Comparing Humes and Lockes Philosophies

Both Lockes and Humes philosophies have become the subject of study in the contemporary philosophy. Locke, who lived before Hume, laid modern empiricisms foundations. He was one representational realist, using feelings to touch reality. Locke was also a religious man in short, he believed in God (Owen, 2000). Coming after Locke, Humes philosophy was mostly a critique of previous philosophers including Locke, whose arguments he appears to largely refute. Hume also refused to accept the existence of God (Kilcullen, 1996). Nevertheless, they concurred on some of their arguments. Both of these renowned philosophers developed fascinating ideas about the relationships between peoples thoughts and their environments (Uzgalis, 2007). Both Locke and Hume are famous philosophers who have divergent views and beliefs, agreeing only on the three basic points. The aim of this paper is to compare the views of Lockes and Humes on the issues of the origin of ideas.

Locke, on Religion and Civil Government
Religion, and especially Christianity, is probably the most significant influence on Lockes philosophy, his family being Puritans. He kept away from becoming a priest in the Anglican Church at Oxford. Fox Bourne, Lockes biographer, believed that Locke was Anglican, and in fact he himself claimed to be Anglican up to his death. At the beginning of 1660s, Locke was most probably an orthodox Anglican. In the year 1685, while in exile in Holland, Locke wrote the Epistola de Tolerentia, in Latin, probably with images of Protestant refugees who were crossing over from France, where King Louis XIV had the Edict of Nantes revoked (Uzgalis, 2007).

Holland had enough problems with its religious toleration. Lockes Letter though, is not limited only to the issues in those times it talks about religious toleration, although this is also combined with some arguments that apply solely to Christians, and in some instances only to Protestants. Locke defends religion and its toleration while still going on with the Country partys anti-Papist oratory which had sought to have James II kept out from the English throne. His religious-toleration pro arguments are nicely connected to his arguments regarding civil government, defining life, health, liberty and property as mans civil interests and as being civil governments appropriate concern (Uzgalis, 2007).

Locke believed that it is the wise, omnipotent God who created people and sent them to the world to do His will. Thus, all men are His property. The primary end God set men is survival. People were provided with the same faculties, and each has share in natures one community. There should, therefore be no sub-ordination among people, authorizing them to destroy each other as if they are made for each others uses. People therefore, are not free to destroy themselves, or even any creatures in their possession. Lockes argument concludes that suicide and murder violate Gods divine purpose (Uzgalis, 2007).

According to Locke, the means necessary to the end (that is survival) are life, health, liberty and property. All people have equal rights to the means necessitating the end, as natural rights comes even before civil government is introduced, since it is God who sets the end. Therefore, it is clear that nobody should have any excuse to violate anothers rights, that is, right to life, health, liberty and property. Locke argues that reason is what reveals the law of nature, the law that commands all the best for mankind, saying that if it did not command thus, it would definitely vanish as people would not obey it. This conclusion would be arrived at if everyone reflected on all that is the best for themselves as well as for others, in accordance with the aim of peoples survival and their natural equality (Uzgalis, 2007).

Lockes account is not intended to be a kind of utopia it rather explains the necessity of introducing civil government and its legitimate function. Therefore, according to Locke, natural law, as is the case with civil laws, can also be violated. The natural state has no police and prosecutors or even judges for they all represent civil governments with complete political powers. Victims in natural law, then, have to enforce the natural law in the natural state (Uzgalis, 2007).

On top of their other rights in the natural state, all people have the right of enforcing the law, judging on their own behalves. In other words, people may help or assist one another by intervening, in instances where their own interests may not be directly threatened, to help in enforcing natural law. Yet, Locke argues that the one most likely capable of enforcing the law in such circumstances is the victim (the wronged person), the fundamental principle of fair dealing being that any punishment has to be in proportion with the crime. However, the victim is most likely to judge the wrong more severely than any impartial judge would do when he or she is the one judging the crimes seriousness, leading to irregular miscarriage of justice time and time again, which is probably natural states major problem (Uzgalis, 2007).

