This post is part of the Mod Squad’s Author Meets Critics on Antonia LoLordo’s “Locke’s Moral Man”.
The contents of this post are entirely the work of Shelley Weinberg
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the Mod Squad’s discussion of Antonia LoLordo’s new book, Locke’s Moral Man. It’s an excellent book, full of interesting arguments and new insights with respect to both well-worn topics and less-trodden territory. The result is a systematically well-argued interpretation of the relation between Locke’s views on liberty, personal identity, and what LoLordo broadly calls “rationality,” which includes new contributions on what separates the cognitive capacities of persons and animals. Altogether, the book provides a strong argument for how we should see Locke’s view of the moral agent not as bound by any particular metaphysical constraint, but as consisting in a set of well-defined capacities that serve as the conditions for liberty, personhood, and rationality:
To be a moral agent, a creature must meet three conditions. First she must be capable of acting freely, in accordance with her desires; of suspending the prosecution of desires while she deliberates about the best course of action; and of amending her desires in accordance with the results of deliberation. Second, she must be a person, that is, a being who conceives of herself as existing through time so that she imputes past actions to herself and is motivated by the prospect of future pleasure and pain. Third, she must be sufficiently rational to be capable of abstracting and forming lasting ideas of reflection. (p. 133)
Locke’s Moral Man is composed of three sections, each of which lays out the conditions for liberty, personhood, and rationality, respectively. I will focus my attention on an issue in chapter 2, “Personality,” and then on an issue in chapter 3, “Rationality.”
I. As we learn in the first chapter, “Liberty,” moral agents must be able to suspend the prosecution of their desires in order to engage in a rational deliberation about whether that action or its forbearance will produce the most happiness or misery. Chapter two, “Personality,” makes the case that persons, because they can extend themselves into the past and the future, meet the conditions for moral agency. LoLordo says, “You cannot have any reason to suspend the prosecution of your desires unless you conceive of yourself as continuing to exist into the future. You cannot be liable for reward and punishment for past actions unless you conceive of some past being as yourself” (p. 64-65). How we are able to extend ourselves into the past, and the future concerns Locke’s theory of personal identity. Moreover, attention to the role of personal identity in moral agency will help in understanding the nature of Lockean persons (p. 65). Chapter two, where I’d like to focus first, includes a defense of these two claims: “consciousnesses extend themselves into the past and the future by appropriation and…persons are modes (rather than say substances)” (p. 65). I will not have anything to say about the arguments establishing that persons are modes, although there might be some implication for the view falling out of my queries concerning Lolordo’s account of personal identity. Rather, I will concentrate on LoLordo’s account of how “consciousnesses extend themselves into the past and future by appropriation.”
The link between personal identity and moral agency consists in the role of consciousness in both accounts. For Locke, LoLordo argues, pleasure and pain are the only things that can serve as a reason to act. Since you cannot be obligated to do something unless you have a reason to do it, only beings who can feel pleasure and pain can have obligations. It follows, since only conscious beings can feel pleasure and pain, that only conscious beings can have reasons for acting” (p. 69). Therefore, moral motivation and obligation require consciousness. And since the pleasures and pains of those actions that we consider doing now will occur in the future, perhaps even in an afterlife, consciousness must extend over time. To be motivated to perform a particular action, I must be able to be aware of the anticipated pleasure or pain derived from it as mine. Otherwise, I have no reason to do it.
But consciousness is also fundamental to Locke’s theory of personal identity. In the well-known II.xxvii.9 statement of “wherein personal identity consists,” Locke tells us “we must first consider what Person stands for”:
Which, I think is a thinking intelligent Being that has reason and reflection, can consider it self as it self, that same thinking thing in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness, which is inseparable from thinking, and as it seems to me essential to it: It being impossible for any one to perceive, without perceiving, that he does perceive. When we see, hear, smell, taste, meditate or will anything, we know that we do so. Thus it is always to our present Sensations and Perceptions: And by this everyone is to himself that which he calls self: It not being considered in this case, whether the same self be continued in the same or divers Substances. For since consciousness always accompanies thinking, and ‘tis that, that makes every one to be, what he calls self; and thereby distinguishes him from all other thinking things, in this alone consists personal identity… And as far as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past Action or Thought, so far reaches the Identity of that Person. (II.xxvii.9)
Consciousness “accompanies thinking,” indeed it is “inseparable” from it and “essential” to it. Moreover, consciousness allows us to consider ourselves as ourselves in different times and places, and the extent to which we can consider ourselves as the same self – as extending into the past or future – just so far are we the same self or person. The identity of the person or self consists in having the same consciousness: “For it being the same consciousness that makes a man be himself to himself, personal Identity depends on that only” (II.xxvii.10). The question, then, for both personal identity and the conditions for moral agency that LoLordo has identified is what does it mean to have the same consciousness, such that a person can be said to extend into the past and the future?
