Liberty Worth the Name: Locke on Free Agency

Overview

This is the first comprehensive interpretation of John Locke's solution to one of philosophy's most enduring problems: free will and the nature of human agency. Many assume that Locke defines freedom as merely the dependency of conduct on our wills. And much contemporary philosophical literature on free agency regards freedom as a form of self-expression in action. Here, Gideon Yaffe shows us that Locke conceived free agency not just as the freedom to express oneself, but as including also the freedom to ...

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Overview

This is the first comprehensive interpretation of John Locke's solution to one of philosophy's most enduring problems: free will and the nature of human agency. Many assume that Locke defines freedom as merely the dependency of conduct on our wills. And much contemporary philosophical literature on free agency regards freedom as a form of self-expression in action. Here, Gideon Yaffe shows us that Locke conceived free agency not just as the freedom to express oneself, but as including also the freedom to transcend oneself and act in accordance with "the good." For Locke, exercising liberty involves making choices guided by what is good, valuable, and important. Thus, Locke's view is part of a tradition that finds freedom in the imitation of God's agency. Locke's free agent is the ideal agent.

Yaffe also examines Locke's understanding of volition and voluntary action. For Locke, choices always involve self-consciousness. The kind of self-consciousness to which Locke appeals is intertwined with his conception of personal identity. And it is precisely this connection between the will and personal identity that reveals the special sense in which our voluntary actions can be attributed to us and the special sense in which we are active with respect to them. Deftly written and tightly focused, Liberty Worth the Name will find readers far beyond Locke studies and early modern British philosophy, including scholars interested in free will, action theory, and ethics.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
Liberty Worth the Name uses Locke's texts as a means of exploring with great acuity the various ways in which human selfhood and agency depend upon each other.
— James A. Harris
Philosophy in Review
Liberty Worth the Name is an excellent book which displays great subtlety and sophistication in its analyses of the issues. Yaffe is a master of the contemporary literature in the philosophy of action; his book is informed throughout by a deep knowledge of the current positions and debates. . . . [His] study will surely stimulate a revival of interest in a largely neglected and undervalued area of Locke's thought.
— Nicholas Jolley
Times Literary Supplement - James A. Harris
Liberty Worth the Name uses Locke's texts as a means of exploring with great acuity the various ways in which human selfhood and agency depend upon each other.
Philosophy in Review - Nicholas Jolley
Liberty Worth the Name is an excellent book which displays great subtlety and sophistication in its analyses of the issues. Yaffe is a master of the contemporary literature in the philosophy of action; his book is informed throughout by a deep knowledge of the current positions and debates. . . . [His] study will surely stimulate a revival of interest in a largely neglected and undervalued area of Locke's thought.
From the Publisher

"Liberty Worth the Name uses Locke's texts as a means of exploring with great acuity the various ways in which human selfhood and agency depend upon each other."--James A. Harris, Times Literary Supplement

"Liberty Worth the Name is an excellent book which displays great subtlety and sophistication in its analyses of the issues. Yaffe is a master of the contemporary literature in the philosophy of action; his book is informed throughout by a deep knowledge of the current positions and debates. . . . [His] study will surely stimulate a revival of interest in a largely neglected and undervalued area of Locke's thought."--Nicholas Jolley, Philosophy in Review

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Product Details

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 3
Chapter 1: A Second Perfection 12
Freedom of Action 13
Freedom of Will: The Negative Views 21
Free Wills 22
Free Violitions 27
The Elusive Something and Freedom of Will: The Positive Views 31
The First Edition 32
The Second and Later Editions 42
Some Consequences of the Second Edition Account 61
Freedom of Will and The Natural Law Theory 65
Conclusion 71
Chapter 2: Violition and Voluntary Action 75
Act~ion and Active Powers 78
Passion and Proper Action 79
Active and Passive Power 82
Two Degrees of Attributability 85
What are Volitions; 88
A Quick Look Back 98
Voluntary Action 99
The Necessity of Causation by Volition for Voluntarines 100
The (Non)Sufficency of Causation by Volition for Voluntarines 104
An Alternative Interpretation 107
The Power to Act Voluntarily 112
The Special Atyributability of Vnlnntrary Action 112
Conclusion 117
Chapter 3: Free Agency and Personal Identity 118
Choice and Personal Identity 119
Contemplation of (Temporally) Absent Pleasure and Pain 134
Conclusion 139
Notes 141
Bibliography 161
General Index 169
Index Locorum 175
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