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First published Fri Aug 16, 2002; substantive revision Fri Aug 16, 2002

Egalitarianism is a trend of thought in political philosophy. An egalitarian favors equality of some sort: People should get the same, or be treated the same, or be treated as equals, in some respect. Egalitarian doctrines tend to express the idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. So far as the Western European and Anglo-American philosophical tradition is concerned, one significant source of this thought is the Christian notion that God loves all human souls equally. Egalitarianism is a protean doctrine, because there are several different types of equality, or ways in which people might be treated the same, that might be thought desirable. In modern democratic societies, the term “egalitarian” is often used to refer to a position that favors, for any of a wide array of reasons, a greater degree of equality of income and wealth across persons than currently exists.

* 1. Preliminary Distinctions
* 2. Equality of Opportunity
* 3. Equality of Condition: Equality of What?
o 3.1 Lockean Rights
o 3.2 Karl Marx on Equal Rights
o 3.3 Income and Wealth
o 3.4 Capabilities
o 3.5 Resources
o 3.6 Welfare and Opportunity for Welfare
o 3.7 Conclusion: A Test Case
* 4. Equality among Whom?
* 5. Is Equality Desirable Per Se? Varieties of Egalitarianism
o 5.1 Sufficiency
o 5.2 Priority
o 5.3 Desert
* Bibliography
* Other Internet Resources
* Related Entries

1. Preliminary Distinctions

Egalitarianism is a contested concept in social and political thought. One might care about human equality in many ways, for many reasons. As currently used, the label “egalitarian” does not necessarily indicate that the doctrine so called holds that it is desirable that people’s condition be made the same in any respect or that people ought to be treated the same in any respect. An egalitarian might rather be one who maintains that people ought to be treated as equals–as possessing equal fundamental worth and dignity and as equally morally considerable. In this sense, a sample nonegalitarian would be one who believes that people born into a higher social caste, or a favored race or ethnicity, or with an above-average stock of traits deemed desirable, ought somehow to count for more than others in calculations that determine what morally ought to be done. (On the thought that the core egalitarian ideal is treating people as equals, see Dworkin 2000.) Further norms of equality of condition or treatment might be viewed as free-standing or derived from the claim of equality of status. Controversy also swirls around attempts to specify the class of human persons to whom egalitarian norms apply. Some might count an unborn fetus or a very severely demented human as persons; others disagree.

Egalitarianism can be instrumental or noninstrumental. Given a specification of some aspect of people’s condition or mode of treating them that should be equal, one might hold that the state of affairs in which the stated equality obtains is morally valuable either as an end or as a means. The instrumental egalitarian values equality as a means to some independently specifiable goal; the noninstrumental egalitarian values equality for its own sake–as an end, or as partly constitutive of some end. For example, someone who believes that the maintenance of equality across a group of people fosters relations of solidarity and community among them, and is desirable for that reason, qualifies as an instrumental egalitarian. Someone who believes that equality of some sort is a component of justice, and morally required as such, would be a noninstrumental egalitarian.

Equality of any sort might be valued conditionally or unconditionally. One values equality in the former way if equality is deemed valuable only if some further condition is in place. One might hold that equality in the distribution of resources among a group of persons is valuable, but only on the condition that the individuals are equally deserving.

Equality might be deemed to be desirable or undesirable. A separate and distinct range of questions concerns whether or not people ought to act to bring about equality or are obligated to bring about equality (see Nagel 1991). The discussion to come often merges these questions, the assumption being that if equality is valuable, that is at least one good reason for thinking one should bring it about.

Egalitarianism can be formulated with a variety of roles in mind. For example, an egalitarian norm might be proposed as a fundamental moral principle. As such, it would be intended as a statement of the ultimate norm (or as a member of the set of ultimate norms) to which individual conduct and institutional arrangements ought to conform. An ultimate norm might or might not be suitable for the role of guiding individual decision making or of serving as an explicitly recognized principle regulating institutions and public policy formation in a particular society. If individual agents and public officials are liable through limited cognitive ability, limited knowledge, or limited allegiance to morality to misapply ultimate principles, it might well be the case that these principles could be implemented to a greater degree if they were not employed directly as decisionmaking guides for individual and public policy choice. (On this issue, see Hare 1981). Following this train of thought, one might favor as guidelines for individual and public choice simple, easily understood, readily implementable rules that are to serve as proxies for the moral principles that are the ultimate norms. Or one might instead hold that the ultimate moral principles that fix what is right and wrong are well suited to be practical decision making guides. The point is merely that we should distinguish these distinct roles that moral norms might play and avoid criticizing a norm in one role by standards appropriate only if the norm is understood to be playing a different role.

Given some specification of the kind of equality that is under consideration, it is clear what it means to say of a number of people that they are equal in the stated respect. If we are concerned with equal utility, then a group has equal utility when all have exactly the same. If we are concerned with equality of dollar holdings, then people are equal when all hold exactly the same number of dollars. But saying that much does not yet suggest a way of determining, in general, whether inequality is greater in one situation than in another, when different people hold different amounts of the good that we are concerned to equalize in the two situations. Inequality can be measured in different ways, and no measure seems to be strongly supported by common sense intuition about the meaning of equality. (See Sen 1997 and Temkin 1993 ). This entry usually abstracts from this issue by supposing that we can unequivocally determine, for any ideal of equality, how to measure degrees of inequality across the board.
2. Equality of Opportunity

In a hierarchical caste society, positions of advantage are assigned to people on a basis of birth lineage. If one is a legitimate offspring of parents who are aristocrats, one will also enjoy the privileges of aristocratic rank. An historically important form of equality associated with the rise of competitive market economies is the ideal of equality of opportunity. This ideal is also known as formal equality of opportunity or careers open to talents.

Equality of opportunity requires that jobs in economic firms and options to borrow money for investment purposes such as starting a business should be open to all applicants, that applications be assessed by relevant criteria of merit, and that the top-ranked applicant should be offered the job or option to borrow. The relevant criteria of merit are to be set so that those who score highest are those whose selection would best further the morally innocent purposes of the enterprise. In competitive market settings, the presumption typically is that the criteria should be related to profitability. The best applicant for a job or a loan would then be the individual to whom offering the good in question produces the greatest increase in the firm’s expected profit. (If the firm’s owners are risk averse or risk seeking, the pertinent criterion would be expected profit weighted by their risk preferences.) A further aspect of the ideal of equality of opportunity requires that economic firms offering goods and services for sale should sell to all willing customers, treating all potential customers evenhandedly as potential sources of profit. Finally, equality of opportunity requires that purchasers of goods and services should be responsive only to the price and quality of the goods offered to them for purchase (and not, for example, to the ethnicity or sex or sexual orientation of the maker or seller of the good). This last-mentioned requirement of equality of opportunity is not included within formulations of the norm that are intended to be enacted as law and enforced by criminal or civil law procedures. But to implement equality of opportunity, an orientation of the hearts and minds of members of society is needed, not merely legal enactments. Equality of opportunity would be subverted if the laws effectively prohibited economic firms from basing decision making on factors other than expected profitability but consumers would not purchase products that embodied the skilled labor of women and blacks, so that their market opportunities are stunted.

Two natural extensions of the equality of opportunity ideal deserve mention. One is the requirement that places in colleges and universities and competitive private schools should be open to all applicants with applicants ranked by their ability to learn and other academic virtues and selected on these academic grounds (provided they can pay the tuition and fees). A second extension requires that public sector jobs–other than those reserved for elected officials along with their staffs–should be open to all applicants with selection of applicants being made on the basis of the merits of the applications.

The general idea of equality of opportunity is that the political economy of a society distributes positions that confer special advantages and these should be open to all applicants with applicants selected by merit. The merits of the applications for a position should track the degree to which the applicant’s hiring or selection for interaction would boost the fulfillment of the morally innocent purposes of the association as weighted by the association’s bosses. The more general formulation of the notion of merit allows that an economic firm might legitimately base its decisions on nonmarket values without engaging in wrongful discrimination that violates equality of opportunity rightly construed. For example, a maker of fancy surfboards might sell them by preference to more skilled surfers, and a mountaineering guide might select clients partly on the basis of their physical fitness and their perceived enthusiasm for wilderness adventure. Also, members of the learned professions such as medicine and law might be bound by legal and cultural norms that require them to tailor their services to the aims of the profession rather than just to profitability (e.g., norms that require a medical doctor to refuse to provide a medical treatment to a potential client who is willing and able to pay but would not benefit from the treatment).

The ideal of equality of opportunity is the ideal of a political economy in which each person’s prospects as producer depend only on his initial stock of resources plus his ability and willingness to provide goods and services that others value plus luck as market fluctuations are encountered. Moreover, in the role of consumer, each individual (modulo his location) faces the same array of goods and services on sale to anyone who can pay the purchase price (and can satisfy the relevant nonmarket conditions of the seller or maker). Such characteristics of persons as their supposed race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, and religion play no role in determining one’s life prospects in this public sphere except insofar as these traits might happen to affect one’s abilities and willingness to offer what others are willing to exchange for money.

In theory, equality of opportunity could be fully satisfied in a society in which wealth passed along by inheritance from generation to generation fundamentally determines everyone’s competitive prospects. In this society jobs and positions and so on would be open to all applicants, but the only applicants who have the skills that qualify them for desirable posts are the children of the wealthy. They alone have access to the training and acculturation that confer skills.

A society that establishes and maintains a state educational system sustained by public funds already goes some way beyond equality of opportunity and toward provision to all of its members of some opportunity to develop skills that will enable them to succeed in competitions for desirable positions regulated by equality of opportunity. The same can be said of a society that enforces minimal standards of child raising to which parents must conform. One can imagine a society doing more in this same spirit.

A society might institute policies that secure at least a minimally acceptable threshold of schooling and skill formation for all its members. An alternative aim is to eliminate entirely the advantages that family wealth and social status confer on individuals in competitions regulated by formal equality of opportunity. The achievement of this aim would render a society classless, in a certain sense. John Rawls (Rawls, 1971 and 2001) has formulated this ideal as a principle of equality of fair opportunity (EFO). This principle holds that any individuals in society with the same native talent and ambition should have the same prospects of success in competition for positions that confer special benefits and advantages. EFO goes beyond equality of opportunity by requiring that all efforts by parents to give their children a comparative advantage in competitions for desirable positions and posts are somehow entirely offset. In a society regulated by EFO, socialization is adjusted so that among people equally willing to work to become qualified for a particular career and equally endowed by genetic inheritance with latent ability needed for that career, all have the same chances of success in that career.

EFO also opposes racial and sexual and similar prejudices that work to deprive disfavored individuals from enjoying opportunities to become qualified so that they would benefit from formal equality of opportunity. In some settings, affirmative action policies that aim to help members of historically disadvantaged groups such as African-Americans in the U.S. gain desirable employment opportunities in proportion to their numbers in the population can be regarded as policies intended to move society in the direction of satisfying EFO.