A magistrate may use force, and even violence, wherever necessary in order to safeguard civil interests, which is the states central function. Individuals religious concerns about salvation though, do not fall within the civil interest domain, but lie outside of a civil government or magistrates legitimate concerns. Effectively, Locke adds the right of liberty to decide individuals own roads to salvation to peoples natural rights to live, be free, healthy and own property. Locke is of the view that it is illegitimate for any government to force certain beliefs on people or to engage in particular practices or ceremonies. The magistrates chief means is the use of force. However, force is never in changing or perpetuating belief. If magistrates use force to make people profess belief, they seem to have little understanding of the salvation way. If they do it not for the sake of saving them, then they cannot be so concerned about faiths articles to the point of enacting them by use of law (Uzgaliz, 2007).

Thus, it is inappropriate for the state to engage in religious persecution. Locke argues that where competing churches are involved, the true church should have the power. However, according to Locke, all this amounts to naught, considering that every church takes itself to be the true church, yet only God can determine the correct claim. Skepticism concerning religious knowledges possibility is key to his arguments regarding religious toleration (Uzgaliz, 2007).

Locke, on Knowledge and Belief
Locke argues that the human soul is originally empty that the source of peoples ideas and foundation of knowledge is experience, with sensation being the spring of peoples knowledge about external objects and reflection of their knowledge about internal facts. Every single idea in the human mind is derived from either one or both principles. To Locke, a childs first ideas are derived from sensation. It is not until at an advanced stage in life that a child begins to seriously reflect on things that take place within him or her (Weber, 2010).

To Locke, knowledge is an ideas agreement or disagreements appearance or perception to believe, judge or assent is to presume an ideas agreement or its disagreement. Belief is supposing agreement or disagreement where it cannot be perceived. Knowledge, Locke believed, it the insight of the concurrence or conflict ideas and is both short and scarce. He argued that there are two faculties in the human mind which are conversant of true and false. The knowledge faculty perceives and gets satisfied of any ideas concurrence or conflict, while the judgment faculty, is where ideas are put together or separated from each other when there is no perceived certainty of concurrence or conflict, but are rather presumed as so. Locke introduced probability in similarity with demonstration just like he introduced judgment in similarity with knowledge (Owen, 2000).

According to Locke, the knowledge that God exists is evident with the second highest degree of assurance, that is demonstration. People also know they exist with the highest degree of certainty. Human knowledge about material objects is probabilistic, thus opinion as opposed to knowledge. Therefore peoples knowledge about objects in the external is lesser to their knowledge of morality and mathematics, themselves, and God. Although Locke believes that peoples knowledge is limited to a few things, he believes that people are capable of judging the factuality or falsity of various propositions besides those they can legitimately claim knowledge of (Owen, 2000).

Hume, on Religion and Reason
In his essay concerning miracles, David Hume concludes that Christianity is far from being rationally defensible, contrary to Christians of his time. Also, his other essays on religion primarily criticize natural-reasoning based religion, a religion the deists of the time had tried to substitute Christianity for. The natural-reasoning based religion differed with Christianity in that Christians believed that revelation had to fill what could be proved by reason. This means that Humes attacks on natural-reasoning based religions arguments can also be taken as attacks on Christianitys arguments. Published posthumously in1779, the book Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion rebutted the most popular argument during his time, the argument that the worlds design and orderliness is proof of Gods existence (Kilcullen, 1996).

In the book An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding published in 1748, he also argues that no one has reason to believe in miracles as miracles violate natural laws. He also attacks natural-reasoning based religions belief in the existence of a god who rewards those who do well and also punishes those who do evil, saying that such beliefs can make no difference either in morality or social order.  He goes on to argue that no human reasoning can attain certainty, and that humans have to use reason every day, but its abstruse questions concerning religion and also philosophy cannot be trusted. Skepticism therefore leads to the restricted inquiries to such questions as human understandings narrow capacity are adapted to (Kilcullen, 1996).

