He had written a long essay on idleness at the university, but it wasn’t written very well, he thinks; the couple of people who read it mistook it for a labor theory of value in the Marxian sense.
Recall that for Locke rewards and punishments are specific pleasuresand pains. Acting for conscious’ sake will necessarily involveconsiderations of pleasure and pain, but of a kind quite distinct fromsanctions. For Locke, there is a kind of pleasure that attendsfulfilling one's moral duty that is quite distinct from considerationsof reward and punishment. In an essay, written in 1692, entitledEthica A (the first of two essays, the other entitledEthica B), Locke appeals to a kind of pleasure that attendsthe fulfilment of one's moral duty:
Our ideas of moral good and evil do not, therefore, differqualitatively from natural good or evil. If this is the case,however, one might ask what makes smelling a rose different fromhelping those in need. For Locke, the answer lies in the differentcontext for pleasures and pains that distinguishes the moral from thenatural. While a natural good involves the physical pleasure thatarises from the scent of a rose, moral good is a pleasurearising from one's conformity to moral dictates, and moralevil is pain arising from the failure to conform. The pleasure andpain are not qualitatively distinct, in these cases, but they take ona special significance as a result of the considerations that bringthem about. Locke explains this in the Essay, making sure toemphasize the purely contextual distinction between moral and naturalfeelings:
Pleasure and pain are the engines that make decisions, thoughts, andactions happen. This is not merely coincidence, or chance, for Locke,but yet another example of God's divine design. God has attachedfeelings of pleasure and pain to our ideas, so the natural facultieswith which humans are endowed “might not remain wholly idle, andunemploy'd by us” (Essay, 2.7.3).
In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays is a ..
This might seem to be a tall order when considering the controversygenerated by beliefs about moral rules, yet Locke clearly believesthat moral rules can, with the right mental effort, yield indisputableuniversal laws. Locke offers an example of how this might work, byanalyzing the moral proposition Where there is no property, thereis no injustice. In order to see the demonstrable certainty ofthis claim, we have to examine the composite ideas and how those agreeor disagree with one another. The idea of property, first of all, is aright to something. The idea of injustice, considered next, is aviolation of that right. Given these definitions, which Locke thinksare arrived at by careful attention to definition, it is a rationaldeduction that injustice cannot exist if there is no property to beviolated. Injustice and property must, by definition agree. This is aclearly demonstrable rule, according to Locke, deduced from clear andadequately conceived ideas. The only other example Locke offers is theproposition No Government allows absolute Liberty.Government, according to Locke, is the establishment of society uponcertain laws, requiring conformity. Absolute liberty is allowinganyone to do as they please. These are modal ideas, according toLocke, and thus known with complete adequacy. As such, it is possiblefor the rational individual to see clearly that the ideas of absoluteliberty and government cannot agree. Of course, most people will arguethat these rational deductions rely upon definitions that aredebatable. This would not seem to be helped by the fact that, forLocke, modal ideas, like all complex ideas, are put together by themind; while complex ideas of substance are constructed on the patternof perceivable objects, modal ideas are, Locke explains, “puttogether at the pleasure of our Thoughts, without any real patternthey were taken from” (Essay, 4.4.12). This might seemto pose a problem for Locke's moral theory, according to which morallaws are just as necessary as mathematical principles. However, Lockeis not worried about any relativistic implications. For Locke, anydisagreement about definitions of concepts like property, justice ormurder, result from insufficient reasoning about the simple ideas thatcomprise our moral ideas, as well as bias, prejudice and otherirrational influences. For Locke, it is precisely because these ideasrefer to nothing outside the mind that they can beuniversally-conceived and adequately understood. Just as the notion oftriangularity is known perfectly because it does not depend upon theexistence of triangles outside the mind, so justice is understoodperfectly because it is not using some extramental archetype as itsinspiration. He writes,
Original text of the essay "In Praise of Idleness" ..
Pleasure and pain form the basis of Locke's general theory ofmotivation, but they are also the bedrock upon which our moral ideas,and the motivation to moral goodness arise. Good andevil reduce, for Locke, to “nothing but Pleasure orPain, or that which occasions or procures Pleasure and Pain tous” (Essay, 2.28.5). A flower is good, because itsbeauty raises feeling of affection or pleasure in us. Illness, on theother hand, is an evil since it raises feelings of aversion in thosewho have experienced illness in any of its many forms. A goodis whatever produces pleasure in us, or diminishes evil, and anevil is whatever produces pain or diminishes pleasure. Inthis way, for Locke, the ideas of good and evil arise from naturalemotive responses to our various ideas. Now, these are not moral goodsand evils, but for Locke moral ideas are founded in the general ideaswe have of natural pleasures and pains. Locke designates no specialfaculty by which we acquire the basic moral concepts of good and evil,since these are merely a modification of our ideas of natural good andevil; moral good and evil gain their special significance fromconsidering ideas of pleasure and pain in specific contexts.
Essays on Pleasures And Pains Of Being a Students
When he isn’t fishing he may go for a walk, and look more active, but he is actually free to do anything at that moment and so is idle in evolutionary terms; his stationary fishing is active, his walking is a form of idleness, which he engages in for pleasure.