Leibniz, Locke and I

Cogito 13 (3):181-187 (1999)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In his New Essays on Human Understanding, Leibniz presents a sharp attack on Locke's theory of personal identity, Matching Locke's thought-experiments with those of his own, Leibniz seeks to show that our identity cannot rest on matters of consciousness alone-being the same person is rather a matter of the continued existence of an immaterial substance. I draw attention to some contemporary thinkers who-while eschewing the immaterial substances-are sympathetic to the kind of argument Leibniz offered. This leads to a dilemma: on the face of things. we cannot be sympathetic to both Leibniz and Locke. I investigate a theory which would resolve this dilemma-giving up something which each held dear, but not everything, The resultant theory leans unpopularly more towards the side of Leibniz than Locke but can point to the authority of no less than David Wiggins. In the end, though, I argue that there is another solution to the dilemma - a solution which claims that Leibniz and Locke are arguing at cross-purposes, and that their arguments are best seen as answers to different questions. This solution still requires the giving-up of widely-held beliefs but involves significantly less cost than the alternatives.

Author's Profile

Simon Beck
University of the Western Cape


Added to PP

89 (#64,030)

6 months
20 (#62,522)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?