As LoLordo notes, some have taken Locke’s statements about the relation of consciousness to diachronic identity to imply that the extension of ourselves is equivalent to the extent of memory. Any past self we presently remember or are capable of remembering is identical to a present self. Since being conscious of an action is required moral responsibility, I am responsible and can be punished for whatever I remember doing. Assigning a memory theory of personal identity to Locke has a well-known history of criticism. Most notably, there is a circularity worry. If memory (a psychological criterion) constitutes personal identity, then it seems that there is already something there, say a collection of memories, for us to become conscious of. Assumed already is what remembering is supposed to prove. One way of answering this worry is to adopt what has been called an “appropriation” theory of personal identity. LoLordo locates herself in this camp: “to extend your consciousness backward to an action is simply to appropriate it as your own or to impute it to yourself” (p. 70). Citing Ken Winkler (1998: 164), the self “has a certain authority over its own constitution.” To be sure, the view is not that I can simply choose which past experiences to appropriate, perhaps leaving out less desirable ones. Nevertheless, appropriation is self-constitution from a first-personal point of view. LoLordo explains, “to appropriate past thoughts and actions is simply to experience them as my own, thereby taking ownership of them” (p. 71).
There are number of passages in the Essay supporting this interpretation of Locke. In one of them he says,
For as to this point of being the same self, it matters not whether this self be of the same or other Substances, I being as much concern’d, and as justly accountable for any Action that was done a thousand Years since, appropriated to me now by this self-consciousness, as I am, for what I did the last moment. (II.xxvii.16)
In any moment the self is constituted by all those past thoughts and actions that it can attribute to itself as its own – all those that are revealed as having been done by the same “self-consciousness” that presently considers them. Locke says as much here:
For as far as any intelligent Being can repeat the Idea of any past Action with the same consciousness it had of it at first, and with the same consciousness it has of any present Action; so far it is the same personal self. For it is by the consciousness it has of its present Thoughts and Actions, that it is a self to itself now, and so will be the same self as far as that same consciousness can extend to Actions past or to come. (II.xxvii.10)
LoLordo concludes that it is “indubitable that my present actions are my own, [and] it’s indubitable that certain past actions are my own” (p. 71).
Objections to appropriation interpretations are also well known. Most notably is the concern that the subjective appropriation of actions is not metaphysically robust enough for Locke’s theory of divine rectification, which is that God will make right through eternal reward and punishment all the failures of human justice. Specifically, the thought is that if I subjectively constitute myself from a first personal point of view, then there is nothing objective for God to look to when considering whether I am the same self now as the one who committed a past crime. The reason is that I subjectively determine who I am through my appropriations, and I may be unable to appropriate (remember) all that I have done or I may appropriate an action I never did. In such cases, I will unjustly avoid divine punishment or I will be punished unjustly.
LoLordo denies this concern, seeing the problem as an inconsistency between the appropriation interpretation and divine rectification. Thus she claims that the objections are “misplaced”: “What the appropriation theory says is that someone committed the crime if and only if she appropriated it” (P. 72). It’s true that given an appropriation interpretation there is no room for punishment if there is no appropriation. It is also indisputable that Locke clearly accepts the theory of divine rectification, as LoLordo emphasizes in her analysis of Locke’s moral theory. And I take it that the underlying point of divine rectification is that God can make right (rectify) human failures of justice, including those due to wrong appropriations. Moreover, LoLordo acknowledges that God’s perspective is important when it comes to knowledge of personal identity and its role in Locke’s moral theory: “One reason for the importance of personal identity, then, is that we need an account of moral agency that is compatible with our epistemic limitations. We need to know who the moral agents are without knowing the metaphysical basis of the relevant powers” (p. 69). In a note just following this statement, she continues that her way of reading Locke’s account “makes the facts of personal identity knowable from the first person perspective as well as from God’s perspective” (p. 69n14). Two interpretive questions naturally arise for me at this point: first, how does LoLordo’s understanding of appropriation make the facts about personal identity knowable from a third personal (God’s) perspective, and second, if there is something God can know from a third personal perspective, then isn’t that what makes me identical to a past self and not my first personal appropriation?
