In he advised on the ending of press censorship, and was appointed a member of the Board of Trade His Essay Concerning Human Understanding gathered pace — drawing controversy and support and earning a translation into French in Locke died with Lady Damaris reading the Psalms to him. Nonetheless, at Christ Church, Oxford, he penned two key essays on the extent of toleration, the most disruptive and contentious issue of the time — the Two Tracts on Government and his lectures on the Law of Nature , the latter written as Censor of Moral Philosophy at Christ Church.
In a century of religious and civil wars, Locke understandably sought to explore the limits to toleration that a state should permit its citizens in their choice and manner of religious expression and worship. The Two Tracts were penned on the occasion of the Restoration of the Monarchy, in which Puritans hoped for continued toleration for their practices and beliefs as they had enjoyed under Cromwell.
Not only should such matters be given up to the wisdom of the magistrate but the people are also obliged to obey. Christ commanded obedience, he notes, and after all, the magistrate looks to the public welfare, while the individual citizen seeks only his own interest. After all, Locke surmises from monastic Oxford, the ruler is supposed to be wise. In what does more danger lie, Locke rhetorically asks — in the hands of a single, wise man, or an ignorant mob? The academician Locke highlights his distrust of the masses and prefers to put political control in the hands of a few rather than the many.
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What the particular policies a magistrate ought to follow depends, Locke admits, on contemporary conventions and expectations, but the magistrate is in the best position to judge in light of the times what ought to be the best policy and what ought to be orderly and decent. A more conservative philosopher, accepting of the newly Restored monarchy, one could not imagine from the perspective of the later writer of the Treatises. Yet are there glimmerings of the path Locke eventually takes? Certainly in the realm of private conscience, which Locke emphatically declares cannot be forced.
Also written at this time were some comments on Infallibility in which Locke outlines an orthodox Protestant attack on Catholicism.
This would of course imply a rejection of any Act of Uniformity — of the imposition of Anglicanism and its Book of Common Prayer on the people. In his Essays or lectures to students as Censor, teacher of Moral Philosophy at Christ Church, Locke argues that there is a Law of Nature — a basic system of morals — which is given to every man to know. The Essays were unpublished but circulated and had an influence on writers such as James Tyrell The law, he adds, is something which is the decree of a superior will God , and lays down what is to be done and not to be done, and which is binding on all men.
The moral law for Locke demands that some things are completely forbidden theft, murder , others depend on certain sentiments, periodic duties, or conditional attitudes. Against the objection that the Law of Nature cannot be found, because not all people who possess reason have knowledge of it or that they will disagree over its content, Locke counters that possessing the faculty of reason does not necessitate its use.
Some prefer living in ignorance, while others may be too dull, or are slaves to their passions to raise their intellect to what is required of them to understand the Natural Law, and others still are brought up amidst such evil that they become accustomed to it. Secondly, disagreement — what we now term moral relativism — does not indicate a lack of a law, but rather its existence.
The theory of how we know things becomes a life-long quest for Locke, culminating in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. We can know moral laws through four different methods: inscription, tradition, sense experience, or divine revelation. Ignoring the last, Locke also rejects both inscription and tradition which were both connected to Roman Catholic theology in favour of learning morality with our senses and reason. Man thus has purposes — to contemplate and to procure and preserve his life. Yet the moral law cannot be garnered from consent — from mass or democratic agreement, for the voice of the people is as likely to lead to fallacies and evil.
In conjecturing that a good policy is one that can be obey both without fear or without conscientious qualms, Locke is possibly indicating that the magistrate also has the responsibility not to provoke a rebellion of conscience in the people, words that may reflect the growing sense of concern that the Act of Uniformity engendered. After rejecting self-interest as a justification of natural law, Locke proceeds to reject the argument that utility forms the basis of the moral law. It is always useful to know that what are often portrayed as 20th Century debates on, say, utilitarianism versus deontology, have a long philosophical pedigree.
The Two Tracts and the Essay are not political classics in the sense that political theorists, whose speciality is not the 17th Century, readily turn to them. But they contain philosophical elements and beliefs that Locke was to work on and develop — especially the role and limits to government, conscientious objection to the misuse of power, and religious freedom; although he was to dramatically alter his. What is the purpose of government? It is to be used for the good, preservation, and the peace of men.
Locke, John: Political Philosophy | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
If men could live peacefully, there would be no need for a magistrate, but patently the Seventeenth Century was strewn with war and its effects, and the thought of permitting a generally peaceful, anarchic state of nature was still too absurd for Locke to contemplate, so he dismisses it out of hand. He then deals strongly with those who would argue for a monarchy based on a divine right to rule, presaging the critique of the Two Treatises.
