The Enlightenment in Great Britain. The history of the philosophy of Great Britain includes the teachings of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and the Scottish School. With the exception of the teachings of the reactionary Scottish School, all the important philosophical teachings appear in the first half of the eighteenth century. We need to understand, first, the philosophical position of Locke, who was the father of the Enlightenment. We shall then see how his doctrine developed in three different directions: (1) as Deism,—a rational Christianity, (2) as an associational psychology in ethics, (3) as a theory of knowledge in the philosophies of Berkeley and Hume.
Our discussion of the philosophy of Bacon and Hobbes has been followed by that of Rationalism. It would, however, be a mistake for the reader to infer, as we are about to take up the study of Locke, that a long period of time intervened between Hobbes and Locke. A chronological comparison of their lives shows that they were contemporaries for forty-seven years. Both lived through the reign of Charles I, during the Commonwealth and the Restoration. Hobbes died eleven years before Locke published his only philosophical essay. We must remember, too, that the English empirical philosophers of the Enlightenment were not insulated from the Rationalists of the Continent. On the contrary, there was a lively interchange of ideas. Descartes influenced Hobbes and Hobbes influenced Spinoza. The influence of Descartes upon Locke was not inconsiderable, and Leibnitz felt the influence of Locke. Berkeley and Leibnitz arrived at idealistic conclusions from independent points of view. Bacon alone seems to stand apart both from his contemporaries and from his immediate followers.
The English Enlightenment was the natural development of the English Renaissance. Locke was the successor of Bacon and Hobbes. On the other hand, the English Enlightenment is similar to what went on in France and Germany. The first half of the English Enlightenment—from 1690 to 1750—was absorbed in philosophical discussions; during the second half, the period abandoned philosophy, and was engaged entirely in politics. The classes that won in the Revolution of 1688 had little trouble in maintaining their place of power. The peaceful coming of William and Mary gave well-ordered conditions for intellectual development and for a powerful literary movement. The Jacobites were crushed, and there ensued a period of political peace. In the latter half of the century, however, another set of topics came to the front. After 1750 politics superseded philosophy; and whereas the keenest English minds had been employed upon the theoretical “study of mankind” in literature and philosophy, they now became engaged in practical political questions. Political parties developed. The Court was arrayed against the families of the Revolution, the American trouble, and the Wilkite agitations were looming large. England was sucked into the political maelstrom that was involving all Europe. Instead of deistic controversies with the theological orthodoxy, dangerous political questions were appearing. Instead of Hume’s Essay and Butler’s Analogy we have Burke’s speeches, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Junius’s Letters, and political pamphlets. In the first half of the period Bolingbroke had left politics for philosophy; in the second half Priestley left his laboratory for politics. The great change in English intellectual interests is shown in Hume himself. In 1752 he turned from philosophy, because there was so little interest in the subject, to the writing of his history of England. Theology was paralyzed; deism was no longer ridiculed; orthodoxy slumbered in its victory. The only philosophic tones came from France, where Voltaire, the Encyclopædists, and Rousseau were carrying out a movement that had its origin in England; and, on the other hand, from Scotland and its reactionary school. But the political movement always remained political in England, because its institutions were not inflexible and because the English people are by nature constitutional. In England there has never been a revolution, in the true sense, but England’s progress has always been controlled by tradition. Even the revolution in the English colonies in America was caused by an abridgment of constitutional rights, and not by political theory, although the formal Declaration of Independence was framed under the influence of French philosophers.
John Locke, Life and Writings (1632–1704).37 The life of Locke falls into four periods.
1. Student Life (1632–1666). Locke passed his first fourteen years at home, which were the troublesome years of the Civil War. The next six years were spent at the Westminster School in London. The last fourteen years of this period were spent, first as student and then as lecturer in Oxford. He took his Oxford degrees in 1660, the year of the Restoration and the year in which the British Royal Society was founded at Oxford. His dislike for the classics, which was begun at the Westminster School, was confirmed by his Oxford studies. Consequently, during the years of his perfunctory lecturing at Oxford (1660–1666), his main interest was in physics. He was engaged in chemical, meteorological, and especially medical observations. He was also engaged in an amateur medical practice, in partnership with an old physician.