Formal equality of opportunity, in so far as it imposes requirements on firms, universities and colleges, and government as employer, is the law of the land in many modern democracies, and also entrenched in the common-sense morality most people embrace. By contrast, equality of fair opportunity is a controversial principle, which no existing nation seriously strives to achieve or comes close to achieving.

EFO could not be fully achieved without conflict with other values. Consider that parents naturally want to help their children develop the talents needed for competitive success. Some parents control a lot of resources useful for this purpose; some parents have few such resources. The ordinary interaction of parents with their children is then an obstacle to the achievement of equality of fair opportunity. If society were fully to achieve EFO, then either parental freedom to help their children in ways that give them a competitive edge would have to be curtailed or such help would have to be exactly offset by compensating infusion of social resources toward the education and socialization of children whose parents are less effective. (See Fishkin 1983).
3. Equality of Condition: Equality of What?

A society that satisfied the ideal of formal equality of opportunity might provide grim conditions of life for those who are unsuccessful in competitions for positions of advantage. Even a perfect meritocracy that satisfies the stringent Rawlsian equality of fair opportunity principle might impose the same grim conditions of life on those who lack marketable merit and skill. The class of competitive losers might include some who have adequate native talents but fail to make good use of them, but some of the losers will be those with the bad luck to be born without much by way of native talent. The question then arises whether any further substantive ideals of equality, beyond meritocratic ideals, should be affirmed. (See Schar 1967.)

One family of substantive equality ideals, equality of democratic citizenship and civil liberties, is perhaps no more controversial than formal equality of opportunity. Democratic equality embraces the norm that law-makers and top public officials should be selected in democratic elections. All adult nonretarded noncrazy citizens should be eligible to vote and run for office in free elections that operate against a backdrop of freedom of speech and association, and in which all votes count equally and majority rule prevails. All citizens should have the same wide rights to freedom of speech, assembly, association, and religious practice. Criminal justice rules should be applied evenhandedly to all and should embody the procedural values of the rule of law.

A controversial extension of democratic citizenship resembles Rawlsian equality of fair opportunity applied to the political arena. Call this ideal “equal participation.” Equal participation requires that any individuals in society with the same ambition to influence the political process and the same talents of political persuasion and organization should have equal prospects of influence on the democratic political process. (See Christiano 1996, Walzer 1983, for a criticism, Estlund, 1999, and for a related view, J. Cohen 1989a.)

The remainder of this section surveys several proposals as to what (beyond democratic citizenship and civil liberties) should be distributed equally among the members of society and how equality and inequality in the distribution of these goods should be measured. The latter issue can be posed in this way: When various amounts of heterogeneous goods are held by different individuals, how can one measure individuals’ overall holdings of goods so that it can be determined when people’s overall holdings are effectively equal?
3.1 Lockean Rights

The Lockean rights approach is so named because an early prominent exponent of the doctrine was John Locke (Locke 1690). It might just as well be viewed as a rejection of egaltarianism rather than as a version of it. Contemporary Lockeans are also known as libertarians (see Nozick 1974).

The Lockean view is that every person has equal basic moral rights–natural rights. Natural rights are rights that one has independently of institutional arrangements and customary beliefs. A person’s natural rights give her a set of claims against all other persons that each person absolutely must respect.

The traditional content of Lockean rights is roughly as follows: Each person has the right to do whatever she chooses with whatever she legitimately owns so long as she does not violate the rights of others not to be harmed in certain ways–by force, fraud, coercion, theft, or infliction of damage on person or property. Each person has the right not to be harmed by others in the mentioned ways, unless she voluntarily waives any of her rights or voluntarily transfers them to another or forfeits them by misconduct. Also, each adult person is the full rightful owner of herself and each child person has the right to be nurtured to adult status by those responsible for her creation. It is generally supposed in the Lockean tradition that starting from the premise of self-ownership, under actual conditions on earth one can validly derive strong rights of private appropriation and ownership of land and moveable parts of the earth (Nozick, 1974).

Lockean rights do not single out a state of affairs, that in which everyone’s rights are fully respected, and hold that all people are obligated to act in whatever ways are needed to bring about this state of affairs. Each person’s right generates a duty to respect that right on the part of every other person. Rights are constraints on what each individual may do, and do not set goals that all are together obligated to fulfill.

A more egalitarian variant of Lockean rights doctrine combines the right of self-ownership with skepticism about the Lockean account of the moral basis of private ownership rights. Instead the left-wing Lockean asserts that each person is the full rightful owner of herself and each adult person has a right to a per capita share of ownership of the unimproved land and resources of the earth. In short, this version of Lockeanism combines robust self-ownership with an egalitarian account of world ownership. There are several variants to this doctrine. Critics explore whether or not the doctrine is normatively stable: Do any plausible grounds there might be for denying Lockean private ownership of the world also generate grounds for denying individual self-ownership? Do any grounds there might be for resisting the denial of individual self-ownership also generate reasons to resist the denial of Lockean private ownership of the world? (See Steiner 1994, G. Cohen 1995, Vallentyne and Steiner 2000, and Van Parijs 1995).
3.2 Karl Marx on Equal Rights

The Marxian tradition in political and economic thought urges the desirability of eliminating some of the inequalities associated with the institutions of a capitalist market economy. Interpreting Karl Marx as an egalitarian normative theorist is a tricky undertaking, however, in view of the fact that he tends to eschew explicit theorizing on moral principles and to regard assertions of moral principles as so much ideological dust thrust in the eyes of the workers by defenders of capitalism.

In “The Critique of the Gotha Program,” Marx asserts that in the first phase of communist society the economy will distribute goods according to the norm, to each according to his labor contribution. This norm can be regarded as defining an equal right, but like any such right, it is defective. One defect is that some individuals are naturally more able than others, and so the amount of one’s labor contribution will vary depending on factors that vary by luck beyond one’s power to control. For this and other reasons Marx asserts it will be desirable when a higher phase of communist society is attained. Then society can move beyond the sphere of bourgeois right altogether and operate according to the norm, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. Despite Marx’s disclaimer, he seems to be proposing a principle of equal right: Each has the right to receive economic goods that satisfy her needs to the same extent provided she contributes to the economy according to her ability. But Marx would resist the description of this norm as a principle of justice or moral rights. One consideration in his mind may be that moral rights ought to be enforced, but when it is feasible and desirable to implement higher-phase communist distribution, the implementation can be carried out successfully without any legal or informal coercion, and hence should not occur through any process of social enforcement. Or so Marx thinks. (See Marx 1978, Wood 1981, Cohen, G., 1988 and 1995.)
3.3 Income and Wealth

In modern societies with market economies, an egalitarian is generally thought to be one who supports equality of income and wealth (income being a flow, wealth a stock). Respecting this usage, this entry considers an egalitarian in the broad sense to be someone who prefers in actual or at least non-exotic circumstances that people should be more nearly equal in income and wealth and favors policies that aim to bring about such equality.

Money is a conventional medium of exchange. Given an array of goods for sale at various prices, with some money one has the option to purchase any combination of these goods, within the budget constraint set by the amount of money one has. What money can purchase in a given society depends on the state of its economy and also on legal and cultural norms that may limit in various ways what is allowed to be put up for sale. For example, the laws may forbid the sale of sexual activity, human organs intended for transplant, the right to become a parent of a particular child by adoption, narcotic drugs, and so on. What money can purchase also obviously depends on what one is free to do with whatever one purchases–one may catch fish with the fishing rod one purchases only with a license and in accordance with rules issued by the state agency that regulates fishing.

Leaving these complications in the background, one can appreciate that having money gives one effective freedom to engage in a wide variety of activities and experiences. One has the option to purchase any of many commodities and do with them whatever is legally and conventionally allowed, up to the limit of one’s budget. The ideal of equality of income and wealth is roughly the ideal that people should enjoy this effective freedom to the same extent.

This ideal is attractive to some and repulsive to others. One serious objection is that to bring about and sustain the condition in which all people have the same amount of money would require continuous and extensive violation of people’s Lockean rights, which as standardly understood include the right to gain more property than others possess by gift or trade or hard work. Another, closely related objection is that a regime of equal money could be maintained only by wrongful interference with people’s liberty, because if money is distributed equally at one time people will choose to act in ways that over time will tend to result in unequal distribution of money at later times. (For the first objection, see Nozick 1974, chapter 7, for the second, see Walzer 1983.)

Another objection to the ideal of monetary equality is that its pursuit would inhibit people’s engagement in wealth-creating and wealth-saving activity, and in the not very long run would reduce society’s stock of wealth and make us all worse off in the terms of the effective freedom that was being equalized. Yet another objection is that people behave in ways that render them more and less deserving, and monetary good fortune is among the types of things that people come to deserve differentially.

The advocate of egalitarianism in the broad sense has some replies. Unless some substantive argument is given as to why Lockean rights should be accorded moral deference, the mere fact that equality conflicts with Lockean rights does not by itself impugn the ideal of equality. Maybe some purported “rights” should not be regarded as momentous, and their sacrifice to secure equality might be acceptable on balance. In the same vein, one might hold that the fact that continuous restriction of individual liberty is needed to satisfy some norm does not by itself tell us whether the moral gain from satisfying the ideal is worth the moral cost of lessened freedom. Some restrictions of liberty are undeniably worth their cost, and some ideal of equality might be among the values that warrant some sacrifice of liberty.

Equality might be upheld as one value among others, and increase in wealth or in wealth per capita may be included along with equality in a pluralistic ethics. We may want more effective freedom (of the sort money combined with goods for sale provides), and we may also want this freedom equally distributed, and then we would need to find an acceptable compromise of these values to deal with cases when they conflict in practice. Much the same might be said about the conflict between the achievement of equality of money and the distribution of good fortune according to people’s differential desert.

Monetary equality can strike one as a misguided ideal for the different reason that it does not deal in what is of fundamental importance. The value of purchasing power, equal or unequal, depends on the value of what is for sale. Imagine that the economy of a society is organized so it produces only trivial knick-knacks. Freedom to purchase trivia is a trivial freedom, and rendering it equal does not significantly improve matters. (Critics of consumerism and consumer culture are moved by the idea that in actual modern societies, the economy, responsive to consumer demand, is responsive to demands for what is not very worthwhile and ignores many truly imporrtant human goods, that either happen to be not for sale or that by their nature are not suitable for sale on a market.)

