By Gideon Yaffe
An interpretation of John Locke's option to the philosophical challenge of loose will and the character of human business enterprise. The textual content indicates that Locke conceived unfastened business enterprise as either the liberty to specific oneself, and the liberty to go beyond oneself and act according to "the good".
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As we’ll see in the next section, however, this suggested interpretation of the first edition gains credence when we see how Locke develops his view in the later editions of the Essay. It is a consequence of the first edition account of the Elusive Something that no agent who makes a wrong choice was, at the time, a full-fledged free agent. If an agent makes the wrong choice, and consequently does the wrong action, an action that will contribute (eventually) to her long-term pain (inflicted through extended punishment in the afterlife), then her choice was certainly not determined by the good, since the content of her judgment was not decided by the nature of the good.
We would be no closer, that is, to establishing that we are full-fledged free agents. The interpretation that I am offering provides us with the tools necessary for interpreting the following puzzling remark: [H]ow can we think any one freer than to have the power to do what he will? . [W]e can scarce tell how to imagine any Being freer, than to be able to do what he wills. So that in respect of Actions, within the reach of such a power in him, a Man seems as free, as ’tis possible for Freedom to make him.
W]e can scarce tell how to imagine any Being freer, than to be able to do what he wills. So that in respect of Actions, within the reach of such a power in him, a Man seems as free, as ’tis possible for Freedom to make him. 21) There is a strong temptation to take this remark as simply stating a Hobbesean position on free agency: There is nothing more to full-fledged free agency than freedom of action. ) of the unclarity that is so often the product of Locke’s convoluted rhetorical style. But this rather uncharitable dismissal is unnecessary, for the remark means just what it says when Locke’s position is taken as I am suggesting.
Liberty Worth the Name by Gideon Yaffe