Lolordo takes on these two questions by considering two seemingly problematic cases for the appropriation interpretation: first, there may be a crime that deserves punishment but no one has appropriated it; second, someone may appropriate a crime and is punished for it even though it never really happened. The first case, LoLordo treats as easy. “Some person performed the crime…and on Judgment Day, that person can be resurrected and punished” (p. 73). How, I ask? Given that on Judgment Day, I identify myself according to my first personal appropriations, how does God know that I am the same person who committed the crime? What objective fact does God appeal to? If I’ve understood Lolordo correctly, her answer comes in her treatment of the second case in which someone appropriates a crime she did not commit. God can easily identify a criminal or know that someone is not a criminal because there is a fact of the matter concerning which actions belong to which persons. As LoLordo says, “certain real psychological relations ground what can and cannot be appropriated. You can only appropriate those past experiences that are available to you, and which past experiences are available to you depends on facts about what you remember” (p. 73). LoLordo here employs Don Garrett’s (2003: 110ff) insight that there is a distinction in Locke between “genuine” and “apparent” memory, “which doesn’t employ an independent criterion of personal identity.” As she explains,
Memory, for Locke, is not a matter of representing past ideas but of having those very same ideas again. The difference between eating an oyster and remembering the meal later is not that they involve different ideas: when you eat the oyster, you experience a certain group of ideas as ideas of sensation, and when you remember the meal, you experience the same ideas as ideas of memory. (p. 73)
Importantly, there is only one idea, experienced first as an idea of sensation and then later as an idea of memory. Reviving an idea from memory, for Locke, just is the power to reintroduce it into the mind: “This laying up of our Ideas in the Repository of Memory, signifies no more but this, that the Mind has a power, in many cases, to revive Perceptions, which it has once had, with this additional perception annexed to them, that it has had them before” (II.x.2). That the “additional perception” is due to consciousness Locke confirms in I.iv.20:
For to remember is to perceive any thing with memory, or with a consciousness, that it was known or perceived before: without this, whatever Idea comes into the Mind is new and not remembred: This consciousness of its having been in the mind before, being that, which distinguishes Remembring from all other ways of Thinking.
What constitutes the difference, then, between apparent and genuine memory is that there is a causal relation between the original idea and the same idea as revived and consciously experienced as “having been had before.” Thus, LoLordo concludes, “there is a principled way to put limits on what can and cannot be appropriated. Something that never happened cannot be remembered and hence cannot be appropriated” (p. 74).
Natural to ask at this point, and something LoLordo considers, is why doesn’t this analysis of the genuineness of appropriation collapse into a memory interpretation? She answers, “For only felt ownership of past experiences, not the mere availability of those experiences to a present consciousness, can provide the connection with reward and punishment Locke needs” (p. 73). LoLordo seems to be saying that only I can have my memories, since those ideas of sensation occurring at the time of the commission of the crime are the same as those ideas I revive on Judgment Day. Moreover, it’s not a memory theory with a circularity problem since what I’m responsible for is not just what I remember (those ideas lodged in memory), but what I consciously experience in remembering those ideas as mine. That is, if I don’t consciously experience an idea as mine (appropriate it through consciousness – my experience of felt ownership), then there isn’t the right kind of relation between me and the memory to hold me responsible for it. Thus, if I’ve got it right, the causal relationship between the idea as held in memory and the idea as revived ensures that I will remember only those things that I actually did. But what makes the memory mine is that when I remember it, I have the experience of felt ownership: I appropriate it.