The first turning point in his life came in 1666, when he was called to attend the first Lord Shaftesbury, who had fallen ill at Oxford. This accidental meeting was the beginning of a lasting friendship with the Shaftesbury family, sustained by their common love for political, religious, and intellectual liberty. The first Lord Shaftesbury was the most notable statesman in the reign of Charles II; the third Lord Shaftesbury was the greatest of English ethical scholars. Locke was the trusted friend and beneficiary of the first Lord Shaftesbury, the tutor of the second, and influenced, more than any one else, the ethical productions of the third. Locke wrote some notes in this period on the Roman Commonwealth, an essay on toleration, and made records of physical observations.
2. As Politician (1666–1683). During these seventeen years Locke’s outward fortunes were intimately connected with the political career of Shaftesbury. He held public office. He was made a member of the Royal Society in 1668. The winter of 1670–1671 was important for his intellectual fortunes and marks another turning point in his life. It was then that he started the inquiry that led to his famous Essay.38 The Essay was in the process of development during the next nineteen years. He passed four years in retirement and in study in France (1675–1679). He also at this time first conceived his Essays on Government. Shaftesbury fled to Holland in November, 1682, and Locke a few months later followed him.
3. As Philosophical Author (1683–1691). The year 1689 divides this period into two important parts. The first part (1683–1689) is not only the period of his exile in Holland, but it is the time in which he is composing and completing his three most important literary works,—Essay on the Human Understanding, the two Treatises on Government, the three Epistles on Tolerance. During the second part (1689–1691) he published these, which was the time immediately following his return to England. Newton’s Principia was published in 1687, and Locke’s Essay in 1690—the one the foundation of modern physical science, the other the beginning of modern psychology. The appearance of these two works together with the Revolution in 1688 makes this point of time an important one in the history of the world.
4. As Controversialist (1691–1704). Locke then began to write upon almost every conceivable subject,—the coining of silver money, the raising of the value of money, the culture of olives, etc. He was also very busy in defending his philosophy against attacks. For him, until 1700 the period was one of controversy. At that time he retired from all activity, and after four years of failing health died in 1704. His period of production was confined to the eleven years between 1689 and 1700.
The Sources of Locke’s Thought. 1. His Puritan Ancestry. The ancestry of Locke is little known, and not much that appears in his personality can be explained by it. Both his father and mother were Puritans, and he seems to have inherited the severe piety, prudent, self-reliant industry, and love of liberty, that were common in English Puritan families of the middle class in the seventeenth century. During the first fourteen years he was schooled by his parents.
2. His Training in Tolerance. If Locke inherited in the least degree any temper of intolerance from his Puritan ancestry it entirely disappeared with his experiences before and during his life at the University of Oxford. In 1646, at the Westminster School, his mind revolted at the cruel intolerance on both sides in the events just succeeding the Civil War. He also rebelled at the stern scholastic training which he received. These negative influences were supplemented by positive incentives to freedom and toleration during his university life. John Owen was the liberal Vice-Chancellor of Oxford at that time, and the university granted freedom of thought to all Protestants. Locke felt Owen’s influence throughout his whole life. The fact that Locke’s intimate friend at Oxford was Professor Pococke, the most outspoken Royalist in the university, shows that whatever Puritanism there was in Locke’s nature had been ameliorated. Tolerance and liberty of opinion became now the key-note in the life of John Locke. “A gentle disposition, great love for his friends, an honest seeking after truth, and a firm faith in the importance of personal and political freedom are the traits most remarkable in Locke as we know him from his books and letters.” His toleration was not of the same sort as that of his contemporary Leibnitz. Leibnitz sought to reconcile discordant elements by combining them into a new dogmatic theory; Locke neglected disagreements, sought no perfect harmony, but pointed out a via media that any individual might take. Leibnitz set forth a metaphysical system; Locke gave a practical method. He had great directness, and was a man of honesty of thought. Not being a partisan he had no side to defend; and he was not a partisan because philosophy was not his trade. Philosophy was to Locke the accomplishment of a gentleman who was interested in the puzzles of life. His diction is for ordinary people; it is simple and expressed in short Anglo-Saxon words. He shows no logic of thought; and while any sentence is admirable, the paragraph and the page are dull. His Essay is a chaos of plain truths, only here and there illuminated by imagination. He shows no poetic power, and the world in which he lived never fired his imagination. He studied the human mind as he would read the thermometer. To our fathers his Essay was a philosophical Bible. To us the Essay stands, not like a completely planned building, but like an enlarged cottage, very habitable, but making no single impression.