Another concern about monetary equality is that purchasing power interacts with individuals’ personal powers and traits, and real freedom reflects the interaction, which an emphasis on purchasing power alone conceals. Consider two persons, one of whom is blind, legless, and armless, while the other has good eyesight and full use of her limbs. Given equal money, the first must spend his money on devices and services to cope with his handicaps, while the second may purchase far more of what she likes. Here equality of purchasing power seems to leave the two very unequal in real freedom to live their lives as they choose. But the case of handicaps is just an extreme instance of what is always present, namely each individual has a set of traits and natural powers bestowed by genetic inheritance and early socialization, and these differ greatly across persons and greatly affect people’s access to valuable ways to live.
3.4 Capabilities

One response to the problematic features of the monetary equality ideal is to shift to the notion of real freedom as that which an egalitarian morality should be concerned to equalize. Real or effective freedom contrasts with formal freedom. You are formally free to go to Canada just in case no law or convention backed by penalties prevents you from going and no one would coercively interfere if you attempted to travel there. In contrast, you are really or effectively free to go to Canada just in case this is an option that you may choose–if you choose to go and seriously try to go, you will get there, and if you do not choose to go and make a serious attempt to go, you do not get there. (One might lack formal freedom to do something yet be really free to do it, if one was able to evade or overcome the legal and extralegal obstacles to doing that thing.)

Another response to the problematic features of the monetary equality ideal aims to cope with the thought that freedom of purchasing power may not be of great importance. The response is to characterize what we should be equalizing in terms that directly express what is reasonably regarded as truly important.

Both responses are present in a proposal made by Amartya Sen in several publications beginning in 1980 (see Sen 1980 and 1992 and the references cited in Sen 1992). Sen suggests that in so far as we should value equality of condition, what we should value is equal real freedom, and more specifically basic functioning capability equality. People may function–do or be something–in any of a huge number of ways. Consider all of the different ways that one might function variously. Many of these are trivial or of little importance; set these to the side. Consider then basic functionings, functionings that are essential or important for human flourishing or valuable agency. Consider all of the packages of functionings that an individual at a time is really free to choose all at once; these are one’s capabilities at a time. We may also consider an individual’s basic capabilities over the life course. The proposal is that society should sustain basic capability equality. (Care must be taken in identifying an individual’s capability sets, since what others choose may affect the freedom one has. One may have the option of choosing the functioning of attending college, but only if not too many persons in one’s high school cohort make the same choice.)

We might construe “basic capability” as picking out one of the capabilities needed for a minimally decent life. For example, being able to obtain enjoyment in life and gain scientific knowledge that meet threshold levels deemed “good enough” suffice to give one basic enjoyment and basic knowledge capabilities. Above that threshold level for each capability, differences in the level of capability that people can attain do not signify–they do not change the fact that everyone does or does not enjoy equal basic capabilies. To get equal basic capability for everyone would be to get each person at or above the threshold level for every one of the capabilities that are specified to be necessary for a minimally decent or good enough life. So understood, the basic capability proposal falls in the family of sufficientarian ideals; on which, see the section on “Sufficiency” below.

The capability approach to equality can be developed in different ways depending on how basic capabilities are identified.

Some theorists have explored the capability approach by tying it to an objective account of human well-being or flourishing. The aim is to identify all of the functionings needed for human flourishing. For each of these functionings, the ideal is that each person should be sustained in the capability to engage in every one of these functionings at a satisfactory or good enough level. (See Nussbaum 1990, 1992, and 1999.)

Another use of the capability approach ties it to the idea of what is needed for each person to function as a full participating member of modern democratic society. Each person is to be sustained throughout her life, so far as this is feasible, in the capabilities to function at a satisfactory level in all of the ways necessary for full membership and participation in democratic society. (See Anderson 1999 and Walzer 1983.)

It should be noted that the capability approach as described so far involves the assumption that anything whatever that reduces or expands an individual’s real freedom to function in ways that are valuable should trigger a response on the part of a society or agency that aims to establish and sustain capability equality. One might reject this assumption while otherwise working within the capability framework. One might distinguish aspects of a person’s situation that are socially caused from those that are naturally caused. This distinction is evidently rough and needs refinement, but one has some sense of what is intended. That I am unable to run fast or sing a tune on key may be largely due to my genetic endowment, which in this context we may take to be naturally rather than socially caused. In contrast, the facts that given the talents of others and their choices to use them in market interaction, my running ability is nonmarketable but my singing ability enables me to have a career as a professional singer are deemed socially caused. That I have a certain physical appearance is natural (any of a wide variety of childrearing regimens would have produced pretty much this same physical appearance) but that my appearance renders me ineligible for marriage or romantic liaisons is a social fact (social arrangements bring this about and different social arrangements might undo it).

However exactly the natural and social are distinguished, one might restrict the scope of an equality ideal to the smoothing out of socially caused inequalities. As Elizabeth Anderson remarks, “The proper negative aim of egalitarian justice is not to eliminate the impact of brute luck from human affairs, but to end oppression, which by definition is socially imposed” (Anderson 1999, p. 288). What this restriction amounts to depends on how one distinguishes socially caused from other inequalities. Suppose that society pursues policy A, and that if it pursued policy B instead, a given inequality across people would disappear. Does this fact suffice to qualify the inequality as socially caused or not?

Critics of the capability approach home in on three of its features.

The starting point of the capability approach is that the equality that matters morality or that we are morally required to sustain is equality of freedom of some sort. This starting point is open to challenge. Freedom is no doubt important as a means to many other goods and as something everyone cares about to some considerable extent. But why confine the concern of equality to freedom rather than to achieved outcomes? Suppose that we could supply resources to Smith that will expand her freedom, but we happen to know that this freedom will do nobody any good. She will neglect it and it will be wasted. In these circumstances, why supply the resources? If provision of freedom for its own sake is morally of first-priority importance, then the fact that freedom in this instance will do nobody any good would seem to be an irrelevant consideration. If this fact seems highly pertinent to what we should do, this indicates that freedom may not be the ultimate value the distribution of which is the proper concern of an equality ideal.

Another feature of the capability approach as elaborated to this point is that it does not appear to register the significance of personal responsibility as it might appropriately qualify the formulation of an equality ideal (Roemer 1996 and 1998). A simple example illustrates the difficulty. Suppose society is dedicated to sustaining all of its members equally at some level of basic capability. Society provides resources fully adequate for sustaining an individual at this level of basic capability, but he frivolously and negligently squanders the resources. The resources are re-supplied, and squandered again, and the cycle continues. At some point in the cycle, many people would urge that the responsibility of society has been fulfilled, and that it is the individual’s responsibility to use provided resources in reasonable ways, if his lack of adequate basic capability is to warrant a claim to equality-restoring social intervention. The capability approach could of course be modified to accommodate responsibility concerns. But it will be useful to turn to consideration of the resourcist approach, within which the aim of integrating equality and responsibility has prompted various proposals.

A third feature of the capability approach that has elicited criticism is the idea that knowledge of human flourishing and what facilitates it must inform the identification of an adequate equality norm. The worry in a nutshell is that in modern societies that secure wide freedoms, people will embrace many opposed conceptions of how to live and of what is choiceworthy in human life. These are matters about which we must agree to disagree. At least if an ideal of equality is being constructed to serve in a public conception of justice that establishes basic terms of morality for a modern democratic society, this ideal must eschew controversial claims about human good and human flourishing such as those in which the capability approach must become embroiled. Martha Nussbaum explores how the capability approach to social equality might function appropriately as a public conception of justice (Nussbaum 2000). Charles Larmore argues that it is wrong for government to impose a policy that could only be justified by appeal to the claim that some controversial conception of the good is superior to another (Larmore 1987 and 1996; for criticism, see Sher 1997). In response it might be urged that a conception of human capabilities might be controversial but true, and if known to be true, appropriately imposed by government policy.
3.5 Resources

The ideal of equality of resources can be understood by recognizing its enemies. These enemies comprise all manner of proposals that suppose that in so far as we should care about equality of condition across persons, what we should care about equalizing is the utility or welfare or well-being or good that persons attain over the course of their lives. John Rawls offers an especially clear statement of the animating impulse of the equality of resources ideal. He imagines someone proposing that the relevant measure of people’s condition for a theory of justice is their level of plan fullfillment or attained satisfaction, and responds that his favored conception “takes a different view. For it does not look behind the use which persons make of the rights and opportunities available to them in order to measure, much less to maximize, the satisfactions they achieve. Nor does it try to evaluate the relative merits of different conceptions of the good. Instead, it is assumed that the members of society are rational persons able to adjust their conceptions of the good to their situation.” (See Rawls 1971, section 15.) Resourcist ideals of equality of condition are nonwelfarist.

Several thoughts are intertwined here. One is that equality of condition must be developed as a component of an acceptable theory of justice, intended to be the basic charter of a democratic society and acceptable to all reasonable members of such a society, who are presumed to be disposed to disagree interminably about many ultimate issues concerning religion and the meaning and worth of human life (Rawls 1993). We must seek reasonable terms of cooperation that people who disagree about much can nonetheless accept. If there is anything that people cannot reasonably be expected to agree about, it is what constitutes human good, so introducing a controversial conception of human good as part and parcel of the ideal of equality that is to be at the core of the principles of justice is a bad mistake.

Another thought is that responsible individuals will consider themselves to have a personal obligation, which cannot be shifted to the government or any agency of society, to decide for themselves what is worthwhile in human life and what is worth seeking and to fashion (and refashion as changing circumstances warrant) a plan of life to achieve worthwhile ends. So even if the true theory of human good could be discovered, it would offend the dignity and sense of responsibility of individual persons for some agency of society to preempt this individual responsibility by arranging matters so that everyone achieves human good understood a certain way to a sufficiently high degree. Individuals should take responsibility for their ends. (See Rawls 1971, Rakowski 1992, Dworkin 2000).

Another thought that motivates the family of equality-of-resources ideals is that society’s obligations by way of providing for its members are limited. A just and egalitarian society is not plausibly held to be obligated to do whatever turns out to be necessary to bring it about that their members attain any given level or share of quality of life. The reason for this is that the quality of life (the degree to which one attains valuable agency and well-being goals) that any individual reaches over the course of her life depends on many choices and actions taken by that very individual, so to a considerable extent, the quality of life one reaches must be up to oneself, not the job of society or some agency acting on behalf of society. Along these lines, the actual course of an individual’s life and the degree of fulfillment it reaches also depend on many chance factors for which nobody can reasonably be held accountable. Justice is a practical ideal, not a Don Quixote conception that aims to correct all bad luck of any sort that befalls persons. A reasonable morality understands the social justice obligations of society as limited, not open-ended and unbounded. So if equality of condition is part of social justice, it too must reflect an appropriately limited conception of social responsibility. Equality of resources fills this bill. (See Daniels 1990 and chapters 3 and 4 of Buchanan et al. 2000.)

The trick then is to develop an appropriate conception of resources that can serve in an ideal of equality of condition.

Resources can be external, material goods, such as land and moveable property. One can also extend the domain, and consider traits of persons that are latent talents or instruments that help them to achieve their ends as also included within the set of resources to be equalized. Extending the domain in this way will introduce complexity into the account, because personal talents are attached to persons and cannot simply be transferred to others who lack talent.