Yet I still find myself asking about the first case. What is identifiable from the third personal point of view (those “facts of personal identity knowable from the first person perspective as well as God’s perspective” (LoLordo, p. 69n14)) such that God knows what I have done? I take it, following Garrett, that Locke seems to think that memories are stored as causal traces, perhaps in the brain. Correspondingly, the “real psychological relations” LoLordo refers to are causal relations between an idea of an action sensed at some time in the past and then stored in the brain and that same idea revived in the present. It is the relation between a stored genuine memory and its revival in the mind at some later time. So, what God knows from a third personal point of view are these causal traces. That is, there is an objective fact of what I did that God can restore to me at the time of Judgment, namely those ideas corresponding to those causal traces. But then it seems that something other than my “felt-ownership” is the criterion for determining my identity. It seems that what’s doing the work insofar as we can identify a continuing self are the facts about memory, and so I’m not sure I understand exactly why the appropriation theory does not reduce to a memory theory. One could respond by attributing the persistence of the self to the thinking substance that contains the collection of causal traces that constitute stored (genuine) memory. But I don’t think this is the answer, since then the diachronic identity of the self is attributed to the identity of a substance, which Locke takes great pains to deny.
In my thinking about what I might have missed in LoLordo’s argument, I’ve come up with a couple of ways to think about it. My question is what’s doing the work of providing the facts constituting personal identity such that appropriation is not reduced to memory? In line with what Locke says, I take it that it’s the same consciousness (the same felt ownership) that identifies the same self. Again following Garrett, those ideas corresponding to my past actions were originally experienced as having a particular felt ownership – my conscious experience of them as mine. When I revive them in the present I have the same experience. The feeling of mineness belonging to the original perception of the idea (now stored in memory) is the same as the feeling of mineness that belongs to the reviving of the memory. As Garrett (2003: 103) puts it,
Crucially, then, memory…and consciousness…each include a representation of the self as part of their content: the former representing the self as having perceived in the past, the latter representing the self as perceiving in the present. But since all perception is conscious, every act of memory is inseparable from an act of consciously remembering, and an act of consciously remembering will contain more than one representation of self (or at least more than one use of the same representation of self). Because memory always represents oneself as having previously had a certain perception in the past, the consciousness that accompanies memory will always represent oneself as currently perceiving both that an earlier perception occurred and that that perception was perceived by oneself.
I think there are two ways to read Garrett’s view. We could take him to mean that there is a phenomenal unity of consciousness – the same phenomenal experience of an “I” from the past to the present. I suggest, however, that this sameness cannot be guaranteed without something metaphysical that underlies and is responsible for my having the same phenomenal experience of myself attached to the memory and to my present experience of it – the same feeling of ownership. Thus, what constitutes my identity is the continuity of what underlies and is responsible for my experience of the unity of consciousness, not my experience of the unity of consciousness. Perhaps another way to say this is that the consciousness (experienced/felt ownership) of the idea is not the same as the idea, which is to say that the consciousness that “accompanies” memory is not identical to memory. Therefore, that it is always the same idea that is both originally perceived and revived in memory does not guarantee that it is the same experience of felt ownership (consciousness). Unless there is something metaphysical and enduring that guarantees the unity of consciousness (as first personal experience), there is no guaranteed causal relation between a past consciousness of the self (felt ownership) and a present one, even though there is something metaphysical (perhaps causal traces) to account for the genuineness of memory. So it seems that we also need some metaphysical fact underlying and accounting for my felt ownership (consciousness) such that we are guaranteed that it is the same felt ownership.
Alternatively, we could take Garrett to mean that in being conscious of a perception of an idea, say the idea of a cat, we also generate another idea, say an idea of the “I” or of oneself. That idea (of the self) gets stored in memory along with the idea of the cat. Just as a reviving of the idea of the cat is a case of genuine memory, the revival of the attached idea of the self is a case of “genuine” consciousness (felt ownership). And whereas what grounds the genuineness of the memory is the causal trace left in the thinking substance, what grounds the genuineness of the experience of the self is also the causal trace left in the thinking substance or in some other collection of inner constitutions causally responsible for the experience of the self. So it is not the experience of felt ownership alone that accounts for a genuine act of appropriation, but rather that that experience is due to something metaphysical and causally responsible for it.
A third related possibility is that consciousness (as felt ownership) does the work of identifying those ideas that should be appropriated. Similar to explanation above, the distinction between genuine and apparent memory is that genuine memory carries with it the “mark” of appropriation, the original consciousness, or felt ownership, of the idea as mine. But for this mark to be identifiable from a third personal point of view, it seems that it must be something metaphysical, namely something that allows God to identify it without my having to revive and re-appropriate it on Judgment Day.