It is also in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, that Hume argues that there is no rational reason to make claims about the future. According to him, past experience is the spring of knowledge of matters-of-fact. Hume explains that humans can only make conclusions about future occurrences based on their past experiences. However, he indicates that it is incorrect for humans to believe that there is justification in using their past experiences to predict the future, saying that since humans only have past experiences, all they are capable of offering are future propositions (Kilcullen, 1996).

Hume did not, however, just attack natural religion he also attacked reasons pretensions in general. He also argued that morality is based on feeling or sentiment, and that reason cannot prove the rightness of moral sentiments, thus refuting common doctrine in his time which held that morality is reason-based. Humes morality theory and politics theories do not refer to God, and the kind of reason in his writings is reasoning on causes, but never as perception for intuiting moral qualities. His is an emotion-based theory which is about reactions by individuals to things that affect them, done by others to them, and particularly on their impartial. Also on individuals reactions to things done to them by others, and especially regarding reactions to things done between people to whom they are held to be impartial (Kilcullen, 1996).

According to Hume, it is such reactions that lead to morality and even just or fair political institutions. Because emotion was at times known as passion, Hume held that reason is, and only has to be passions slave, rejecting Platos doctrine which argued that emotions should be ruled by reason. Humes remarks mean that the function of reason is to work out on how to achieve the goals endorsed by our emotions, including our moral feelings. Humes first volume of History, published in 1754, which he insinuated that Christianity was fanaticism and superstition-motivated also sparked outrage (Kilcullen, 1996).

Hume, on Government
On origin of governments, Hume argues that even though not completely selfish, people are to a great extent self-interested and short-sighted, often preferring small and close interests. Hence people do many injustices and every individual is determined to imitate other people. It is, therefore, any governments immediate and chief role to oblige people to refrain from doing any act of injustice that will negatively affect or cause harm to peoples long-term interests, besides organizing co-operation. Therefore, government is of great benefit to those subjected to it (Kilcullen, 1996).

To Hume, no government is required to maintain justice in small societies prior to the great possessions stage, at which justice is sufficiently and properly enforced by conscience and public opinion. In the small society, if a person treats another with injustice, the actual spectators disgusted reaction and the perpetrators sympathy, or his or her reaction to the thought about the spectators reaction could discourage injustice. However, in larger societies which are also more possessory that would be less than enough. Nevertheless, even in more developed states, magistrates and government officials reactions are still mostly controlled by conscience and public opinion (Kilcullen, 1996).

Concerning the source of peoples pledge of allegiance to government, Hume holds that even though sometimes allegiances origin may be by promise, it does not usually rest upon any promise. Also, on political obligations limits, he gives no precise statement to define those limits (Kilcullen, 1996).

Hume held that justice, promise-keeping, and submission to governments are all virtues as they are generally valuable to mankind. He gives a similar analysis of other virtues. According to him, there is a certain degree of impartial affection for others in most people, although not to a very high degree. Hume is closely similar to Locke in a few ways, although he refutes propertys naturalness as well as the theory of contract about the foundation of government. Both Hume and Locke recognize Hobbess idea that governments work is securing peace, but they hold that it is necessary that there be a war between people in order to have a government. However, to Hume the possibility of justice in the natural state would have to rest on convention, whereas according to Locke it would be a natural law issue (Kilcullen, 1996).

Both Locke and Hume are famous empiricist philosophers who have divergent views and beliefs, agreeing only on the three basic points. Both of them believe that genuine knowledge is gained or acquired through experience reason is both unreliable and insufficient as a route to knowledge, unless based on sense experience. They also concur that there is no evidence that inborn ideas in the human mind are known through experience. Both of these renowned philosophers developed fascinating ideas about the relationships between peoples thoughts and their environments. However, both Locke and Hume are philosophers who differ in their arguments about the various subjects concerning people and their relationship with the world around them.


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