3. The Scientific Influence. As a fellow-countryman of Ockam and the two Bacons, Locke shows the same anti-mystical and positivist tendencies. He was a thorough Englishman in taste and temperament. When the “new philosophy” was finding its way into the Oxford circle, he was one of the first to welcome it. It came to the University through books; the lecturers were still true to Aristotle. Descartes, Hobbes, and Bacon were widely read, as was also Gassendi’s exposition of Epicurus. Locke himself writes concerning the influence of Descartes upon him. He gave up all thought of becoming a clergyman; and his personal friendship for Bayle, a famous chemist, and for Sydenham, a no less famous physician, interested him in the empirical method as they applied it to chemistry and therapeutics. He owed his philosophical awakening to Descartes and the Port Royal logic. The lucidity of Descartes came to him as an inspiration of intellectual liberty; although he afterwards used the principles that Descartes had taught him to controvert his teacher’s doctrine.
During the first period of Locke’s life (1632–1666) he was nothing more than a student of medicine and a meteorological observer. He was the retired scholar who led so placid a life that it portended nothing noteworthy. He was a creditable scholar and teacher, but his life was negative in character. He had passed through stirring times, and they did not stir him.
4. The Political Influence. Locke’s interest in politics began when he was thirty-four years old—when he met Lord Ashley at Oxford. For fifteen years he shared the home and fortune of this most remarkable man of affairs in the reign of Charles II. This Lord Ashley (Earl of Shaftesbury) fled to Holland in 1682, and died there the next year. After the death of his patron Locke left England for exile in Holland until 1689, when he returned to England with William and Mary. In Holland he found a brilliant company, exiled from all countries; and he formed an intimate friendship with Limborch, the leader of liberal theology in Holland. Some of the time he lived with a Quaker. Locke’s friendship with Shaftesbury and his residence in Holland confirmed him in his belief in political liberty. So when William entered England and needed literary justification for the Revolution, he got it in Locke’s two Treatises on Government. Locke thus became the philosophical defender and intellectual representative of the Revolution that now after fifty years had reached its culmination.
Summary. On the whole, the inherited Puritanism of Locke was easily modified not only by his own moderate disposition, but also by his scientific interests and by his large political experiences. He naturally grew to be the apostle of the via media between traditionalism and empiricism. He published practically nothing before he was sixty years old. After his return from exile his principal works appeared in swift succession. Two accidents formed turning-points in his life. His accidental meeting with Shaftesbury in 1666 turned him to politics; and secondly, at an informal meeting of friends in the winter of 1670–1671 the question about the nature of sensations was accidentally raised, out of which grew his great Essay. His life was primarily one of affairs and of large acquaintance with men and things. To him life was the first thing, his interest in politics came second, and his philosophy third. That his ideas should have been the basis of extreme philosophical and political beliefs on the Continent is natural enough when one remembers the perils of misinterpretation to the man who preaches the doctrine of the via media.
The Purpose of Locke. In the historical perspective of two centuries we to-day see Locke in his Essay on the Human Understanding delivering the inaugural address of the eighteenth century. He is making the first formal declaration of the intellectual rights of the individual in a lengthy, dry, and erudite psychological dissertation. Of course he never knew the historical importance of his own work. It grew out of the need of the hour. He would have been astonished to find himself the spokesman of the century of French Encyclopædists, materialists, and revolutionists, of English deists, of German Illuminati, of Hume, and of Voltaire. He had in mind to answer the restrictions of the high churchman on the one hand, and the arrogant claims of the atheists on the other, as to the power of the human intellect. He states that his design is to “inquire into the original certainty and extent of human knowledge.” In this declaration Locke foreshadows Kant, but he falls short of the insight of Kant. For Locke speaks for the spirit of the eighteenth and not the nineteenth century, and (1) he must keep within the range of concrete facts; (2) he must state only what can be stated clearly; and (3) he must be practical. It was, however, in its larger meaning a declaration of human freedom. Locke shows what limitations the human intellect has, what it can and what it cannot know. When the Enlightenment got momentum, it forgot the limitations to knowledge that the sober Locke had set down, and read in his words only a declaration of license. The Essay differs from any previous modern philosophical writing. Man and not the universe is the subject. For the first time we find an examination of the laws of mind, and not of the laws of the universe.
