The John Locke Workshop began this morning at Western University. The topic for this year’s workshop is Toleration and its Epistemic and Anthropological Basis.

We began with coffee, pastries, and opening remarks from host Benjamin Hill, before delving into the first session of the day. The first session was titled Locke among the Dutch: Completing the Epistola and the Essay, and it featured talks by both Geoffrey Gorham (Malacester) and Michael Hickson (Trent).

Geoffrey’s talk was titled “Insights from the van Limborch Correspondence: God, Space, Action, and Identity”. He argued that the correspondence between Locke and Dutch theologian Philipp van Limborch merits to be studied in depth. The exchange itself primarily concerns the unicity of God, but it helps shed light on Locke’s views on a number of metaphysical topics treated of in the Essay, such as (i) God’s relation to space, (ii) the ontology of space, (iii) action at a distance, and (iv) identity and co-location.

Michael’s talk was titled “Secularism and Toleration in Bayle and Locke”. Interestingly, Michael talked almost as much about chess as he did about Bayle and Locke. The opening series of moves in a chess game determine the strategic issues that the players have to navigate in the remainder of the game. Chess students, consequently, study games with shared opening moves alongside each other, so that they can better understand the variety of options one has for dealing with an opening’s characteristic strategic problems. Michael argued that we can, analogously, look to study Locke’s and Bayle’s respective arguments for toleration alongside each other. On Michael’s picture, although Bayle and Locke end up giving distinct arguments for toleration, they do share an opening series of moves, as it were, that Michael calls “The Secular Opening”. Michael went on to explore the distinct ways in which said philosophers deal with the problems and issues that arise when one adopts said opening move.

The second session – Certainty, Probability, and Reasons: Reasons for Toleration – is scheduled to begin at 2 pm EST. It will feature talks by Douglass Casson (St. Olaf) and Michael Borgida (Independent Scholar). [Alastair Crosby]