Notice that in elaborating equality of resources, it is assumed that a population of individuals with given traits, generated by genetic inheritance and early socialization, is present, and equalization is to proceed by adjusting features of the individuals’ environment or by altering features of the individuals, say by extra education. But of course, moral questions may also be raised about the processes by which individuals come to be born and given early socialization so as to endow them with certain traits. With genetic information about an individual made available to prospective parents before the individual is born, a decision can be made about whether to bring this child to term. In the future, genetic enhancements may be available that can alter the genetic makeup of individuals, and again a morality must consider when enhancements should be supplied and by whom. Raising these questions makes it evident that just assuming an initial population of individuals with given traits takes for granted matters that are very much morally up for grabs (see Buchanan et al. 2000). For the purposes of this entry, this complication is noted only to be set aside.

How can resources be identified and rated? We want to be able to say, given two persons each with different amounts of resources, which one has more resources overall. The literature to date reveals two ways of confronting the question. One has been developed by John Rawls (Rawls 1971), one by Ronald Dworkin (Dworkin, 2000).

Rawls suggests that the conception of resources to be deployed in a resourcist ideal of equality is primary social goods. These are defined as distributeable goods that a rational person prefers to have more rather than less of, whatever else she wants. (A variant conception identifies them as goods that any rational person would want who gives priority to her interest in cooperating with others on fair terms, selecting and if need be revising a conception of the good and a set of life aims, and pursuing the conception and the aims.) On this approach it is not so far clear how to measure a person’s holding of social primary goods overall if there are various primary goods and one has different amounts of the different kinds. The primary goods approach has yet to be developed in detail. Rawls has suggested that the scope of this problem of devising an index of primary goods is lessened by giving some primary goods, the basic liberties, priority over the rest. For the remainder, Rawls suggests that the relative weight of primary goods can be set by considering what people (regarded as free and equal citizens) need. (See Rawls 2001, section 17.)

Dworkin’s approach begins with the idea that the measure of a resource that one person holds is what others would be willing to give up to get it. From this standpoint competitive market prices are the appropriate measure of the resources one possesses: In particular, the division of a lot of resources among a group of people is equal when all are given equal purchasing power for the occasion and all the resources are sold off in an auction in which no one’s bids are final until no one wants to change her bids given the bids of the others.

This equal auction is just a first approximation to Dworkin’s proposal. Two complications need to be introduced. One is that one ought to extend the domain of resources to include personal talents as well as external property. A second is that equality of resources as conceived in this construction supposes that the results of unchosen luck, but not chosen option luck, should be equalized.

Take the second wrinkle first. If we start from an initial equality of resources brought about by the equal auction mechanism, individuals might then go on to use and invest and spend their resource allotments in various ways. Assume the rules mediating their interaction are set and morally unproblematic. Roughly speaking, we say people are free to interact with others on any mutually agreeable terms but not to impose the costs of their activities on others without the mediation of voluntary consent. Starting from an initial equality of resources, any results that issue from voluntary interactions reiterated over time do not offend against the equality ideal. Let voluntary choice and chosen luck prevail.

The first wrinkle is that individuals differ in their unchosen natural talent resource allotments. These should somehow be equalized. But how? The Dworkin proposal is that we can in thought establish an insurance market, in which people who do not know whether they will be born disabled (afflicted with negative talents) and do not know what market price their positive talents will fetch, can insure themselves in a variant of the equal purchasing power auction against the possibility of being handicapped or having talents that fetch low market price. In this way in thought unchosen luck is transformed into morally inoffensive chosen luck (so far as this is thinkable).

The final Dworkin proposal then is that the thought experiment of the equal auction modified as above is used to estimate in actual circumstances in a rough and ready way who is worse off and who better off than others through no choice of her own. A tax and transfer policy is instituted then that tries to mimic the results of the imaginary equal auction. To the extent that we establish and sustain such policies–voila!–we have equality of resources across the members of an actual society. (See Dworkin 2000).

The Dworkin proposal is noteworthy for its integration of themes of equality and personal responsibility in a single conception. But the moral appropriateness of linking these themes is open to question.

The most far-reaching skepticism on this point denies that personal responsibility can be more than instrumentally valuable, a tool for securing other values. One might hold that in a world in which human choices are events and all events are caused by prior events according to physical laws, responsibility can make sense pragmatically and instrumentally in various settings but does not really make good normative sense under scrutiny. One might reach a similar result by noting that even if persons are truly responsible for making some choices rather than others, what we could reasonably be held responsible for and what surely lies beyond our power to control run together to produce actual results and cannot be disentangled. On this view, if we care about equality, we should seek not responsibility-modified equality but straight equality of condition, using responsibility norms only as incentives and prods to bring about equality (or a close enough approximation to it) at a higher level of material well-being.

Another sort of skepticism challenges whether the broad project of holding people responsible for their chosen luck but not for their unchosen luck really makes sense, because unchosen luck of genetic inheritance and early socialization fixes the individual’s choice-making and value-selecting abilities. What one chooses, bad or good, may simply reflect the unchosen luck that gave one the ability to be a good or a bad chooser. Suppose for example that Smith chooses to experiment with cigarettes and heroin, and these gambles turn out badly in the form of contraction of lung cancer and long-term hard drug addiction. He is then far worse off than others, but his bad fortune comes about through his own choice–hence is not compensable according to Dworkinian equality of resources. But that Smith chooses these bad gambles and Jones does not may simply reflect the unchosen bad luck that Smith had in his genetic inheritance and early socialization. So holding him fully responsible for the fortune he encounters through chosen gambles may make no sense if we follow through the underlying logic of the Dworkin proposal itself. This takes us back to welfarist equality conceptions, which the resourcist theorist wishes to steer away from at all cost.
3.6 Welfare and Opportunity for Welfare

The ideal of equality of welfare holds that it is desirable that the amount of human good gained by each person for herself (and by others for her) over the course of her life should be the same. Human good, also known as welfare or well-being or utility, is what an individual gets insofar as her life goes well for herself (Parfit, 1984). This awkward phrase is meant to distinguish one’s life going well for oneself, as one would wish one’s life to go from the standpoint of rational prudence, and its going well by way of producing good that enters the lives of other people or animals or fulfills some impersonal good cause. Suppose my life in its entirety consists in sticking my finger in a dike and slowly painfully freezing to death, like the little Dutch boy in the children’s fable. So lived, this life produces lots of good for millions of people saved from flood and drowning, but for me it produces no good, just slow misery. The life just imagined is a good in the sense of morally admirable life but not a life that contains much welfare or human good for the one living it.

The background thought is then that morality is concerned with the production and fair distribution of human good. Nothing else ultimately matters (except animal and nonhuman person welfare, but leave these important qualifications aside). So to the extent we believe that fair distribution is equal distribution, that morality requires that everyone get the same, what everyone should then have the same of is human good or welfare or well-being.

To work out this conception of equality of condition would involve determining what account of the nature of human good is most plausible. One account is hedonism, which holds the good to be pleasure and absence of pain. Another account identifies the good with desire satisfaction or life aim fulfillment. A variant of this last approach holds that the relevant aims and desires are those that would withstand ideal reflection with full information unmarred by cognitive error (such as adding two and two and getting five). A quite different account supposes that the good is constituted by the items on a list of objectively valuable beings and doings. The more the individual attains the items on the objective list over the course of her life, the better her life goes, whatever her subjective opinions and attitudes about such attainments might be. The most plausible conception of the ideal of equality of welfare incorporates whatever is the best theory of human good or welfare. (In this connection see Griffin 1986 and Hurka 1990.)

Any such account bumps into problems concerning personal responsibility and the sense that the obligations of society are limited–problems already mentioned in this discussion. A society bent on sustaining equality of welfare would continue pouring resources down the drain if worse off individuals insist on negligently squandering whatever resources are expended on them in order to boost their welfare level up to the average level. One might respond to this responsibility challenge by stipulating that equality is only desirable on the condition that individuals are equally responsible or deserving: It is bad if some are worse off than others through no fault or choice of their own. In a slogan, one might assert an ideal of equality of opportunity for welfare. (See Cohen 1989, Arneson 1989, and for criticism Rakowski 1992, Fleurbaey 1995, Scanlon 1997, and Wolff 1998).

Another criticism does not so much challenge the welfarist interpretation of equality of condition but presses the issue, how much weight any such equality of condition ideal should have in competition with other values. Imagine for example that some people, the severely disabled, are far worse off than others, and are through no fault or choice of their own extremely poor transformers of resources into welfare. A society bent on sustaining equality of welfare or equal opportunity for welfare as a first priority would be obligated to continue transferring resources from better off to worse off no matter how many better off people must then suffer any amount of welfare loss just so long as the pertinent welfare condition of a single still worse off individual can be improved even by a tiny amount.

Another criticism challenges the welfarist conceptions of equality of condition directly. One observes that in a diverse modern society, individuals will reasonably disagree about what is ultimately good and worthwhile in human life. Hence no conception of welfare is available to serve as a consensus standard for a public morality acceptable to all reasonable persons. In a similar spirit, one might invoke the idea that responsible individuals cannot acquiesce in the assumption of the responsibility on the part of the government to determine what is worthwhile and choiceworthy for them, for this responsibility rests squarely on each individual’s shoulders and cannot legitimately be dislodged from that perch. (See especially Dworkin, 2000, chapter 7, also Arneson 2000.)
3.7 Conclusion: A Test Case

Philosophical discussions of what should be equalized if we care about equality of condition raise dust that has not yet settled in any sort of consensus. All the rival views canvassed encounter difficulties, the seriousness of which is at present hard to discern.

It should be noted that the issue, how to measure people’s condition for purposes of a theory of equality, connects to a broader issue, how to measure people’s condition for purposes of a theory of fair distribution. Equality is just one of the possible views that might be taken as to what fair treatment requires. (For example, the sufficientarian and prioritarian principles discussed in the text below both admit of resourcist and welfarist variants.) Any theory of distributive jsutice that says that sometimes better off persons should improve the situation of worse off persons requires an account of the basis of interpersonal comparisons that enables us to determine who is better off and who is worse off.

Finally, the reader might wish to test the merits of rival answers to the equality-of-what question by considering a social justice issue different in character from the issues considered so far. Suppose a society is divided into two or more linguistic communities, one being by far the most populous. The language of the dominant community is the official language of public life, and a minority linguistic group demands redress in the name of social equality. The minority group seeks government action to help sustain and promote the survival and flourishing of the minority linguistic community. For another example, suppose a modern democratic society contains more or less intact remnants of hunter-gatherer bands who claim in the name of social equality the right to withdraw from the larger surrounding society and practice their traditional way of life and run their affairs autonomously. How should a society committed to an ideal of equality of condition handle this type of issue? (See Kymlicka 1995, Young 1990, Anderson 1999, and Barry 2001.)
4. Equality among Whom?

