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Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy$
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Walter Ott

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570430

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570430.001.0001

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Locke's Mechanisms

Locke's Mechanisms

Chapter:
(p.177) 21 Locke's Mechanisms
Source:
Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy
Author(s):

Walter Ott (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570430.003.0022

The previous chapters establish that Locke is an ontological mechanist. The question remains, however, whether he is also a course‐of‐nature mechanist: does Locke hold that bodies necessarily behave as they do, given their intrinsic natures? Or does he instead collapse into some form of Cartesian or Boylean voluntarism? This chapter argues that any account of Locke's commitment to course‐of‐nature mechanism must respect his views on relations. Since powers are relations, and relations, considered as mind‐independent, are nothing but the intrinsic qualities of bodies, Locke cannot be a voluntarist. The passages that make it appear otherwise are purely epistemic in their intent, and reflect Locke's doubts about the corpuscular version of mechanism, not the ontological or course‐of‐nature mechanisms of which it is a species. Further, this chapter shows that Locke does not take gravity to threaten either of these last two forms of mechanism, and that his thoughts on gravity run precisely counter to Newton's brand of occasionalism.

Keywords:   voluntarism, corpuscularianism, mechanism, Newton, Locke

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