7 Responses to Locke on the Law of Nature: Preliminaries

  1. jonathanjones02 says:

    A lot of consider in such a topic. I look forward to the series.

    In the broadest context, I think it is vital to recognize what Strauss did (he was a thinker determined to rescue liberalism from the unforseen forces unleashed by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau): that a General Will, primed for manipulation, is what replaces the project of Machiavelli and Hobbes, which was to seperate the conduct of public affairs from the conduct of religious life.

    And so, to Locke…what a mess of a writer and thinker. If he were only a century or two later, meaning after the gigantic earthquake of the French Revolution, I expect we would have a much more “true” picture of what he was trying to convey. “Democracy,” the project of a late liberalism (liberalism meaning, generally, “equal freedom”) taken to its most evolved position, is what Locke has given us, regardless of intent. By this I mean the demise of community grounded in the traditionalist family in the face of a centralized state…as the will of the people is to be expressed by the power of the majority. So whenever men live in community, their relations are a term of agreement which assigns more or less unlimited power to a majority the “right” (!) to make decisions. This will devolve into tyranny.

  2. jonathanjones02 says:

    OK, while time is here….Filmer and Locke were heated opposites, particularly on these political premises: should all government be limited in its power (even as Locke doesn’t recognize explicitly his own openings of tyranny), and should it exist by the consent of the governed (ditto).

    My big issue with Locke is the lack of contextualization for the themes of human freedom (and Pope Benedict has been really outstanding in those reminders). His various writings cover aspects of freedom (religious, political, economic) – great. However, as Locke addresses the nature of political power, especially in Book I of the Two T., his answers (the right of making law, an understanding of the state men naturally exist in) assume a rather “un-Catholic” premise – a state of liberty in which only a “law of nature” is his rule. And as the reader contextualizes Locke further, the sinister bubbles, especially the connection between a law of nature and the desire for self-preservation under an umbrella of advocacy for majoritarianism. What a mad, sad, bad box for the ideological to open…..

  3. MJAndrew says:

    Jonathan,

    For many of the reasons you mention, it continues to amaze that some Catholics think Locke was influenced by or has positively influenced Catholic social thought. Perhaps the problem is that these Catholics see Locke mention “God” and “natural law” and “rights” and they automatically think that he means the same thing as Catholic doctrine does by those terms. And, as you point out, Locke’s starting point is Hobbesian with a few adjustments, and, like Hobbes, he does not think humans have any freedom in the positive sense. Locke’s soft determinism compels him to speak of liberty only as an absence of constraint rather than as something positive about human nature as CST does. This all suggests to me that Catholics who argue that there’s any real connection or continuity between Locke and CST are falling prey to ulterior motives (e.g., a desire to see their libertarianism confirmed somehow by CST).

  4. Joe Hargrave says:

    I think it because its a historical fact that the people who drafted Rerum Novarum deliberately inserted Locke into the encyclical, and that Leo XIII approved of it. Unless Manfred Spieker is a liar or mistaken. I cite the article in the link below.

    Given that, the overlap between Leo and Locke’s political thought is even more obvious. There’s no ulterior motive at all – “libertarianism”, if that’s what you want to call it, is confirmed by Leo’s writings.

    http://www.insidecatholic.com/feature/how-john-locke-influenced-catholic-social-teaching.html

    I’m not going to say much more on it. I think your motive is to make more of an issue out of the differences between them than is really there, so you can keep any hint of libertarianism out of CST. It’s obvious to me that the same basic concepts are at work, and it’s obvious to Locke scholars such as Jeremy Waldron that simply because the First and Second treatises are written for different purposes doesn’t mean that Locke was duplicitous putting forward two radically different accounts of things to meet his immediate objectives.

    Frankly Locke’s contradictions don’t bother me. Lots of great thinkers have contradictions. What matters is that his account of natural law & right, the purpose of government, the legitimate acquisition of private property, and charity are all present in Leo’s social encyclicals, by conscious design.

    And so it seems to me that your main line of attack ought to be on Leo XIII and those who worked with him on these encyclicals, rather than attempting to give a definitive interpretation of Locke that by your own admission has always been an elusive and difficult task.

  5. MJAndrew says:

    I think it because its a historical fact that the people who drafted Rerum Novarum deliberately inserted Locke into the encyclical, and that Leo XIII approved of it. Unless Manfred Spieker is a liar or mistaken. I cite the article in the link below.

    Spieker is mistaken, yes. You will not find someone publishing this mistake in an academic journal. Moreover, you appear to be mistaken, too, given that you think Spieker says Locke was “deliberately inserted” into the encyclical.

    Given that, the overlap between Leo and Locke’s political thought is even more obvious.

    Joe, you have a habit of reading what you want to see into texts and then claiming that your reading is the “obvious” one. You’ll see from my posts that you are misreading Locke and Leo XIII in profound ways.

    Given that you cite neither the Essay nor the Questions Concerning the Law of Nature, two works that are crucial to understanding Locke, I suspect that you have not given Locke a complete read.

    I think your motive is to make more of an issue out of the differences between them than is really there, so you can keep any hint of libertarianism out of CST.

    My motive is to understand Locke. I have nothing riding on whether or not libertarianism is in or out of CST. That’s why my series will focus on understanding Locke rather than prematurely linking him to CST. On the other hand, your paleo-libertarianism does have a bit at stake in the debate.

    Frankly Locke’s contradictions don’t bother me. Lots of great thinkers have contradictions.

    I didn’t say Locke contradicted himself. Instead, I said Locke contradicts what he thinks are the implications of Filmer’s positions. That’s his intention with the First Treatise.

    ’s obvious to me that the same basic concepts are at work, and it’s obvious to Locke scholars such as Jeremy Waldron that simply because the First and Second treatises are written for different purposes doesn’t mean that Locke was duplicitous putting forward two radically different accounts of things to meet his immediate objectives.

    No one suggested Locke was duplicitous in writing the First Treatise. Like your reading of Locke and Leo XIII, you are inserting something into my post that is not there. As for Waldron, he does not support your view in the least, and I invite you to read his book to see this.

    What matters is that his account of natural law & right, the purpose of government, the legitimate acquisition of private property,

    Exactly, which is why my posts are directed to understanding these points.

    are all present in Leo’s social encyclicals, by conscious design.

    You’ll see that this is an untenable claim. But just wait for the rest of the series. I trust that you will give them careful consideration as they directly counter most of what you have written on Locke. As I put the posts up and cite liberally from Locke (no pun intended), you are welcome to challenge my reading of specific passages.

    rather than attempting to give a definitive interpretation of Locke that by your own admission has always been an elusive and difficult task.

    Difficult, yes. Elusive, no. At least not to those willing to labor over the texts in questions. Ironically, it seems that you are the one who is clinging to what he thinks is the “definitive interpretation” of Locke, given your insistence that Locke and Leo are in lockstep on fundamental points of social thought. But we’ll get to Leo down the road. For now, let’s just do Locke.

  6. Joe Hargrave says:

    Well, good luck with all that. I’ve said what I wanted to say.

  7. MJAndrew says:

    I’ve said what I wanted to say.

    I hope not. If I am wrong, I hope to be helped.

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