Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Lockean Republic: America in Light of Lockean Philosophy

From Michael Zuckert.



Tom Van Dyke said...

I like Zuckert's work on Locke a lot, but he misses the key point--the Founders didn't understand Locke as he understood himself [or as Strauss and Zuckert unstand him]---they understood Locke in the Scottish Common Sense Enlightenment tradition, as an essentially Christian thinker.

"I am equally far from believing that Mr. Locke was a friend to infidelity. But yet it is unquestionable, that the writings of Mr. Locke have facilitated the progress, and have given strength to the effects of scepticism.

The high reputation, which he deservedly acquired for his enlightened attachment to the mild and tolerating doctrines of christianity, secured to him the esteem and confidence of those, who were its friends. The same high and deserved reputation inspired others of very different views and characters, with a design to avail themselves of its splendour, and, by that means, to diffuse a fascinating kind of lustre over their own tenets of a dark and sable hue. The consequence has been, that the writings of Mr. Locke, one of the most able, most sincere, and most amiable assertors of christianity and true philosophy, have been perverted to purposes, which he would have deprecated and prevented, had he discovered or foreseen them."---James Wilson, signer of the Declaration, Constitution and Supreme Court justice

Zuckert's Locke, a "perverted" Locke according to Wilson, might indeed be the "true" Locke, but that is not the Locke of the American Founders.

Unfortunately, the East Coast Straussians don't know ding about history, and frankly, John Locke is not a major figure in his native Britain nor in philosophical circles today. His importance is mostly as "the Founders' Locke" and they used their understandings, misunderstandings, and hijackings of his name to create the America of the Founding.

It's sort of like how Jefferson wrote a Lockean Declaration of Independence and then Congress added a bunch of God and stuff to it.

A lot like that, actually.

Joe Winpisinger said...

No one reading Locke would have to add any God stuff. God was all over everything he wrote...