To sum up, I’m not quite sure I understand how, on LoLordo’s account, appropriation does the necessary work of providing something knowable from the third personal (God’s) perspective without appealing to a metaphysical fact either of memory, consciousness, or thinking substance.
II. I also want to focus some attention on the chapter on “Rationality.” In this chapter, LoLordo proposes which conditions of rationality are necessary for moral agency. I find some of these arguments quite complex and subtle, and I have spent a considerable number of hours enjoying thinking about them. Two parts of LoLordo’s analysis are particularly intriguing to me: first, her account of how we generate an idea of the self and how that idea makes it possible for us to think of ourselves as the same self receiving future pleasures and pains, and second, her interpretation of consciousness and her solution to the apparent problems in Locke’s understanding of the relation of consciousness to other mental operations, especially reflection. In the interest of space, and the patience of the reader, I’ll save the former for another time.
There are both apparent textual and philosophical problems associated with how to fit consciousness into Locke’s model of the mind, and a number of interpretations on hand attempt solutions. LoLordo’s interpretation is in keeping with the general line of some of these views, but also offers novel and interesting arguments attempting to solve what she takes to be a remaining deficiency. Mainly, as the other interpretations recognize, there must be an interpretation of consciousness and its relation to other mental operations that does not jeopardize Locke’s basic claim that only sensation and reflection are sources of ideas. That is, in some passages consciousness seems to have some sort of content, say an awareness of our own thinking, but how to account for that content is the tricky issue. Two interpretations LoLordo is arguing against (Scharp, 2008 and Weinberg, 2008) offer what she calls “technical distinctions” to account for the content of consciousness. In what follows I’ll discuss why this issue is important to LoLordo, then I’ll take a look at how she analyzes the relation of consciousness to reflection, including how she distinguishes the content of consciousness from the content of reflection. Finally, I’ll raise a question about whether LoLordo succeeds in providing an account of consciousness that avoids the problem she attributes to those other interpretations.
“It turns out,” says Lolordo, “that just three of the capacities that constitute reason are unique to humans: abstraction, reflection, and suspension. Each of these capacities is relevant to moral agency in some way” (p. 104). Reflection is essential to moral agency because without it, one would not be able to conceive of oneself as oneself, for doing so requires an idea of the self which is an idea of reflection (ibid.). I want to concentrate on LoLordo’s account of reflection, but not on its role in generating an idea of the self. As noted above, I want to consider LoLordo’s understanding of the relation between reflection and consciousness in Locke’s model of the mind. Having a coherent account of this relation is important to LoLordo’s argument because she is trying to establish which capacities distinguish moral agents, in this case from animals. “All animals are conscious; many animals retain some aspects of that consciousness; and presumably most, if not all, animals have attention. But only adult human beings and older children have lasting ideas of reflection because only they attend to and retain ideas of their own mental operations” (p. 120). So all sentient beings are conscious; but not all sentient beings have ideas of reflection. Unfortunately, there are a few passages in the Essay that make it hard to figure out the relation between consciousness and reflection, such that this conclusion can be drawn.
