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Personal Identity in Samuel Clarke HOWARD M. DUCHARME DR. SAMUEL CLARKE (1675--1729) was a highly esteemed proponent of Newtonian physics, and a philosopher and theologian who was considered by many in his time to be the intellectual successor to John Locke. He translated Rohault's Physics 0697 ) and Newton's Opticks (17o6) and debated his continental counterpart in the now classic controversy, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (17t7). His Demonstration (x7o5) of the existence of God is still studied today and his Discourse (17o6) on moral obligation makes him the principal modern formulator of "rational intuitionism," much to the explicit revulsion of David Hume. But although bits and pieces of these works are occasionally noted in the literature, reference to his important contributions in the discussion of personal identity are virtually non-existent. In this article I will identify this material which is primarily found in A Letter to Mr. Dodwell ; Wherein All the Arguments in his Epistolary Discourse against the Immortality of the Soul are particularly answered, and the Judgement of the Fathers concerning that Matter truly represented (17o6), and the four Defences 07o7-o8) of it. I will also offer what seems to me a consistent interpretation of Clarke's philosophy of mind and suggest how this begins to shed new light on his moral epistemology. In so doing I am challenging the generally held assumption that Clarke's "rational intuitionism" is epistemically barren and ungrounded. I will argue that he does offer an epistemology, one that begins with selfknowledge that one is a perfectly identical substance, characterized by innate powers of mind, e.g., the active moral inclination. Clarke's moral theory, presented in the Discourse, is an attack on the basic moral principles of Thomas Hobbes. But both Clarke and Hobbes believe that moral theory depends upon philosophical anthropology, which is not the focus of the Discourse. Hobbes sees morals and politics as reducible to the desires of 'human nature'; and 'human nature' is reducible to the metaphys- [559] 360 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 24:3 JULY 1986 ics of matter in motion) Given this materialism, he finds the concept of "an incorporeal substance" to be a "contradictory and inconsistent" signification of names." There is simply no knowledge of such a thing as a human soul; the T of common speech is non-referential, as is the term "infinite" when used of God: "It is also evident, that there can be no Image of a thing infinite: for all the Images, and Phantasms that are made by the Impression of things visible, are figured: but Figure is a quantity every way determined; nor of the Soule of Man; nor of Spirits; but onely of Bodies Visible, that is, Bodies that have light in themselves, or are by such enlightened.''s Clarke, however, finds the T to be an essentially characterized, immaterial substance, "a rational and moral agent" as in (x) below. More specifically, he finds that moral distinctions arise due to an innate moral inclination of mind. This is an active power that inclines but does not necessitate action in accordance with a judgment of the "fitness of things." Such a property clearly does not obtain in matter in motion. Thus, in a sermon written soon after the Discourse Clarke gives the following definition of man: (1) This is the proper and peculiar nature of human actions; the distinguishing character by which man, as a rational and moral agent, is distinguished from the inferior creation. He not only has in himself a power of acting, which is in common to him with the irrational creatures; but he has moreover a still higher principle or power of directing his actions, with some determinate views, and to some certain and constant end. He has a power of judging beforehand, concerning the consequences of his actions, concerning the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the end he aims at; he has a power of collecting, after the action done, whether he acted with a good or an evil view. He can either follow the irregular motions of all his appetites and passions, as do the beasts that perish; or he can restrain and over-rule their solicitations by attending...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 359-383
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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