the happiness that a flourishing life brings.
Locke shifts firmly into empiricism when he suggests that the feelings of pleasure and pain are the primary motivating forces of human beings. For Kant, on the other hand, it is the “I think” which accompanies all my representations. Locke appears to argue that “I feel” accompanies all our ideas and that without this accompaniment there would be no reason to prefer one idea, thought or action over another. It appears, then, that feelings about natural law trump thoughts about natural law. Feelings for Locke are also related to rewards and punishments. Locke’s empiricism is clearly at odds with his rationalism here and it will fall to Kant to place the subjective pleasure-pain principle and its love of itself in the realm of prudential, instrumental action guided by hypothetical imperatives. What conceivably sustained human prudence in Locke’s system was of course divine knowledge of the good but this would deny the humanistic idea of freedom that Kant placed at the centre of his theory. Locke does of course believe in authority that is rightful and that which is not but this in itself will not save the theory because “rightful” in the moral context is finally justified by a fact: the fact of our happiness. Locke’s theory otherwise is clearly teleological and as such must be at odds with rational deontological theories such as Kants’. In teleological theories sanctions loom large in any discussion where one demands to know what the right thing to do is–happiness is only one side of a two sided coin the other side of which is punishment at the hands of God.
The pursuit of happiness may, of course, be the epistemological empiricist imperative that defines our modern social and political condition. Hobbes and Locke constituted this condition by reference to “commodious living” and “property” respectively. Property is defined by Locke in terms of man’s body and its work. What makes Locke’s position a “proto-modernist” approach is its final reference to God who gifted the industrious and the rational with his world in order that it might be cultivated and improved. Neither Plato nor Aristotle would have elevated commerce and its pursuit of commodious living to such an eminent position. For the Greeks, the earning of money was a secondary art necessary for the creation and maintenance of private households. The public realm was constituted by areté, the doing of the right thing in the right way at the right time. This was the standard man was measured against in the very public realm of the agora. Man could be a pauper like Diogenes and wonder the streets barefoot like Socrates or the mythical Eros but if he fought bravely in defense of his polis and was otherwise a man of integrity(knew himself) he would be favoured by the Gods. Here there is no reference to commodious living or happiness, the principle of self-love in disguise. There are references to “eudaimonia” and there is a mistaken translation of this term into happiness but what this reference actually means is “the good spirited life”.
Hobbes, the empirical materialist, viewed our bodies as mere machines running on the fuel of pride and fear(self-consciousness par excellence) and this for some reason connected to the pride and fear of Science has in our modern world overshadowed the Greek and Lockean view of our bodies as temples housing the divine spirit.
The political ideas of Locke and Hobbes were then re-presented a century later by Adam Smith. Smith’s theories took us one step closer to our modern world by openly recommending that labour, work and the accumulation of capital(for which there were no limits) is the pathway to individual happiness. The secondary art has become the primary art and the stage is thereby set for a later moral inversion of what is good with what is evil.
For Locke, labour was the honourable means of pursuing happiness. Labour for him generates property(not capital) and property in its turn requires Law to protect it from being misappropriated:
“The great and chief end of men uniting into commonwealth is the protection of their property.”(Two Treatises of Government”)
For Locke, it was not, as it was for Hobbes, the war of all against all in a state of nature that leads to the social contract. It is rather the state of affairs of the restlessness of the human spirit and the haphazardness of social events where expectations are continually flouted that demands a central organizing agency. The contract is between the middle class and the government and it is almost as if the upper and working classes have disappeared into thin air or had been mysteriously absorbed by the middle class. Given Arendt’s analysis of the Origins of Totalitarianism and her reference to mass movements emerging from the organization of mobs, one can wonder whether the idea of classes absorbing other classes was part of the process of dismantling the idea of legitimate authority (legitimate =using knowledge and phronesis to rule. The social contract did not seem to have a paragraph pertaining to the right to education or the right to be led by educated leaders. Arendt in this context pointed to the risks of tyrannical rule(The Hobbesian Lion) when the political party system representing the interests of various classes collapses and a mass movement arises in the vacuum. Not for Locke, the Hobbesian Lion, the monarchical sovereign who will eventually become licentious and murderous because he is not subject to the law. Locke does not merely embrace the Aristotelian notion of (an educated?) middle class but his ideas also anticipate the ideas of Kant. Locke is a Republican(like Kant) and his Republic is a commonwealth in which “the many” engage in decision making of various kinds: decisions that regulate commerce and crime.. This decision making is judged publicly by the consent or rejection by “the many”, thus evoking the Kantian idea of freedom. In order to prevent the executive branch of government from disregarding the voice of “the many” Locke proposes a separation of powers whereby the executive branch of government is the instrument of the legislative branch(except in emergency situations such as taking the country to war). In an emergency, Locke argues, the executive lion can suspend habeus corpus and this judgment can only be questioned by the many “appealing to heaven”, an appeal, that is, to divine authority that if successful justifies a revolution: the ultimate consequence of a governmental breach of the social contract.
There is also an argument to be made for the position that Locke’s political philosophy contains traces of both his empirical epistemological theory of personal identity as well as his more rational ethical theory. The former founds the entire system on the self-love of the self-conscious individual working blindly(insofar as the common good is concerned). We are, Locke argues, a moral identity or personality responsible for making ourselves who we are through our own work. The source of value is the “I” or the “Me”, the sole bearer of human rights. This seems to be a curious combination of the protestant work ethic and the philosophy of existentialism which we know from the work of the existentialists had such great difficulty providing an ethical philosophy capable of founding the rights of Man. The individual being referred to, however, is not the lonely existential “I” trying to make sense of its own existence but rather an “I” which is somehow not subject to the power of the truth or the good, it is rather the “I” which regulates its possessions with contracts. Locke’s idea of the middle-class man is indeed a far cry from the Aristotelian conception of a middle-class man driven by areté and the common good. Both Locke and Aristotle appear to support meritocracies but the differences between them could not be greater. The Lockean system is the one that would be implemented in the coming centuries whilst the Aristotelian and Kantian systems would have stand in the wings of the world theatre waiting for better days in the future. Kantian ethical theory recognizes the årinciples of freedom and equality as the sources of human rights. Kant’s theory regards the realm of instrumental action in which work, intelligence and ambition lead to results that are incompatible with equality: lead to inequalities that can disadvantage large numbers of citizens and enslave them in an unjust system. Individual characteristics such as the ability to work hard, intelligence and ambition can only result in the value of equality if it is embedded in a categorical context of reason and understanding that demands everyone be treated as ends in themselves in a kingdom of ends. Kant’s Educational theory conceives of a kingdom of ends whee differences between classes will disappear in favour of a classless society brought about by a sophisticated educational system that is financed by the money we previously spent on wars: educational systems based on reason, understanding, and judgment. Work, intelligence and ambition will in such circumstances be transformed by the higher faculties of the mind.