LoLordo must show, in a way consistent with these problematic passages, that although young children and animals are conscious, which Locke obviously holds, they do not have ideas of reflection. These passages are found in Essay II.i, “On the Original of our Ideas”:
In this Part [the reception of simple ideas of sensation and reflection], the Understanding is merely passive; and whether or no, it will have these Beginnings, and as it were materials of Knowledge, is not in its own Power. For the Objects of the Senses, do, many of them, obtrude their particular Ideas upon our minds, whether we will or no: And the Operations of our minds, will not let us be without, at least some of obscure Notions of them. No man can be wholly ignorant of what he does, when he thinks. These simple Ideas, when offered to the mind, the Understanding can no more refuse to have, nor alter, when they are imprinted, nor blot them out, and make new ones in it self, than a mirror can refuse, alter, or obliterate the Images or Ideas, which, the Objects set before it, do therein produce. (II.i.25, my underline)
And hence we see the Reason, why ‘tis pretty late, before most Children get Ideas of the Operations of their own Minds; and some have not very clear, or perfect Ideas of the greatest part of them all their Lives. Because, though they pass their continually; yet like floating Visions, they make not deep impressions enough, to leave in the Mind clear and distinct lasting Ideas, till the Understanding turns inward upon it self, reflects on its own Operations, and makes them the Object of its own Contemplation. (II.i.8, my underline)
It is uncontroversial that Locke thinks all thinking is conscious. We see this confirmed in II.i.19 and in II.i.25 above when Locke says, “No man can be wholly ignorant of what he does when he thinks.” It is also uncontroversial that Locke thinks that young children do not have ideas of reflection, as we see confirmed in II.i.8. It seems, then, that the explanation for the “obscure Notions” in II.i.25 and the “floating Visions” in II.i.8 above should be explained by consciousness and not by reflection. But to attribute those mental states (obscure notions and floating visions) to consciousness requires explication of two things. There must be some explanation of the relation of consciousness to other mental states, and especially to reflection. And there must be an explanation of how consciousness can be contentful (the awareness of “what we are doing when we are thinking”), namely explain the “obscure Notions” and “floating Visions” mentioned in the passages above, and yet at the same time not be a source of ideas.
What is LoLordo’s view of the relation of consciousness to reflection? She explains,
My case depends on understanding something about the relation between reflection and consciousness. Many of Locke’s readers have thought that he identifies reflection and consciousness. There’s a lot to be said for this view. It’s the simpler option. And Locke never clearly distinguishes reflection and consciousness, so this view avoids attributing to him a technical distinction he doesn’t tell us about. (p. 114)
LoLordo then tells us why we should hesitate to take this view: those who identify consciousness and reflection tend to interpret the account as a “higher-order” view of consciousness where consciousness is a relational property: “to be conscious of a mental state is to be in some higher-order mental state, distinct from it that represents it” (p. 114). Problems she notes as identified with view are, first, textual in that Locke seems to say clearly that consciousness is “inseparable” from and “essential” to all thinking (II.xxvii.9) and even constitutive of it (II.1.19), and, second, philosophical in that were consciousness a higher order state and all thinking is conscious, then there would be an infinite regress of conscious states. LoLordo concludes, “Hence, he must think that consciousness is an intrinsic property constitutive of mental states” (p. 115). Given that LoLordo thinks identifying consciousness with reflection is the “simpler option,” that “Locke never clearly distinguishes consciousness and reflection,” and that “it avoids attributing to him a technical distinction,” I read LoLordo to accept the view that consciousness is constitutive of reflection, yet rather than being a relational property, consciousness is an intrinsic property.
As I see it, since all mental states are conscious, the question then arises for LoLordo: what is the relation of sensation to consciousness and reflection? First, let’s take a look at what Locke says about sensation and reflection. “Our Senses,” says Locke, “conversant about particular sensible Objects, do convey into the Mind, several distinct Perceptions of things, according to those various ways, wherein those Objects do affect them” (II.i.3). Whereas we can think of sensation as an external source of ideas, analogously we can think of reflection as an internal source of ideas. Indeed, Locke calls reflection “internal sense”:
This Source of Ideas, every Man has wholly in himself: And though it be not Sense, as having nothing to do with external Objects; yet it is very like it, and might properly be call’d internal Sense. But as I call the other Sensation, so I call this REFLECTION[.] (II.i.4)
Sensation and reflection seem to be analogous sources of ideas. Where sensation is the source of simple ideas of sensation, namely representations distinct from the objects we sense and separate from the act of sensing, reflection is the source of simple ideas of reflection, also representations distinct from the objects (mental operations) reflected on and separate from the mental act of reflecting, and we would expect the analogy to hold between them. But importantly for her account, LoLordo denies that the analogy holds in this way. She (p. 115-116) lays out her view of the dis-analogy between sensation and reflection as well as of the relation of both to consciousness by distinguishing the following three claims, which she accepts as correct, from two more, which she does not accept as correct. First, those LoLordo accepts:
(1) Consciousness is an intrinsic property constitutive of mental states.
(2) Reflection is “internal Sense.”
(3) Sensing an object requires having a representation of it that’s distinct from it.
Now those that “look like two natural consequences of [the above]” (p.116), but that LoLordo does not accept:
(4) Reflecting on a mental state requires having a separate representation of it.
