It’s award season and those of us at the Locke Society would like to give a shout-out to our very own Kathryn Tabb (Columbia) for having her article “Madness as Method: On Locke’s Thought Experiments about Personal Identity” named as runner-up for the British Journal for the History of Philosophy best article prize. We can attest that it is an excellent piece of analysis and raises important and new perspectives on Locke’s defense of his account of personal identity by revising how we ought to read his thought experiments. You can find a pre-publication copy here.

Prof. Tabb’s abstract reads:

John Locke is famous for popularizing the method of the philosophical thought experiment in discussions of personal identity; the cases introduced in the second edition of An Essay Concerning Understanding (1694) are still employed by contemporary philosophers. Here I argue that Locke’s method is nonetheless importantly different from later efforts in ways that can help us better appreciate his larger projects. Rather than pumping the reader’s intuitions in support of his preferred account, Locke’s thought experiments serve to illustrate common errors in assessments of identity that he sees as particularly prevalent and problematic. Locke defends his idea of ‘person’ otherwise, through what I call his ‘lived experiments’: observations about linguistic usage that serve to illustrate the term’s role in practical reasoning. I focus especially on Locke’s example of the forensic status of the madman. Examples like these do not, for Locke, demonstrate the intuitiveness of his analysis, but rather bolster his case that it is the right analysis, given his broader commitments. They serve to illustrate why Locke’s preferred criterion for the identity of persons – sameness of consciousness – contributes to a demonstrative science of morality, where a rival account – sameness of substance – falls short.

KEYWORDS: John Lockepersonal identitythought experimentsexperimental philosophyappropriation

Lockeans will probably also greatly enjoy the winner of the article prize, Michael Gill’s (Arizona) “Shaftesbury on life as a work of art”. Like Tabb’s article on Locke, it opens new avenues for exploring Shaftesbury’s metaethical commitments by revising how we read the Characteristics; we should read it, Gill argues, not as a philosophical treatise but as a guide to living life, akin to a self-help book. You can find a pre-publication copy of Gill article here.

Prof. Gill’s abstract reads:

This paper explicates Shaftesbury’s idea that we ought to live our lives as though they are works of art. I show that this idea is central to many of Shaftesbury’s most important claims, and that an understanding of this idea enables us to answer some of the most contested questions in the scholarship on Characteristics.

KEYWORDS: Shaftesburyvirtueartself-improvement

Congratulations to both Prof. Tabb and Prof. Gill for their excellent contributions and for being singled out by the British Journal for the History of Philosophy.