But it is the via media for which Locke stands, and not the lawless excesses of the eighteenth century. The human reason is not all-knowing—cannot solve all problems, is not endowed with divine ideas; on the other hand, the human reason is not merely a string of sensations. The human reason is just this: it is human. It stands midway between divine intuition and animal sensation. Man is free, but free under his own limitations. “If by this inquiry it may be of use to prevail with the busy mind of man to be more cautious in meddling with things beyond its comprehension—we should then not be so forward, out of affection for universal knowledge, to perplex ourselves and others with disputes about things, to which our understandings are not suited and of which we have not any notions at all.” Human freedom stands between the absolute freedom of God and the absolute necessity of the animal. Human freedom lies within the limits and bounds of human ideas—the via media; and analysis of those ideas will show what those limits and bounds are. There can be no knowledge without ideas. Some ideas may be erroneous and out of all relation to reality. On the other hand, there may be ideas to which no experiences fit. Intellectual freedom consists in having not isolated ideas, but ideas in their relations, that is, in the form of judgments. Locke was moved in making his analysis of ideas by a general moral purpose to correct the faults and fallacies in mankind and in himself. “Man’s faculties were given him to procure the happiness which this world is capable of,” says Locke, and it might have been Bacon who had said it. The search for the via media is justified by its practical and utilitarian ends. The via media is the way of freedom.
Two Sides of Locke’s Philosophy. The search for the via media is an attempt to find “the limits and extent of human knowledge.” This involved Locke in a discrimination as to what should be accepted and what rejected of the past. It gives his philosophy a positive and a negative aspect. In brief, on its negative side he makes a show of rejecting the entire past by rejecting all innate ideas, but really he inconsistently accepted from the past its conception of substance and of individuality. On its positive side he builds up from experience a theory of knowledge which he divides into intuitive, demonstrative, and probable. That is to say, while Locke affirms that all our knowledge must be derived from experience, it never occurs to him to doubt the traditional Cartesian theory of the existence of God, man, and matter.
(a) The Negative Side—Locke and Scholasticism. Locke issued an avowed defiance to scholasticism in the introduction of his Essay. Of the four books into which the Essay is divided, the first was composed last and added as an introductory declaration of independence. If it had been the only part ever written, the anarchism of the eighteenth century would have been right in finding its justification in the Essay. To a modern mind this first book looks harmless enough, but in Locke’s time it had a deep sociological and political meaning. It expresses his practical moral defiance of traditional mediævalism. “There exist no innate ideas,” says Locke. Innate ideas mean to him the tyranny of tradition—unexamined and unsubstantiated beliefs, conceptions unverified by fact. They stand for church dogma imposed upon the unthinking masses, the absolutism of monarchy and the divine right of kings, the inherited superstitions about nature. Spinoza had deduced his entire philosophy from the innate idea of substance; Descartes had found at least three innate ideas; Leibnitz believed all ideas innate. Locke pleads for the personal right to examine all ideas. Locke’s critics have claimed that no philosopher ever maintained the existence of innate ideas in the sense in which Locke attacked them. Locke was aiming at something more vulnerable than innate ideas themselves—he was attacking the mediæval habit of the individual who takes a thing as true because the thing has the weight of traditional authority.
(b) The Positive Side—The New Psychology and Epistemology. If inherited ideas have no weight for Locke, he was bound to show the kind of ideas upon which we can rely. The mind enters upon life with no stock of ideas in trade; how do they arise? The logical outcome of Locke’s disclaimer of scholastic psychology obliged him to construct a new psychology and theory of knowledge. He must offer a psychology as a constructive programme for the individualism of the Enlightenment. In his second book Locke states the positive side of his doctrine by saying that the mind is like a white paper without any original markings; that it gets its markings from the impressions made upon it. Thus to deny innate ideas and to affirm that all ideas are empirically aroused, are the negative and positive sides of the same doctrine of individualism. They are two ways of saying that the mind of the individual is free to judge for itself of the truth or falseness of its experiences.