(5) Reflection and consciousness are distinct operations.
She explains, “For, even granting (3), sensation and reflection can be analogous without (4) and (5) being true. Sensation and reflection are parallel as sources of lasting ideas. They need not be parallel in other respects” (p. 116).
LoLordo seems to saying that (1) consciousness is intrinsic to reflection (since it is intrinsic to all mental states) and yet (5) it is not a distinct operation from reflection. I take it that we can say the same thing about the relation between consciousness and sensation. But unlike sensation, (4) reflection need not result in a separate representation of the mental state that is the object of reflection.
Although, on LoLordo’s view, reflection need not result in separate representations, sometimes it does. In these cases, reflection is a source of ideas. Reflection is a source of ideas only when there is also attention to what we are perceiving, only when what is produced are “lasting ideas” of reflection:
When Locke describes reflection as inner sense, he has in mind the parallel between sensation and reflection as sources of ideas. He does not have in mind a parallel with sensation as a process requiring representations distinct from the objects represented…Rather, when Locke speaks of reflection, he is thinking of how the consciousness constitutive of thought sometimes provides us with lasting ideas of mental operations. Reflection is consciousness that is attended to and retained. (p. 119)
Here’s how I see LoLordo’s view: reflection and sensation are analogous in that they are sources of ideas only when there are produced “lasting ideas,” namely separate representations that are retained in memory. And lasting ideas are produced only when we “attend to” either consciousness of mental operations in reflection or consciousness of external objects in sensation. She explains,
When I see the cat lying on the windowsill, I am thereby conscious of the cat…He [Locke] certainly also thinks I am conscious of my act of perception. But I am not necessarily attending to all these things. If I am attending to my consciousness of the cat, I can form a lasting idea of him. In this case, sensation is the source of my idea: the lasting idea I form is an idea of sensation. If I am attending to my consciousness of the act of perception, I can form a lasting idea of the act of perception. In this case, reflection is the source of my idea: the lasting idea of the act of perception. (p. 120)
In the case of our consciousness of mental operations, attention is the difference between having something like an “obscure Notion” (consciousness of what I’m doing when I’m thinking) and a “lasting idea” (a reflective idea of what I am doing when I am thinking). The upshot of the dis-analogy between sensation and reflection is that LoLordo’s interpretation has the advantage that consciousness can account for the “obscure Notions” in II.i.25 and at the same time not violate Locke’s principle that all ideas (separate representations) have their sources in sensation and reflection. For unlike consciousness intrinsic to sensation, the consciousness intrinsic to reflection does not result in separate representations. (Therefore also, young children and animals can have obscure notions (consciousness) of their own thinking without having ideas (separate representations) of reflection.) Moreover, she is not appealing to a “technical distinction” to account for the content of consciousness – the “obscure Notions.”
Let me say that I agree with LoLordo’s view that having ideas of reflection requires attention, and I find persuasive her textual arguments that only lasting ideas count as ideas of reflection. I must confess, however, that I am still a little confused about exactly how she envisions her account as reconciling Locke’s claims in II.i.25 and II.i.8. My worry concerns the dis-analogy between sensation and reflection insofar as separate representations are produced.
Sensation and reflection are alike in that both are sources of ideas only when there is a lasting idea produced; but they are different in that sensation also produces non-lasting ideas (separate representations not attended to). LoLordo here usefully reminds us of what Locke says about reflection,
Recall the definition of reflection at 2.1.4: reflection is ‘that notice which the Mind takes of its own Operations…by reason whereof, there come to be Ideas of these Operations.’
[LoLordo concludes,] The definition has two important elements: the ‘notice,’ or attention, and the result of that attention, which is a lasting idea of a mental operation” (118).
