Silence as an argument and a manifestation of respect in the argumentation in John Locke's works

Keywords: John Locke, silence, silence as an argument, argumentum ad ignorantiam, tacit consent, respect, types of respect


In the article, referring to the method of rational reconstruction described by R. Rorty, an analysis of some works of J. Locke has been made in order to identify new prospects in John Locke's philosophy researches. As a result, it’s been demonstrated the presence of silence as an argument and a manifestation of respect J. Locke’s research of realms of cognition, political philosophy and philosophy of education. This is not covered in modern John Locke's philosophy researches.

The authors emphasize that J. Locke, although not directly exploring silence as an argument, however, describes the argument ad ignorantiam, the wording of which in the work «An Essay Concerning Human Understanding» and his understanding of tacit consent in the work «Two Treatises of Government» are related to silence as an argument and a manifestation of respect. The position that silence as an argument is present in all four arguments (argumentum ad verecundiam, argumentum ad ignorantiam, argumentum ad hominem, argumentum ad judicium) described by J. Locke is substantiated. Additionally, the argument ad ignorantiam can be considered both as an argument from silence (ex silentio argument) and as a kind of argument to silence. Considered arguments can serve as an argument to silence for the proponent and/or the third party, that is, anyone who is not directly involved in the dispute.

Basing on J. Locke's explanation of the characteristic feature of tacit consent, that is, the absence of the expressed consent/disagreement, the possibility of distinguishing the indirect connection between tacit consent and the argument ad ignorantiam is demonstrated, since both tacit consent and the argument ad ignorantiam in J. Locke's works rely on the absence of expressed statements on the consent or disagreement of the opponent. It is established that the ideas of the education of children described by J. Locke also correlate with silence as an argument and a manifestation of respect.

Applying the classification of the types of respect proposed by S. Hudson and complemented by R. Dillon to the use of the term «respect» to the various texts of J. Locke, it is substantiated that described by him respect covered almost all kinds of this classification.

Author Biographies

Olena Shcherbyna, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

Professor of Department of Logic, Associate Professor, Doctor of Philosophical Sciences

Nataliia Shcherbyna, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

PhD student, philosophy faculty


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Shcherbyna, O., & Shcherbyna, N. (2019). Silence as an argument and a manifestation of respect in the argumentation in John Locke’s works. Sententiae, 38(2), 6-18.


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