Locke and the Real Problem of Causation

Locke Studies 15:53-77 (2015)
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Discussions of John Locke’s theory of causation tend, understandably, to focus on the related notion of power and in particular the dialectic with David Hume. But Locke faces a very different threat, one that is internal to his view. For he argues both that causation is a relation and that relations are not real. The obvious conclusion is intolerable. And yet the premises, I argue, are unassailable. Building on an interpretation of Locke’s treatment of relations I have developed elsewhere, I show how Locke can at once speak meaningfully of causation and deny its mind-independent existence.
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