In his denial of the existence of innate ideas, in his use of the formula that “nothing is in the intellect that has not been first in the sense,” or in his employment of the figure of the “white piece of paper,” Locke does not intend to state anything further than that the mind is free. He merely means that the individual starts without trammels and prejudices. He does not mean that the mind is completely passive and at the mercy of its environment, as his French followers interpreted him. Locke is a sensationalist, but he does not belong to that class who believe that our mental states are merely translated sensations, and that the mind itself is merely passive. He believes that the mind does not create its ideas, but that they are presented to it. The mind has original powers upon which it can reflect. The mind can operate with its ideas and make them into compounds. Thus one must read Locke’s Essay to the end to get his double point of view. In the second and third books he frequently discusses the contents of the mind as if the mind were passive, in the manner of modern psychologists. In the fourth book he develops an epistemology on the assumption that the mind is active and free.
Locke’s Psychology. The second and third books of the Essay are a discussion of the empirical sources of our ideas. One notes the Cartesian dualism of mind and matter in the background. All ideas have their source either externally in the impressions upon the bodily senses, or internally in the operations of the mind itself. The sources of ideas are either sensations or reflections, or, as Locke calls them, “outer and inner perceptions.” Locke also calls them “simple ideas,” being the units out of which the complex ideas are constructed. We understand easily enough what Locke means by sensations, but “reflections” is a word peculiar to him, which has not been taken up by philosophy. He means by “reflections” a consciousness of the machinery of the mind. We are, that is to say, conscious of our willing, loving, remembering, etc. As to the order of their appearance in the mind, the sensations are prior to the reflections and are the occasion for the appearance of the reflections. The reflections are not the process of transmitting the sensations, but they are the later and mechanical transmutation of the sensations. It is important to note that throughout Locke’s psychological analysis, he regards the mind as passive, even with respect to the ideas of reflection. The reflections, as faculties of the mind, are dependent on the sensations, and both sensations and reflections make impressions upon a passive mind.
These “simple” ideas come into the crucible of the mind and form “complex” ideas of various sorts. There are three general classes of these complex ideas: substances, modes, and relations. The construction of “complex ideas” out of “simple ideas” and the objects to which the complex ideas refer receive a great variety of illustration at Locke’s hands, but the details of his lengthy discussion need not detain us. He is very painstaking; he shows hard common sense; but he is deficient in logical classification and he often betrays much indecision. His Essay is of encyclopædic character in its derivation of all common notions from “simple ideas.” The laws of association form the chemistry by which he welds the “simple ideas” together.
Thus far Locke is empirical and consistent. However, the dualistic background of the thought of his age makes him deviate from his avowed empiricism. Besides the clear and simple ideas of sensation and reflection Locke introduces the idea of the Self. What is the idea of Self? It is not a sensation nor a reflection. It is not a complex idea, derived from sensations and reflections. “It is an internal, infallible perception that we are.” It is an accompaniment of the processes of thought. It stands beside the ideas, which are empirically derived, as an unexplained remainder. The result of Locke’s psychological analysis is therefore that the inner world of the mind consists of the combination of the simple ideas of sensation and reflection plus the unexplained idea of the Self.
Locke’s Theory of Knowledge. Although Locke says that the purpose of his Essay is to show the limits and extent of human knowledge, he does not reach this until the last book. The first three books form a long introduction to the fourth book and his real theme. Here for the first time he treats the mind as active; and here for the first time in the history of thought the attempt is made to show what questions man can answer with certainty, what with probability, and what are beyond man’s knowledge.
