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Leibniz on Locke on Weakness of Will EZIO VAILATI IN 1704, Leibniz told Jaquelot that Locke's chapter on power dealt amply wffh the issue of freedom and was one of the "most subtle" of the Essay. ~ Consequently , it is reasonable to assume that the corresponding chapter of the New Essays, in which Leibniz disagreed with Locke in matters of generality and detail, must have cost him a good deal of work. However, scholars have not shown towards chapter 9 a of the New Essays a proportional degree of attention . In particular, Leibniz's reaction to and comments on Locke's views on weakness of will have been neglected. This is unfortunate for at least two reasons, one systematic and one topical. In Leibniz's system, the issue of freedom occupies a prominent position. Moreover, since for him freedom does not only involve absence of external impediments, but also, among other things, the power to will as one should, it directly conflicts with weakness of will. Consequently, his views on weakness of will are to be regarded as relatively central to the system. Furthermore, systematic considerations aside, the issue of weakness of will is of considerable intrinsic interest because of its theoretical and practical aspects alike. In this paper, I shall discuss Locke's position and Leibniz's reaction to it. We shall see that Leibniz's critique of Locke is acute and his own views are bold, original and still capable of casting light on the issue. ' To IsaacJaquelot 0704), in Die philosophischeSchrifien yon Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, ed. C. I. Gerhardt (Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1961), vol. 3, P- 473- Henceforth GP, followed by volume and page. Leibniz makes the same point in the New Essays, where he approvingly reports Coste's comment that the contents of Locke's chapter are "the subtlest and most important in the whole work"; see G. W. Leibniz, Nouveaux essaissur l'entendement humain, book 2, chapter 20, section 6. Henceforth NE, followed by book, chapter, and section. I wish to thank Julie Ward, Ermanno Bencivenga, Nicholas Jolley, and Daniel Conway for their comments on previous drafts of this paper. [~13] 214 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 28:2 APRIL 1990 1. LOCKE'S POSITION Among the alterations Locke introduces in the second edition of the Essay, few are so striking as those concerning the operations of the will. In the first edition, Locke holds what he calls the "traditional" view, namely, that what we consider "the greater good is that alone which determines the will."' Faced with alternative courses of action, an agent will choose the one he considers the best. However, in the second and subsequent editions Locke gives a very vivid description of a familiar psychological situation which, he says, "cannot be made intelligible" by the traditional view: •.. let a drunkard see, that his health decays, his estate wastes; discredit and diseases, and the want of all things, even of his beloved drink, attends him in the course he follows: yet the returns of uneasiness to miss his companions; the habitual thirst after his cups, at the usual time, drives him to the tavern, though he has in view the loss of health and plenty, and perhaps the joys of another life: the least of which is no inconsiderable good, but such as he confesses, is far greater, than the tickling of his palate with a glass of wine, or the idle chat of a soaking club.s The problem Locke envisages with his story of the weak-willed drunkard can he understood by noticing that pr/ma fac/e the following principles seem to form an inconsistent set: PI. If an agent wants to do X more than Y and believes himself free to do either, then he will intentionally do X if he does either intentionally. Pa. If an agent judges that it would be better to do X rather than Y, then he wants to do X more than Y. P3- At times some agents intentionally do what they judge the worse action while believing that all in all there is a better one available.4 Locke's solution in the second and subsequent editions of the Essay...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 213-228
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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