Settling which aspect of people’s condition (if any) should be the same for all and fixing a measure of people’s condition in this respect still does not render an ideal of equality of condition fully determinate.

So far the question remains open, among whom should equality of condition obtain?

At some spots the discussion to this point has assumed an answer to this question. The issue is posed, in what ways should the members of a society or nation state be made equal? Framing the issue in this way presumes that what is morally valuable is that equality prevails among the members of each separate society. The idea then is that it is desirable that the condition of the inhabitants of India should be rendered more equal and that the condition of inhabitants of Germany should be rendered more equal but that equalizing the condition of Germans and Indians combined need not be desirable. But why not? (On this issue, see Dworkin 2000 and Rawls, “The Law of Peoples,” in Rawls 1999.)

If equality is prized as a means to other values, it may be the case that only equality among individuals who interact in significant ways has a tendency to promote the desired further goals. For example, if we prize equality of possessions to foster social solidarity, it may be that producing equality among people who live in distant parts of the globe and hardly interact will have no tendency to promote solidarity across the combined population. For the instrumental egalitarian, one should seek equality among those collections of people in which equality would produce the desired further results.

If equality is valued for its own sake, rather than as a means to further goals, it is less clear why the domain of persons among whom equality should obtain is limited in space or time or by political boundaries. Why not hold that it is desirable that equality should prevail to the degree this is feasible among all persons who shall ever live?

This question may not be rhetorical. One view is that when people set up a wide-ranging system of coercion on the scale of a political nation, special moral requirements come into play, including a requirement that all whose lives are ruled by this system of coercion should be treated equally or brought to an equal condition in some respects. (If a world government were established, the special requirements would be global in scope.) (See Miller 1998.)

The question, whether the requirement of equalizing people’s condition applies within particular societies but not across societies on a global scale, might be thought to raise a rough dilemma for the normative attractiveness of any equality ideal. The dilemma arises in the following train of thought. On the one hand, there is no good basis for restricting the scope of equality. If equality matters, the group that should be made equal is people everywhere. On the other hand, a global equality requirement will strike many as deeply counterintuitive because it seems to impose very demanding requirements on prosperous individuals and nations to share their wealth with less prosperous strangers in distant lands. The dilemma paints egalitarianism as either parochial or Quixotic and utopian. To remove this impression of dilemma, it would suffice either to defend the restriction of egalitarian requirements to single societies or to show that the requirements of demanding global egalitarianism are not really counterintuitive.

Further issues may be raised about the nature of the individuals among whom equality should obtain. One might hold that across whatever kind of group is deemed to be the relevant domain of equality, individuals should be made equal in condition over the course of their lives. Another possibility is that the individual persons at the same stage of the life cycle should be rendered equal in condition. On this latter view, a society in which over time the people who are old all enjoy the same condition, and likewise the people who are young and those who are middle-aged, could perfectly conform to the ideal of equality of condition even if the old are (say) far better off than the middle-aged and the middle-aged are always far better off than the young. Another possible view is that equality should be formulated so it demands that from now, the condition of all those living should be equalized (regardless of what condition people enjoyed in the past). (See McKerlie 1989 and 2001 and Temkin 1993, chapter 8).

Another issue emerges if one asks: why focus on individual persons rather than on groups? One might hold that it is not important that individual persons have equal life prospects, but it is morally valuable that men and women on the whole should have equal life prospects, that heterosexuals and nonheterosexualls should have the same life prospects, that people of different supposed races should have the same life prospects on the whole, and so on. To fill out this proposal one would need to develop a normative account that explains what sorts of group classifications matter for this purpose and on what grounds. Notice that one might be troubled, for example, if it is found that men have better life prospects on the average than women, because that would be an indicator that perhaps equality of opportunity and equality of fair opportunity are not satisfied. To be moved by this consideration is not to value equality of condition across groups per se.

Finally, the discussion in this entry assumes that if equality is valuable or morally required, the equality that matters is equality among human persons. Equality across individual humans and individual members of other animal species has not been envisaged. But why not? If human beings are picked out as morally special, some reasonable ground must be adduced for this selection. In view of the fact that there might be intelligent beings who qualify as persons but are nonhuman (angels, intelligent extraterrestrials, and so on), perhaps we should focus on persons and consider whether equality of condition should prevail among persons and only among persons and if so, on what basis. Notice that the claim that human persons share a special equal status from which less intelligent animals are excluded still allows that these animals, though not equal in status to humans, may nonetheless be morally considerable.
5. Is Equality Desirable Per Se? Varieties of Egalitarianism

Why should it matter that people have or get the same? In previous sections of this entry some attempt has been made to clarify some principles that prize equality of condition of some sort. No doubt in some circumstances movement toward equality of some sort can be expected to increase the extent to which other values worth caring about are achieved. The question here is whether the achievement of equality of condition of any sort matters for its own sake, independently of whether it hinders or promotes the attainment of other values.

In considering this question, one should beware of conflating equality per se with distinct and independent values that in some circumstances will closely shadow it. The values that might be confounded with equality include sufficiency, priority, and desert.
5.1 Sufficiency

Suppose one compares the grim conditions of life endured by the poorest inhabitants of the earth with the garishly opulent conditions of life enjoyed by the wealthiest people. A natural reaction is that it is morally outrageous that such inequalities in life prospects exist. As George Orwell once wrote, “a fat man eating quails while children are begging for bread is a disgusting sight” (Orwell, 1938, p. 115). But one may wonder if what is troubling about the example is the gap between rich and poor or rather the deplorable condition of the poor, which might continue unabated even if the gap itself were eliminated. To put the issue another way, if it is the inequality per se that is bad, then the gap between poor and rich would seem to be no worse than a same-sized gap between the life prospects of the rich and super-rich. If the latter inequality strikes one as morally inconsequential, the question arises whether inequality is in and of itself really objectionable. Perhaps the problem is not that the poor have less than the rich, but rather that the poor do not have enough–a sufficient level of resources to provide a good life or a reasonable prospect of a good life. The suggestion then is that sufficiency not equality is what per se matters. How one’s condition compares to the situation of other people is not important in itself. What is morally important is that people have enough to bring them over the threshold of decent life prospects. (For this line of thought, see Frankfurt 1987).

The doctrine of sufficiency holds that it is morally valuable that as many as possible of all who shall ever live should enjoy conditions of life that place them above the threshold that marks the minimum required for a decent (good enough) quality of life. Sufficiency can rationalize egalitarian transfers of resources from better off to worse off persons when such transfers would increase the total number of people who ever achieve sufficiency.

A potential problem for the sufficiency doctrine is that it may not be possible nonarbitrarily to specify a line of sufficiency such that moving a person just across that line has great moral significance. If the sufficiency doctrine were asserted either as a complete theory of justice or as a principle that trumps all competitors, it would definitely be problematic. Suppose a large number of people are unavoidably below sufficiency, leading hellish lives, and that transfer of resources could vastly improve their lives while leaving them below the sufficient level. Instead we could use these same resources to boost a single person who is now just barely under sufficiency to just barely over it. Sufficiency as a trumping doctrine says that we ought to do what will increase the total number of persons who ever achieve sufficiency no matter what the cost to other moral values. This is worse than dubious. A similar difficulty emerges when one imagines cases in which many people are unavoidably over the sufficiency level, but with a resource infusion their lives will be vastly improved, and in which the same resources could instead be used to prevent a single person now just above sufficiency from falling a hair beneath this line.
5.2 Priority

There is another route to the conclusion that equality per se is not morally valuable. Consider again the scenario in which the poorest inhabitants of the earth face grim and miserable conditions of existence and the richest enjoy an enormously better quality of life. The sufficientarian’s diagnosis of this situation is that what is bad about this scenario is not the inequality, the gap between rich and poor, but the fact that the poor do not have enough. An alternative diagnosis can most easily be explained by supposing that we have a cardinal interpersonal measure of welfare or well-being. An individual’s level of well-being registers how well her life is going as it would be assessed from the standpoint of rational prudence. An individual’s level of well-being is the level of benefits or advantages for herself that her life contains. From this perspective, when one speaks of “better off” and “worse off” persons, one is speaking of persons whose lifetime level of well-being is high or low.

With this bit of background in place, the idea that transfers of resources from better off to worse off persons are sometimes morally desirable can be understood without supposing either that equality of any sort is per se desirable or that there is some level of well-being that marks the good enough level and that has a special status as specified by the sufficiency doctrine. Suppose that for any person, the lower her lifetime well-being score–the amount of well-being she gains or is now expected to gain over the course of her life–the more morally valuable it would be to secure an incremental gain of well-being for her (or to avoid a small loss). This is the root idea of prioritarianism.

The prioritarian idea is to be sharply distinguished from the idea that across some range, resources secured for a person have declining marginal utility. To illustrate, suppose one person is leading a hellish existence and another is leading a life of sheer bliss. We might think that a single unit of some generally useful resource such as water is likely to do more good, result in a greater aggregate of well-being among all persons, if the unit is provided to the person suffering in hell rather than the person enjoying heavenly bliss. This may be so. The straight utilitarian of well-being will then favor provision of the unit of water to the inhabitant of hell. Now suppose instead that a unit of some resource would provide exactly the same increase in well-being if it is provided either to the person leading the hellish or the person leading the blissful life. (Perhaps the person already in bliss is a very efficient transformer of resources into personal well-being.) The prioritarian gives priority to getting benefits to those whose well-being level is low, so will favor helping the miserable rather than the lucky person even if the well-being aggregate is thereby reduced a bit, compared to what it would have been if the resource had been channeled to the blissful person.

Prioritarianism holds that the moral value of achieving a benefit for an individual (or avoiding a loss) is greater, the greater the size of the benefit as measured by a well-being scale, and greater, the lower the person’s level of well-being over the course of her life apart from receipt of this benefit. Well-being weighted by priority as just specified is sometimes called “weighted well-being.” To this account of value the prioritarian adds the position that one ought to act, and institutions should be arranged, so as to maximize moral value as defined. (See chapter 2 of Scheffler 1982, Weirich 1983, Parfit 1997).

An attractive feature of the priority doctrine is that it will never yield the implication that there is something good, from the standpoint of egalitarian values, in bringing about equality or a clear move in the direction of equality by making better off persons worse off without bringing about any offsetting gain at all to worse off persons. Suppose there are rich peasants and poor peasants and there is nothing we can do to improve the lives of the poor peasants. We could, however, burn the grain storehouses of the rich peasants, rendering them worse off but still no worse off than the poor peasants. If equality is desirable for itself, then there is something positive to be said about the destruction of the grain storehouses in the example, even if it is also the case that there is an offsetting negative feature of the transition to the new status quo, namely that the well-being of the rich peasants precipitously declines. If equality were to be deemed a value that takes priority over all others, a trumping value, then we would be committed to asserting that the state of affairs after levelling down is all things considered morally better than the status quo ante. The prioritarian faces no such embarrassment in her responses to levelling down scenarios such as the example just described.