All the difficulties in the assumptions of the Enlightenment come out in Locke’s treatment of his main theme. Locke defines knowledge as the “perception of the agreement or disagreement of our ideas,” and yet he says that knowledge is real only as ideas agree with things. That is to say, Locke had assumed (in Book II of the Essay) the existence of the material substance of things of the outer world, just as he assumed the existence of the spiritual Self-substance of the inner world. What is the nature of the outer material substance? Locke hesitates, and the best he can answer is, “It is the unknown support and cause of the union of several distinct, simple ideas.” Substance, to Locke, is a word for something unknown. But does the mind know nothing about substance? What information do our ideas convey to us of substance? We have this knowledge: we know the primary or constant, unchangeable qualities of substances, and the secondary or variable qualities of substances. The primary qualities of bodies are the same as their effects in us, such as the extension of bodies, their solidity, movement and rest, duration and position in time. The secondary “are nothing in the objects themselves but powers to produce various sensations in us by their primary qualities.” Secondary qualities are sounds, colors, etc. In this confused statement it would seem that substance stands as merely the nominal support of the primary qualities, and the primary qualities are the cause of the secondary qualities.
Thus the individual stands forth free in the development of his ideas, but he is an individual circumscribed by his dualistic world. He belongs to the world of an unexplained spiritual substance on the one hand, and he is surrounded by a world of an unknown material substance on the other. There are three kinds of knowledge: intuitive, demonstrative, and probable. Locke says that the individual is intuitively certain of his own ideas. The individual has also demonstrative knowledge—he can reason logically and mathematically. But Locke’s real problem does not lie with intuitive and demonstrative knowledge. The question that concerned him was rather, What is the character of our knowledge of the external world? The individual in the Enlightenment lived in a spiritual independence of matter, yet he had a feeling of uncertainty about his hold upon a world of matter so different from himself. It was a world foreign to his spiritual essence. With the deepening of the mind within itself and with its growing independence, the equally independent material world grew more difficult and distant. Locke feels this difficulty. How can man know this external world? How can the individual, with all his freedom, bring the external world under his control?
Besides the certainty of intuitive and demonstrative knowledge, there is a third kind according to Locke. This is the probable knowledge of the nature world. We are certain of our sensations, but we are not certain of what our sensations report. The highest degree which our knowledge of the external world can attain is probability, or an inference from many sources. Such knowledge is mere opinion, which supplements certain knowledge and operates in the large field of our daily existence. The spiritual individual stands in a kind of twilight region with the dull wall of the material world of probable existence looming up before him, the outlines of which he can barely discern. On either side of this twilight existence lies the broad daylight of intuitive and demonstrative knowledge, and around it all the absolute darkness of ignorance. Our knowledge is much less than our ignorance because our knowledge is limited to our ideas and their combinations.
Locke’s Practical Philosophy. Locke pursued the via media in his discussion of the practical problems that were at that time of burning importance in English society. He always kept in mind the spiritual man who is circumscribed by his own limitations. Morally, religiously, and politically the individual has to conform to the conditions in which he lives. But morality, religion, and government cannot get their authority from ideas inborn in the mind. All are the outgrowths of experience. The moral law, for example, is a law of nature, although at the same time it is a law of God. It arises from experience, and at the same time it has its root in God. To obey it is to be happy, to disobey it is to be unhappy. The revelation of religion, too, may transcend experience, but it must not contradict experience. In both religion and morality the individual must be the final judge, for he is the arbiter of his own happiness. Individual happiness is of more value than all else. Religious toleration is therefore one of the first principles of government, and between the church and the state there should be no conflict.
Locke’s political philosophy is along the same via media. In his Treatises on Government he seeks to make good the title of King William to the British throne. He justifies the right of the individual to revolt under certain conditions. Political government is not a sacred innate idea, but has arisen out of experience as conducive to the happiness of man. The individuals and the government make a contract to serve each other. When either violates the contract, the State is at an end. To the advocates of the divine rights of kings, like Filmer, political law antedated “nature”; to Hobbes, law came after “nature”; to Locke, law is “nature.” To Filmer “nature” was a golden age; to Hobbes it was a shocking state to be got rid of; to Locke “nature” is harmony. Thus according to Locke the individual has through his experiences constructed his morality, his religion, and his government because they are conducive to his happiness, and at the same time they have their ground in the “nature” of things. The individual stands free among them, the central figure in the world.
