Locke on the Power to Suspend

Locke Studies 14:121-157 (2014)
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Abstract

My aim in this paper is to determine how Locke understands suspension and the role it plays in his view of human liberty. To this end I, 1) discuss the deficiencies of the first edition version of ‘Of Power’ and why Locke needed to include the ability to suspend in the second edition, then 2) analyze Locke’s definitions of the power to suspend with a focus on his use of the terms ‘source’, ‘hinge’, and ‘inlet’ to describe the power. I determine from these descriptions that the ability to suspend is a passive power and is a necessary condition for the rational deliberation that Locke takes to be necessary for acting as a free agent. In 3) I connect Locke’s view of the power to suspend to his discussion in the sections that precede ‘Of Power.’ I argue that the kind of judgment that Locke endorses in his discussion of the Molyneux problem is also at work in acts of suspension. In 4) I apply my interpretation to Locke’s description of the connection between the power to suspend and liberty. In 5) I conclude with a discussion of a passage from the fifth edition of the Essay. Locke adds this passage to address worries raised by Limborch over the course of their correspondence. According to Chappell, it lends evidence to the view that Locke takes suspensions to be caused by undetermined volitions.

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Julie Walsh
Wellesley College

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