Another attractive feature of prioritarianism is that it promises to combine in a single determinate principle the values of well-being maximization and priority for the badly off. So elaborated, the priority doctrine would contain a solution to the problem of integrating the values of efficiency and equality broadly understood. But this advantage is just notional pending a determination of how to weight the competing values of well-being gains and priority in a single principle. As stated, the priority doctrine does not specify a determinate principle but a family of principles. At one extreme, hardly any weight is given to priority as it competes with maximizing well-being, and the prioritarian doctrine is then barely distinguishable from straight act utilitarianism with utility identified with well-being. At the other extreme, hardly any weight is given to maximizing well-being as it competes with priority, and the prioritarian doctrine is then barely distinguishable from the maximin principle with well-being as the maximand. (Maximin holds that one should choose that policy, among the alternatives, that brings about the best position for the worst off individual affected by the policy choice.)

The priority doctrine has been explicated as a version of welfarism. One can see that the prioritarian idea iself is separable from any commitment to welfarism. In general terms, the prioritarian holds that the moral value of gaining a benefit for a person is greater, the lower the benefit level of the person prior to receipt of the increment, and greater, the greater the size of the benefit. So stated, the doctrine admits of various interpretations that put different constructions on the idea of “greater benefit.” For example, if benefit is identified with the Rawlsian idea of a primary social good, and one takes prioritarianism to the limit of maximin, one then has the Rawlsian conception, that justice in most general terms is bringing about the best possible outome for the very worst off. (See Rawls 1971, chapter 2, and for a defense of maximin, J. Cohen 1989.)
5.3 Desert

Egalitarian transfers will in some circumstances be recommended by yet another principle that cares nothing for equality per se (Kagan 1999). This is the principle of desert: It is desirable that each person should gain good fortune corresponding to her virtue (deservingness). As construed here, the desert principle presupposes that individuals’ virtue is cardinally interpersonally measureable. A number can then be assigned to each person indicating that person’s level of virtue; persons assigned higher numbers have greater virtue. Suppose that for each number there is a specific amount of good fortune or well-being that an individual with that number indicating her amount of virtue deserves to have. This is the level of good fortune that corresponds to one’s virtue. This level is higher for the more virtuous, lower for the less virtuous. (One might allow that very nonvirtuous persons deserve some level of bad fortune or negative well-being.)

Suppose one adds to the desert principle the further norm that when a person has less than she deserves, it is morally more valuable to gain an increment of good fortune for that person, the greater the gap between what she has and what she deserves. Call the further norm the greater gap principle. Accepting the desert principle and the greater gap principle, one will then sometimes favor egalitarian transfers purely from considerations of desert.

Suppose that two people are equally deserving (virtuous) but that one is worse off than the other. If one has a bit of resource to distribute, and it would provide a one-unit gain in well-being for either of the two individuals if either one got it, then it is morally more valuable to get the benefit to the person who is worse off, because she is farther from enjoying what she deserves than the other. In a similar way, if resources could be transferred from the better off person to the worse off, with the result that the better off person loses a unit of well-being and the worse off person gains one unit, this transfer would result in a morally more valuable state of affairs according to the combination of the desert principle and the greater gap principle. In such cases principles of desert favor transfers from better off to worse off without in any way favoring equality of any sort for its own sake.

Of course, in other cases desert principles as described will have inegalitarian implications. If a sinner already has little by way of good fortune, but more than she deserves, and a saint has a lot, but less than she deserves, bringing about the state of affairs in which the worse off sinner has even less than she presently has and the already better off saint gets even more is recommended by desert principles. The point is simply that egalitarianism in the broad sense, a policy that favors transfers of resources from the better off to the worse off in some circumstances, will be justified by a variety of moral principles. These contingently egalitarian principles may have no tendency whatsoever to generate support for the norm that equality is per se desirable–that it is in itself bad if some are worse off than others.

To defend the position that equality is per se morally desirable one would need carefully to investigate the scenarios in which egalitarian transfers are attractive and the variety of principles that would support egalitarian transfers in those scenarios. If the norm of equality does not match our considered judgments after wide reflection, we should be content to be instrumental egalitarians if we are determined to be egalitarians at all.

* Anderson, Elizabeth, 1999, “What Is the Point of Equality?”, Ethics 109, pp. 287-337.
* Arneson, Richard J., 1989, “Equality and Equal Opportunity for Welfare,” Philosophical Studies 56, pp. 77-93, reprinted in Louis Pojman and Robert Westmoreland (eds.), Equality: Selected Readings, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997, pp. 229-241.
* Arneson, Richard J., 2000, “Welfare Should Be the Currency of Justice,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 30, pp. 477-524.
* Barry, Brian, 2001, Culture and Equality, Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.
* Buchanan, Allen, Brock, Dan W., Daniels, Norman, and Wikler, Daniel, 2000, From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, chapters 3 and 4.
* Christiano, Thomas, 1996, The Rule of the Many, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
* Cohen G. A., 1988, History, Labour, and Freedom: Themes from Marx, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Cohen, G. A., 1989, “On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice, Ethics 99, pp. 906-944.
* Cohen, G. A., 1995, Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Cohen, Joshua, 1989, “Democratic Equality”, Ethics 99, pp. 727-751.
* Cohen, Joshua, 1989 a, “Deliberative Democracy,” in Alan Hamlin and Philip Pettit (eds.), The Good Polity, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
* Daniels, Norman, 1990, “Equality of What? Welfare, Resources, or Capabilities?”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (supp. vol.), pp. 273-296.
* Dworkin, Ronald, 2000, Sovereign Virtue: Equality in Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
* Estlund, David, 2000, “Political Quality,” Social Philosophy and Policy 17, pp. 127-160.
* Fishkin, James, 1983, Justice, Equal Opportunity, and the Family, New Haven: Yale University Press.
* Fleurbaey, Marc, 1995, “Equal Opportunity or Equal Social Outcome?”, Economics and Philosophy 11, pp. 25-55.
* Frankfurt, Harry, 1987, “Equality as a Moral Ideal,” Ethics 98, pp. 21-42, reprinted in Frankfurt, Harry, 1988, The Importance of What We Care About, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Griffin, James, 1986, Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement, and Moral Importance, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Hare, R.M., 1981, Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Hurka, Thomas, 1993, Perfectionism, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Kagan, Shelly, “Equality and Desert,” in Louis P. Pojman and Owen McLeod (eds.), What Do We Deserve? A Reader on Justice and Desert, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 298-314.
* Larmore, Charles, 1987, Patterns of Moral Complexity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Larmore, Charles, 1996, The Morals of Modernity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Locke, John, 1690, Second Treatise of Government, C. B. MacPherson (ed.), Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980 edition.
* Kymlicka, Will, 1990, Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Kymlicka, Will, 1995, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Marx, Karl, 1978. “Critique of the Gotha Program,” in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader, New York: W. W. Norton, pp. 525-541. (Written in 1875.)
* McKerlie, Dennis, 1989, “Equality and Time,” Ethics 99, pp. 475-491.
* McKerlie, Dennis, 2001, “Justice Between the Young and the Old,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 30, pp. 152-177.
* Miller, Richard W., 1998, “Cosmopolitan Respect and Patriotic Concern,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 27, pp. 202-224.
* Nagel, Thomas, 1991, Equality and Partiality, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Nozick, Robert, 1974, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, New York: Basic Books.
* Nussbaum, Martha, 1990, “Aristotelian Social Democracy,” in Liberalism and the Good, R. B. Douglas, Gerald M. Mara, and Henry Richardson (eds.), New York: Routledge, 1990, pp. 203-252.
* Nussbaum, Martha, 1992, “Human Functioning and Social Justice: In Defense of Aristotelian Essentialism,” Political Theory 20, pp. 202-246.
* Nussbaum, Martha, 1999, “Woman and Cultural Universals,” in Nussbaum, Sex and Social Justice, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 29-54.
* Nussbaum, Martha, 2000, Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Orwell, George, 1938, Homage to Catalonia, reprinted edition 1952, New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World.
* Parfit, Derek, 1984, Appendix I, “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best,” in Parfit, Reasons and Persons, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 493-502.
* Parfit, Derek, 1997, “Equality and Priority,” Ratio 10, pp. 202-221.
* Rakowski, Eric, 1992, Equal Justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Rawls, John, 1971, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, rev. ed. 1999.
* Rawls, John, 1993, Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press.
* Rawls, John, 1999, Collected Papers, Samuel Freeman (ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
* Rawls, John, 2001, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, ed. by Erin Kelly, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
* Raz, Joseph, 1986, “Equality,” in Raz, The Morality of Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Roemer, John E., 1996, Theories of Distributive Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
* Roemer, John E., 1998, Equality of Opportunity, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
* Scanlon, T. M., 1997, “The Diversity of Objections to Inequality,” The Lindley Lecture, Department of Philosophy, University of Kansas, reprinted in Mattthew Clayton and Andrew Williams (eds.), The Ideal of Equality, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, and New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000, pp. 41-59.
* Schar, John, 1967, “Equality of Opportunity–and Beyond,” in Pennock, J. Roland, and Chapman, John, eds., 1967, Equality: Nomos IX, New York: Atherton Press, reprinted in Pojman, Louis P., and Westmoreland, Robert, 1997, Equality: Selected Readings, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 137-147.
* Scheffler, Samuel, 1982, The Rejection of Consequentialism, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
* Sen, Amartya, “Equality of What?”, in S. McMurrin (ed.), The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, vol. 1, 1980, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, reprinted in Sen, 1982, Choice, Welfare and Measurement, Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 353-369.
* Sen, Amartya, 1992, Inequality Reexamined, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
* Sen, Amartya, 1997, On Economic Inequality, expanded edition with annexe by Foster, James E., and Sen, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Sher, George, 1997, Beyond Neutrality: Perfectionism and Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Steiner, Hillel, 1994, An Essay on Rights, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
* Temkin, Larry S., 1993, Inequality, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
* Vallentyne, Peter, and Steiner, Hillel, 2000, The Origins of Left-Libertarianism: An Anthology of Historical Writings, Basingstoke, Hampshire, and New York: Palgrave.
* Vallentyne, Peter, and Steiner, Hillel, Left-Libertarianism and Its Critics: The Contemporary Debate, Basingstoke, Hampshire, and New York: Palgrave.
* Van Parijs, Philippe, 1995, Real Freedom for All: What (if Anything) Can Justify Capitalism?, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
* Walzer, Michael, 1983, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, New York: Basic Books.
* Weirich, Paul, 1983, “Utility Tempered with Equality,” Nous 17, pp. 423-39.
* Wolff, Jonathan, 1998, “Fairness, Respect, and the Egalitarian Ethos,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 27, pp. 97-122.
* Wood, Allen, 1981 Karl Marx, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, chapters 9 and 10.
* Young, Iris Marion, 1990, Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Other Internet Resources

* Equality and Responsibility, Boston Review, April/May 1995 issue, Vol. XX No. 2.