The magistrate ought to meddle with nothing but securing the peace. In Scotland at this time, recall that the Covenanters were being put down for their rejection of Uniformity. Yet we are still far from a libertarian thesis on a restricted government, for in outlining his principles of toleration, strict rules apply as to whom may be admitted into the tolerant club — Catholics and atheists need not apply. In matters speculative and divine worship a man ought to possess absolute liberty, for these are based on his subjective understanding of the nature of the universe and of God.
The third area that the magistrate may be concerned in involves the general moral virtues and vices of society. In other words, those who argue for theocracy ought to be restricted in their speech. The reason for this — and a mature political one — is that most men use power for their own advancement and those who are intolerant of others should in turn not be tolerated — such groups are not to be trusted with any path that may lead them to power and the overthrow of the liberties of others.
Similarly, factions ought not to be tolerated if their numbers grow to threaten the state. The option is to accept and tolerate such diverse Protestant fanatics — or kill them all; but the latter is not very Christian, Locke reminds his readers. Shaftesbury sought a policy of toleration against the Anglican policy to unify the Kingdom under its brand of Protestantism.
The Church of England, as its name suggests is a particular nationalist brand of Protestantism in which Bishops sit with Lords in the Upper Chamber of Parliament. Locke repeats the purpose of government of securing the peace and tranquillity of the commonwealth and stresses the separation of the Church and State in what can be seen as the glimmerings of his minimal state theory. This, incidentally, is symptomatic of a mind-body dualism as it affects the political realm , in which a philosopher asserts the primacy and hence freedom of the mind while accepting the subjugation of the body, a dichotomy that Locke only gradually moves away from.
By , for instance, we again see evidence of a change in his thinking towards Protestant dissenters Catholics standing outwith the Lockean picture.
In his second essay on Toleration Tb in the year he expands on his critique of uniformity. He demands what a policy ought to be if all dissenters are in error — should they be all hanged? But if there is a fear of them is it because of the manner in which they are treated by the authorities, or if there is a fear that they may influence other people, then why not let others choose by their own consent to follow or not, or if it is feared that supporters of dissenting doctrines shall multiply, then either dissenters are attracting others because of the truth or orthodox teachers have become slack in propagating the truth.
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In notes for his Atlantis , he proposes stringent laws to deal with vagrants, demands that everyone work at their handicraft at least six hours a week, that limits be put on migration across parishes, and that tithingmen be put in control of assuring the moral purity of their jurisdiction one tithingman to twenty homes.
Between and Locke scribbled thoughts on the springs of human action. Thus prior to the penning of the Two Treatises , we find a John Locke who is becoming increasingly concerned with the direction of Restoration policy with regards to religious toleration, and although he remains very conservative in his moral outlook, the formulation of a new approach is evidently developing.
The government, he declares with a stronger and more influential voice, ought to remove itself from the religious matters of the nation. The separation of the state and religion is now paramount in his philosophy, all it needed was a structure within which such a minimal, non-interfering government could be justified. It would be wrong to debase the coinage to match the number of notes that the Bank of England printed.
Marxists, for example, assume Locke to have proposed a labour theory of value, whereas the libertarian economist, Murray Rothbard, argues that what Locke propounded was a labour theory of property, not of value. For elsewhere, Locke observes that the fair price a term that has wended down through the ages from Aristotle is that which is generated in a market on a particular occasion, tempered by notions of Christian charity to avoid gaining excess profits leaving enough for others, as Locke advises for the enclosure of land. Labour — active productive labour, based on rationality and productivity — increases the wealth of the nation, it does not generate a system of fair prices.
There is a scholarly debate on when the Two Treatises were written. In opening the Two Treatises , diligence and perseverance pay off for the reader — and on a pedagogical note, I would recommend following Laslett beginning with the Second before the First Treatise. The First Treatise paves the way, as Locke advertises in his Preface, to justify government by the consent of the people.
Chapter I. Secondly, since Filmer believes that no man is born free, men cannot [or should not be able to] choose their governors, thus government by consent is to be rejected on the epistemological grounds that the masses do not possess the intellectual wherewithal to elect their leaders.
Book How Not To Be Governed Readings And Interpretations From A Critical Anarchist Left
But a description of affairs under absolute monarchy does not in itself provide a justification of establishing government on popular consent, nor does the presumption that men would live in a miserable condition rebut the claim for absolutism. Chapter II. Chapter III. Questioning the validity of the former does not imply a concurrent questioning of the latter. And thus Sir Robert was an Author before he writ his Book In other words, potentiality does not imply actuality. Locke presses the point — whence does Adam receive his power over others? By becoming a father, Filmer thirdly argues and thereby provides a justification for his patriarchy.
Chapter IV. The two are separable issues, and Filmer, Locke notes, often deploys linguistic ambiguities in his terms to assert his theory without actually justifying it. Chapter VI. This time, Filmer presents a justification: since the father gives life and being to a child he therefore possesses absolute power over him. A parent may, arguably, alienate his rights over a child, Locke notes, but a child cannot alienate the honour due to his parent, an argument Filmer ignores.