Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shain on Zuckert on Locke

Found here. A taste:
In Part Two, a section of three essays, we are introduced, although far more subtly, to another plank in the Straussian system of belief—that is, that anyone as clever as Locke could not possibly have been a believer in a different system of belief, one including a belief in God. The cornerstone to this contention rests on Zuckert’s insistence that Locke’s “‘official theory of revelation’ has many difficulties,” in particular, that “in order to verify any alleged revelation as a real revelation, reason must have rational knowledge of the existence of a revealing God…. But it is Locke’s view that reason is not in possession of such rational knowledge of the existence of a revealing God…. Since Locke lacks rational knowledge of a revealing God, he knows of no authentic revelation, including of course the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.”


Bill Fortenberry said...

"There is much to find wanting in this claim."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Great find, Jon. As you know the "Straussian" Zuckert version of Locke is being absorbed into the mainstream but such stalwarts as Mark Noll.

But the question is whether this "secret" Locke is how the Founders understood him.

I have to say that Locke's dodges of the Trinity question [And Bill knows a lot about this, the war of letters with the hostile Bishop of Worcestershire, iirc], Locke never actually affirms a belief in the Trinity, which would have ended the controversy in a single sentence.

Instead Locke generates page after page of fog, denying that he denies the Trinity, which of course is not the same thing.

Most important to me is Locke on natural law. Since Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" denies the possibility of an "innate moral sense," and an innate moral sense is intrinsic to traditional Christian natural law theory, Straussians are quite right that Locke is unhelpful on natural law.

Locke's unpublished work on natural law came to light in the 1950s, and Leo Strauss himself points out* that Locke is unhelpful if not contradictory on it.

However, we see Alexander Hamilton parking Locke firmly into the natural law camp in "The Farmer Refuted." Therefore the historian's Locke is not the same as the philosophy scholar's---thus dangers of Mark Noll et al using the Strauss/Zuckert Locke as an example of, well, anything.


"This paper will examine Leo Strauss's treatment of John Locke's _Essays On The Law of Nature_ (ch. 8, "Locke's Doctrine of Natural Law" in _What is Political Philosophy). I argue that Strauss uses his review of Locke's work to present a philosophical account of the difficulties associated with providing a coherent, demonstrative argument on the natural law.

Strauss's essay is principally concerned with demonstrating the problem(s) or idea of the natural law. He does situate Locke in the tradition, but he does so in a much more neutral and scholarly manner than his more polemical and moralistic treatment in _Natural Right and History_.

In "Locke's Doctrine of Natural Law" we see Strauss following the "way of Socrates" and conducting a Socratic investigation of the natural law under the pretext of a scholarly review."