Related Entries

equality | equality: of opportunity | justice: distributive | luck: justice and bad luck
Copyright © 2002 by
Richard Arneson

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notas sobre Locke (inglés)

FUENTE http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/notes.html
Notes to John Locke

1. The scope of the activities engaged in by members of the Royal Society was much broader than what we recognize as modern science. The very idea of science was emerging during this period. Thus, only a minority of the early members were what we would call scientists. Similar societies were being founded in other European countries during this period. The Society still exists today and is one of the pillars of the orthodox scientific establishment in England. To be a member of it today implies that one has made a substantial contribution to experimental or theoretical science and membership thus confers the highest prestige. For more information about the Royal Society, one might consult Chapter 5 in Woolhouse (1988).

2. This controversy is of some interest for a variety of reasons. The constitution, for example, has quite liberal views concerning the formation of churches. Consider provision CIX for example. It reads: “No person whatsoever shall disturb, molest, or persecute another for his speculative opinions in religion, or his way of worship.” Was Locke responsible for this provision? On the other hand, Sir Leslie Stephan charged Locke with personal racism for inserting section CX: “Every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves, of what opinion or religion soever.” There is some evidence to suggest that Locke did play a part in formulating the sections on religion — though it is possible this may have been at the bidding of Lord Ashley. Either Lord Ashley or Sir John Colleton are much more likely candidates for the authorship of the sentence about Negro slaves. Colleton, the real originator of the Carolinas project and one of the proprietors, was a Barbados planter who owned slaves. Part of the plan for the Carolinas was that people were going to emigrate from the over-crowed Barbados taking their slaves with them. They might well worry about whether this move might endanger the power they held over their slaves. It would be natural for Colleton or Shaftesbury to propose such a clause to allay their fears. Recent work has shown that Locke emended the clause on Negro slavery. (Bernasconi 1992 316 n4.) This strongly suggests that Locke was not its original author. The change that Locke made gives slave owners the same powers over their slaves that the proprietors of the Carolinas had over the colonists. Thus the inclusion of this clause and its amendment by Locke may well say little or nothing about Locke’s personal views. On the other hand, David Armitage has shown that Locke was involved over the years in amending the Fundamental Constitutions of the Carolinas right up to the time at which he was writing the Two Treatises of Government, and while many articles of the Constitutions were removed at various times, this was not the case with the clause about negro slavery. Armitage implies that this shows not only that Locke agreed with the clause about negro slavery in the Fundamental Constitutions but that we should interpret the Second Treatise account of slavery as intended to justify the institutions and practices of Afro-American slavery.

3. Some commentators distinguish between the corpuscular and the atomic hypotheses on the grounds that corpuscles may be only relatively simple while atoms are supposed to be genuinely indivisible. (See Jolley, 1999) Thus it is possible to be committed to the existence of corpuscles but not atoms. While this distinction has its uses (especially in taking about the simplicity of simple ideas) I am convinced that in respect to physical corpuscles or atoms that Locke treats the two hypotheses as equivalent. One would expect that if the distinction were important for Locke, if he did believe in the existence of corpuscles but not atoms, he would not regularly use the terms ‘atom’ or ‘atoms’, but he does.

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influencias de John Locke (inglés)

FUENTE http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/influence.html
Supplement to John Locke
The Influence of John Locke’s Works

The sustained argument in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding for rejecting the old scholastic model of knowledge and science in favor of empirically disciplined modes of inquiry was enormously successful. Hans Aarsleff remarks that Locke ‘is the most influential philosopher of modern times.’ He notes that besides initiating the vigorous tradition known as British empiricism, Locke’s influence reached far beyond the limits of the traditional discipline of philosophy. ‘His influence in the history of thought, on the way we think about ourselves and our relation to the world we live in, to God, nature and society, has been immense’ (Aarsleff, 1994, 252) Locke may well have influenced such diverse eighteenth century figures as Swift, Johnson, Sterne, Voltaire, Priestly and Jefferson.

Beginning with the publication of the 92 page summary of the Essay in the Bibliotheque universelle et historique for January through March of 1688 along with the publication of the first edition in December 1689, the Essay was both popular and controversial on both the continent and in England for the next fifty years. Locke’s arguments against innate principles and ideas largely prevailed. This was an early and striking success of the Essay. Recall that Locke’s attack on innate ideas was part and parcel of his anti-authoritarianism and his emphasis on the importance of free and autonomous inquiry. As Aarsleff also notes, the radical nature of Locke’s attacks on epistemic, political and religious authority are difficult for us to grasp today. Bishop Stillingfleet, the most prominent of Locke’s early critics, claimed that Locke’s new way of ideas would lead to skepticism and that his account of substance undermined the doctrine of the trinity. Locke denied this, but given that we have good reason to hold that Locke was an anti-trinitarian, we have some reason to doubt that this denial is sincere. Locke’s epistemological views and his advocacy of rational religion were taken up by early eighteenth century deists such as John Toland and Anthony Collins who drew conclusions about religion that outraged the orthodox. The age of rational religion was coming to a close by the middle of the eighteenth century.

Within a few years of the publication of the 5th edition of Locke’s essay, Berkeley attacked the alliance between empiricism and the science of Newton and the Royal Society which is an important feature of Locke’s Essay. Berkeley argued that the causal or representative account of perception leads to skepticism about the existence of the external world as there is no good solution to the problem of the veil of perception and the associated distinction between primary and secondary qualities is untenable. These attacks gave rise to several misapprehensions about the doctrines of the Essay and their connection with the history of philosophy. If one accepts Berkeley’s arguments the result is the view that empiricism leads to idealism and that the atomism which Locke regarded as the most plausible hypothesis about the world must be abandoned. Locke certainly thought he had the resources to solve the problems posed by the veil of perception doctrine and his account of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities is not the same as the one that Berkeley gives. Nonetheless, Berkeley’s attacks on the Essay have produced long lasting and influential misinterpretations of the Essay. These misinterpretations led Reid, for example, to the rejection of the way of ideas (as it leads to the denial of the existence of the external world) and probably fueled Kant’s notion that the British empiricism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with its characteristic inadequacies and virtues is one of the two great streams leading inevitably towards his own transcendental idealism. If one does not accept the force of Berkeley’s arguments, then neither Reid’s conclusion or Kant’s story have much force to them.

Locke’s account of personal identity was genuinely revolutionary and a real contribution to philosophy. This, along with his agnosticism about whether the soul was material or immaterial were debated hotly through much of the eighteenth century and at least the debates about personal identity were largely recapitulated in the twentieth century. Much of this begins with the Collins/Clarke controversy of 1706-08. Locke’s account of free agency is just as interesting and important as his account of personal identity with which it is connected. Yet it seems not to have been as controversial as Locke’s account of personal identity. Gideon Yaffe’s recent book Liberty Worth the Name may well revive interest in Locke’s views on this subject as Yaffe argues that they are still of relevance to contemporary debates about free will and compatibilism.

The extant of the influence that Locke’s account of language has had over the centuries is a matter of scholarly debate. Norman Kretzmann holds that Locke’s views, while not original had a powerful influence on the Enlightenment view of the connection of words and ideas. Noam Chomsky in Cartesian Linguistics traces the important ideas in linguistics back to Descartes and the school at Port Royal rather than Locke. This is largely a matter of the importance of the innate in Chomsky’s thought. Hans Aarsleff, on the other hand, believes that Locke stands at the beginning of the developments that produced contemporary linguistics and that Chomsky’s account is more polemical than historical.

The Two Treatises of Government were published anonymously and it was only in Locke’s will that he acknowledged the authorship of this work and others such as the Letters Concerning Toleration. As a consequence the Two Treatises had very little influence on the debates over how to justify the legitimacy of replacing King James II with William and Mary. John Dunn claims that in the eighteenth century in England the work had little influence. It was supposed that since it was written by England’s greatest philosopher it must be the way things were done but few bothered to read it. Certainly conservatives such as Josiah Tucker read it and rejected its doctrines. There has been considerable scholarly debate about how much Locke’s political doctrines affected the American revolutionaries and the writing of the American declaration of independence. The original claim that Locke’s thought had considerable influence on the colonists was challenged and has more recently been reaffirmed. In France, Locke was influential through the first half of the eighteenth century and then rapidly lost influence as the French came to regard the English as conservative.

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Locke’s views were largely rejected and his influence was at its lowest ebb. He was regarded as one of the prophets of the American and French revolutions. The doctrines of natural rights and human rights were rejected in favor of utilitarianism. Locke’s philosophy was largely misinterpreted and rejected. Even the publication of Fox Bourne’s two volume biography of Locke hardly raised any new interest.

In the twentieth century with the sale of the Lovelace papers and their donation to Oxford University, interest in Locke among philosophers has considerably revived. These papers included letters, several drafts of the Essay and other works. We now know considerably more about Locke and the development of his thought than was known previously and Locke scholars have been putting Locke’s philosophy in its historical, religious, political and intellectual context. It is likely that this revival of interest will continue into the twenty first century.

Return to John Locke
Copyright © 2007 by
William Uzgalis

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Racionalismo y empirismo (en inglés)

Contiene un curso sobre estas dos corrientes filosóficas, de utilidad ( aunque está en idioma inglés)

The Great Chain of Being
Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College
Here is a brief restatement of the vision of the great chain of being. I’ve put the various claims comprising the vision into logical order to show that they form a single, large argument.

I include references to Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz in order to lead you to texts which clarify and amplify these propositions. I have indented these references out of the way to allow you read the main propositions without distraction.

The top of the chain represents perfection in the highest degree. Most believers in the chain call this God.

The chain in its entirety represents all degrees of perfection from the highest and fullest to the lowest and least; it is complete.
Spinoza, Ethics, all possibilities are actualities: 43.7 (I.16 cor.1), 56.2 (I.33 sch.2), 56.8 (I.35), 62.5 (App. to Part I), 66.9 (II.7 cor)
Leibniz, Discourse §3.

Hence the universe would not be complete if the chain did not extend all the way to the bottom or if it had gaps in it.

The universe is more perfect (in the sense that it is more complete) if all degrees of perfection are represented in it than if only the highest is represented.

This explains why a perfect God would create an imperfect world. It was not a mistake or an imperfection; on the contrary.
The most perfect (complete) universe must contain every kind of imperfect thing. Hence imperfect things are not evidence of the imperfection of creation.
Descartes, Meditations 111.8, 117.3.

The bottom of the chain represents the least possible perfection, which is nothingness (as opposed to evil).
Descartes, Meditations 110.4.
Spinoza, Ethics 37-38 (I.11.3d proof), 38.7 (I.11 sch)

Hence, every point on the chain above the very bottom has some degree of perfection.