Consciousness of mental operations that is not attended to and retained is responsible for the “obscure Notions” of our own thinking. In a sense, we can think of the “obscure Notions” as some sort of conscious content, but not yet lasting ideas, because we have haven’t yet attended to them. I suppose the same thing is true about sensation. We can be conscious of what we are sensing without having lasting ideas of sensation. But in the case of sensation, and here’s the dis-analogy, consciousness results in separate representations (ideas), even though those representations are not lasting (retained in memory). Consciousness is not a source of ideas in this case, since the ideas are not lasting ideas. I think everything is okay up to this point, because the analogy is intact: as in reflection “taking notice,” or attending to, is doing the work of producing the lasting ideas that distinguishes a mental operation as a source of ideas. But I worry that LoLordo’s interpretation runs into trouble since Locke seems to think that the production of the separate representations (non-lasting ideas of sensation) also requires attention, or “taking notice.” Rather than making the difference between lasting and non-lasting ideas of sensation, “taking notice” seems to be what makes the difference between having and not having ideas of sensation at all. Locke says,
A sufficient impulse there may be on the Organ; but it not reaching the observation of the Mind, there follows no perception: And though the motion, that uses to produce the Idea of Sound, be made in the Ear, yet no sound is heard. Want of Sensation in this case, is not through any defect in the Organ, or that the Man’s Ears are less affected, than at other times, when he does hear: but that which uses to produce the Idea, though conveyed in by the usual Organ, not being taken notice of in the Understanding, and so imprinting no Idea on the Mind, there follows no Sensation. (II.ix.4, my underline)
So, Locke seems to think that having representations of sensation at all, even the non-lasting kind, also requires “taking notice or attention.” But if attention is also required to have non-lasting ideas of sensation, namely for there to be an awareness of our sensations at all, then it seems that attention can’t be the difference between having ideas and having lasting ideas. And if attention is not the difference between having non-lasting and lasting ideas, then it seems that the distinction between what makes an operation the source of an idea breaks down. If I’ve got it right, then LoLordo’s interpretation has not avoided the problem of accounting for the content of consciousness that other interpretations have turned to technical distinctions to overcome. But I must confess that I’m not convinced I’ve got it all right.
Tomorrow: LoLordo’s Replies to Weinberg
Atherton, Margaret (1983). “Locke’s Theory of Personal Identity.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 8, 275-94.
Coventry, Angela and Kriegel, Uriah (2008). “Locke on Consciousness.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 25:3, 221-42.
Garrett, Don (2003). “Locke on Personal Identity, Consciousness, and ‘Fatal Errors.’” Philosophical Topics 31: 1-2, 95-125.
Kulstad, Mark (1991). “Locke on Consciousness.” In Leibniz on Apperception, Consciousness, and Reflection, ch. 2. Munich: Philosophia Verlag.
Locke, John (1975). An Essay concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Peter H. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarenden Press.
LoLordo, Antonia (2012). Locke’s Moral Man. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Scharp, Kevin (2008). “Locke’s Theory of Reflection.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16:1, 25-63.
Weinberg, Shelley (2008). “The Coherence of Consciousness in Locke’s Essay.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 25:1, 21-39.
Thiel, Udo (2012). The Early Modern Subject. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 All references to this work will be by page number in the body of the paper.
 All references to Locke’s Essay (Locke (1975)) will be in the paper by (book, chapter, section).
 See also, II.xxvii.13: “ For the same consciousness being preserv’d, whether in the same or different Substanecs, the personal Identity is preserv’d.”
 Locke himself considers the possibility of false memory in II.xxvii.13.
 This is similar to Atherton’s (1983) claim that the unity of consciousness need not be identical to the unity of thinking.
 Recent interpretations of Locke on consciousness, the relation of consciousness to reflection, as well as whether it can be, and if so, how to reconcile the passages from II.i.25 and II.i.8 include Kulstad (1991), Scharp (2008), Weinberg (2008), Coventry and Kriegel (2008), and Thiel (2012).
 Weinberg (2008), Coventry and Kriegel (2008), and Thiel (2012).
 “For ‘tis altogether as intelligible to say, that a body is extended without parts, as that any thing thinks without being conscious of it, or perceiving that it does so…Consciousness is the perception of what passes in a Man’s own mind” (II.i.19).
 LoLordo (115) explains, “If he also held that being conscious of an idea requires having a second, distinct idea that represents it, then he would be committed to an infinite regress.”
 LoLordo (p. 118) acknowledges that we have what I am calling “non-lasting” ideas of sensation: “Of course, we only retain some of the ideas we sense, so only some sensation results in having an idea after the object that caused it is gone. Later this afternoon, I will not retain all the details of the tree I’m looking at right now. And although I may be seeing a shade of green ever so slightly different from any I have seen before, I will not necessarily retain the idea of that color.”