The Influence of Locke. The philosophy of Locke became the fountain-head of the many divergent schools of thought of the Enlightenment. His Essay did not contain anything fundamentally new, and its presentation has little originality; but it voiced the thought of the eighteenth century so easily, and with such skillful avoidance of pitfalls, that it made Locke the most widely read and the most influential philosopher of his time. Four separate movements had their source in him: (1) From his theory of knowledge, in which the emphasis is laid upon the mind as active, came the empirical idealism of Berkeley and Hume; (2) from his psychological analysis in the second and third books of the Essay, in which the mind is regarded as passive, came the sensationalism of the French; (3) from his theory of religion came Deism; (4) from his associationalistic ethics came the utilitarian ethical theories of the English moralists. The most constructive followers of Locke were Berkeley and Hume. The others may be called the lesser Lockian schools; for although they may have exercised a much greater influence upon their own time, they were nevertheless only partial interpreters of Locke. We shall deal briefly with Deism and Ethics in England, next consider at length the philosophies of Berkeley and Hume, and then present in a summary but articulate way the development of the Enlightenment in France and Germany.
The English Deists. We have seen how Rationalism, especially in the case of Descartes, tried at the beginning to reconstruct theology without breaking with established dogma. Gradually, however, rationalism and revealed religion showed signs of divorce. Some of the rationalists came to take the stand that if reason can understand the nature of God, revelation is either incredible or superfluous. The revealed religions differ. The god of the mediæval people is not the same as the god of the heathen nor as the Jehovah of the Jews. There are many religions and many sects in each religion. There must be to them all a common basis, which is the true religion. This was the creed of Deism or Natural Religion. Positive religions are only the corruptions of natural religion, or the religion of reason. Deism sought to separate religion from special revelations, which were looked upon as the irrational elements of religion. Bacon and Descartes had freed natural science from church dogma; Hobbes had freed psychology from the same dogma; Grotius had freed the conception of law from dogma. The Deists would free religion from dogma.
Deism was founded on three principles; (1) the origin and truth of religion may be scientifically investigated; (2) the origin of religion is the conscience; (3) positive religions are degenerate forms of natural religion. The tendency of the Enlightenment was deistical, and the movement was powerful in England, France, and Germany. Deism was quite consistent with the central principle of this period—the self-sufficiency of the individual.
In England the first deist was Herbert of Cherbury (1581–1648), with his “five fundamental propositions of religion.” The body of English deists, however, got their cue from Locke’s identification of the moral law with the law of nature; but Locke himself was not a deist. The literature of deism coincides for the most part with the English moral philosophy of the period, but usually the group of English deists is supposed to include only Toland, Chubb, Tindal, Collins, Morgan, and Bolingbroke. These men lived in the first half of the Enlightenment. They were much despised by the scholars of the time as being mere dabblers in letters. “They were but a ragged regiment whose whole ammunition of learning was a trifle when compared with the abundant stores of a single light of orthodoxy; whilst in speculative ability they were children by the side of their antagonists.”39
The English deists passed from view at the end of the first half of the eighteenth century, crushed by the weight of the attack upon them. The more powerful orthodoxy, with its greater talent, was itself rationalistic, and could beat them on their own ground. The churchmen showed that the objections against the God of revelation would be equally effective against the deistic God of nature. The classic argument along this line against the deists is Bishop Butler’s Analogy of Religion. The battle was unequal, and the character of the books published during the controversy reveals the inequality of the contest. The deistic publications were small and shabby octavos, and were published anonymously. The orthodox publications were solid octavos and quartos in handsome bindings, with the credentials of powerful signatures. Even if the orthodoxy had not employed the arm of the law against the deists, the deists would have been broken by the intellectual force against them.
The English Moralists. Just as the motive of the deists was to free religion from the authority of theology, so the motive of the celebrated group of English moralists of the Enlightenment was to find a basis for morality outside of church dogma. Many of the English moralists were also deists in belief. Their number is legion, as the list given below will show. The greatest among them was Shaftesbury.
The school began with Hobbes and received momentum from the associational psychology of Locke. All the members of this group sought to find an ultimate basis for morality—some seeking it with Locke in experience, others in innate ideas. Yet the starting-point with each of these moralists seems to be Hobbes and his selfish ethics, for nearly all ethical scholars have his ethics in mind, either to attack or to defend. For many years Hobbes was regarded by ethical scholars either as an evil spirit or as an inspired genius. In any case, his influence was felt in ethical discussion for a long time.