Volume 95, Issue 4, October 2018
Locke’s Last Word on Freedom
Correspondence with Limborch
John Locke’s 1700–1702 correspondence with Dutch Arminian Philippus van Limborch has been taken by commentators as the motivation for modifications to the fifth edition of “Of Power,” the chapter in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding that treats freedom. In this paper, I offer the first systematic and chronological study of their correspondence. I argue that the heart of their disagreement is over how they define “freedom of indifference.” Once the importance of the disagreement over indifference is established, it is clear that when Locke altered parts of “Of Power” as a reaction to Limborch’s questioning, he did so in the interest of further clarifying and solidifying his view, not changing it. Seeing how they disagree over indifference also allows us to see the correspondence as showcasing the conflict between intellectualism, the view that cognitive states determine the will, and voluntarism, the view that the will alone determines action.