Hence, any idea, insofar as it exists at all, has its share of truth.
Descartes, Discourse 30.6; Meditations 94.3, 116.4, 117-18, 120.3.
Spinoza, Ethics 85.8 (II.32), 86.3 (II.34); Treatise 250.8

Hence, error is not something positive; truth is. Error is the lack of truth; error is privation.
Descartes, Discourse 26.2, 29.6; Meditations 110.7, 115.7, 116.6, 120.4.
Spinoza, Ethics 63.6 (II def.4), 86.1 (II.33), 86.5 (II.35), 92.4 (II.43 sch); Treatise 246.n, 250.8, 261.6
Leibniz, Monadology § 49.

Similarly, evil is not something positive; good is. Evil is the lack of good; evil is privation.
Descartes, Meditations 114.5, 116.5.
Leibniz, Discourse §§ 4, 30.

In general, being or existence is a perfection; to be is more perfect than not to be. What has positive existence is good and was created by God; what is privation lacks being and goodness, and was not created at all.
Descartes, Meditations 97.5, 110.4, 121.5.
Spinoza, Ethics 38.3 (I.11 sch), 38.6 (I.11 sch), 63.8 (II def.6), 98.4 (II.49 sch)
Leibniz, Monadology §§ 40-41, 45.

It follows (from principle 11) that the idea of the being with all perfections is the idea of an existing being. This is the ontological argument for the existence of God.
Descartes, Discourse 27.8; Meditations 107.3, 121.5.
Spinoza, Ethics 31 (I defs 1, 3, 6), 37.2 (I.11), 46.9 (I.20)
Leibniz, Discourse § 23; Monadology §§ 40, 44.

It follows (from principle 9) that for propositions, truth is the default; and (from principle 11) that for entities, existence is the default. If a proposition’s truth is possible, we may assume that it is actually true, and if an entity’s existence is possible, we may assume that it actually exists, unless there are special reasons to think not. Proofs of truth and existence tend to follow from possibility alone; the burden of proof is on the denial of truth or existence.
Spinoza, Ethics 37.5 (I.11.2d proof), 37-38 (I.11.3d proof), 99.7 (II.49 sch).
Leibniz, Monadology § 45.

Dependence is an imperfection.
Descartes, Discourse 27.3.
Leibniz, Monadology § 50.

Hence, the things in the middle of the chain are dependent or contingent. (The nothingness at the bottom is dependent in the sense that nothingness depends on the contrast with somethingness.)

The being at the top of the chain is utterly independent or self-sufficient or absolute.
Descartes, Meditations 104.3, 106.3.
Spinoza, Ethics 31 (I defs 1, 3, 6), 44.2 (I.17), 56.5 (I.33 sch.2).
Leibniz, Monadology § 40.

If A causes B, then B depends on A. Hence (by principle 14 above) B is less perfect than A. Therefore a cause must be more perfect than its effect.
Descartes, Discourse 26.3; Meditations 96-97.
Leibniz, Monadology § 50.

Dependent beings, therefore, depend on more perfect causes than themselves, which in turn depend on more perfect causes themselves, and so on, until the series comes to an end with the most perfect, uncaused (or self-caused), independent being, which is at the top of the chain.
Descartes, Meditations 106.3.
Leibniz, Monadology §§ 36, 40, 45.

It follows that, if there are any dependent beings (for example, ourselves), then there must be an independent, hence perfect or absolute being (God). This is the cosmological argument for the existence of God.
Descartes, Discourse 26.6; Meditations 106.3.
Spinoza, Ethics 38.2 (I.11 3d proof).
Leibniz, Monadology §§ 36, 40, 44.

God, then, is either self-caused or uncaused.
Descartes, Meditations 106.2.
Spinoza, Ethics 56.7 (I.34 proof).
Leibniz, Monadology § 36.


Descartes, René. Philosophical Essays. Trans. Laurence Lafleur, Bobbs-Merrill, 1964.

Spinoza, Baruch. Ethics, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, and Selected Letters. Trans. Samuel Shirley and Seymour Feldman, Hackett, 1992. In addition to page numbers from this edition, I cite Spinoza’s propositions in the Ethics by number.

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. Discourse on Metaphysics and Other Essays. Trans. Daniel Garber and Roger Ariew, Hackett, 1991. I cite Leibniz only by section numbers, not page numbers.

teoría del Estado según John Locke

Locke’s Theory of the State
by Frederick Pollock
FUENTE http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/locke/thestat

Proceedings of the British Academy, volume 2, 1904, pp. 237-49.

Locke’s Essay on Civil Government is well known, and is
probably the most important contribution ever made to English
constitutional law by an author who was not a lawyer by
profession; certainly there is nothing to be compared to it until
we come to Bagehot in our own time. Still I do not know that it
has ever been analysed by an English lawyer with reference to its
immediate purpose and circumstances. In fact Locke’s political
doctrine holds quite a secondary place in such accounts of Locke
as are generally current in the hands of the educated public. The
Essay on Civil Government has been overshadowed by the Essay on
the Human Understanding and the Letters on Toleration. This,
together with the special occasion, may perhaps be a sufficient
excuse for the present attempt.
The first thing to bear in mind about the Essay on Civil
Government is that it is essentially an apologia for the
Convention Parliament, no less than Hobbes’s Leviathan and
Behemoth were an indictment of the Long Parliament. It is true
that in the body of the work the language employed is studiously
general. But the date of publication, 1690, would alone be enough
to remove any doubts of the intention, and moreover that
intention is clearly stated in the Preface to the two treatises
of which the Essay is the second. It may be well to cite Locke’s
own words. ‘Reader, Thou hast here the Beginning and End of a
Discourse concerning Government; what Fate has otherwise disposed
of the Papers that should have filled up the Middle, and were
more than all the rest, ’tis not worth while to tell thee. These
which remain, I hope are sufficient to establish the Throne of
our great Restorer, our present King William; to make good his
title, in the Consent of the People; which being the only one of
all lawful Governments, he has more fully and clearly, than any
Prince in Christendom; and to justify to the World the People of
England, whose love of their just and natural Rights, with their
Resolution to preserve them, saved the Nation when it was on the
very brink of Slavery and Ruin.’ The doctrine which Locke had to
confute, was, as is well known, that of absolute monarchy. the
champion whom he attacked by name and elaborately demolished in
the first of the Two Treatises of Government was, however strange
it may seem to us nowadays, not Thomas Hobbes but Sir Robert
Filmer. For us Hobbes is the recognized founder of the English
school of politics and jurisprudence; while Filmer, as the late
Prof. Croom Robertson incidentally observed in discussing Hobbes
(and I see no reason to doubt the soundness of the remark), is
saved by Locke from oblivion. In Locke’s time Sir Robert Filmer
was fashionable among royalists and Hobbes was not. Hobbes’s
uncompromising rejection of ecclesiastical claims made it, in
fact, impossible for a party bound up with Anglican prelacy to
have anything to do with him; and his justification of obedience
to any de facto government in being was hardly less distasteful
to maintainers of the divine right of kings. Express controversy
with Hobbes was therefore quite useless for Locke’s purpose.
Nevertheless Locke must have seen that, apart from the party
strife of the moment, Hobbes was the really formidable adversary.
Moreover Filmer, with all his absurdities, had one fundamental
point in common with Hobbes. Indeed he was the only publicist of
the time, so far as I know, who mentioned Hobbes with approval,
though a limited approval. ‘With no small Content,’ says Filmer,
‘I read Mr Hobs’s Book De Cive, and his Leviathan, about the
Rights of Sovereignty, which no man, that I know, hath so amply
and judiciously handled: I consent with him about the Rights of
exercising Government, but I cannot agree to his means of
acquiring it.(1*) Again: ‘We do but flatter ourselves, if we hope
ever to be governed without an Arbitrary Power. No: we mistake,
the Question is not, Whether there shall be an Arbitrary Power;
but the only point is, Who shall have that Arbitrary Power,
whether one man or many? There never was, nor ever can be any
People govern’d without a Power of making Laws, and every Power
of making Laws must be Arbitrary: For to make a Law according to
Law, is Contradictio in adjecto.'(2*) This, I need hardly say, is
pure Hobbism, the impossibility of a limited government or
‘mixarchy'(3*) is the very burden of Hobbes’s Behemoth.
We need not be surprised, therefore, either at the lack of
specific dealing with Hobbes in Locke’s Essay, or at the ample
internal evidence that Locke had in fact studied Hobbes’s
doctrine with quite as much critical attention as Filmer’s.
There is no occasion for us to trouble ourselves with Locke’s
polemic against Filmer, even so far as it runs over from the
First Treatise into the Essay.(4*) King Charles I’s imaginary
title as right heir of Adam is as grotesque to any modern lawyer
as Adam’s imaginary political dominion over the world can be to
any modern publicist. Good Sir Robert wholly failed, as Locke was
at the pains to show at large,(5*) to prove what was the rule of
succession to Adam’s original title, why it should have been
primogeniture rather than equal division, and whether it is
discoverable by the light of nature or imparted to us by any and
what revelation. It would be too curious, perhaps, to consider
whether he supposed the course of descent to be in fee simple,
tail male, or how otherwise, and whether after the Deluge Noah
took by a new grant and became a new stock of descent, or was in
as of Adam’s old estate. I have known only one man capable of
doing full justice to that theme, my lamented and most learned
friend Mr Challis. Locke does point out that the whole of
Filmer’s theory falls to the ground unless he can make out that
Shem was universal monarch.(6*) Adam’s original title, moreover,
had already been relied on to quite the opposite purpose by the
section of the Independents known as Levellers. They deduced to
all men, as sons of Adam, ‘a natural property, right, and
freedom’ which could be duly exercised only in a pure
democracy.(7*) Sir Robert Filmer, then, is out of the story; nor
is it worth while to guess what kind of reply he could or would
have attempted if he had been living; and we may proceed to
Locke’s own account of political power.
At the outset the object of inquiry is thus defined:
‘Political Power… I take to be a Right of making Laws with
Penalties of Death, and consequently all less Penalties, for the
regulating and preserving of Property, and of employing the Force
of the Community, in the Execution of such Laws, and in the
Defence of the Commonwealth from foreign Injury, and all this
only for the publick Good., The last clause, which I have
italicized, gives the keynote of the whole Essay. Princes and
rulers hold their powers, whatever may be their legal form, not
by an absolute right founded on grant, covenant, or otherwise,
but on conditions in the nature of a trust, and under liability
to forfeiture if the conditions are not fulfilled. Locke was no
lawyer; but it is allowable to believe that the peculiar
doctrines of the English Common Law as to conditional estates,
and of English Courts of Equity as to the duties of trustees,
although the latter was still in its infancy, had a distinct
influence in moulding his dialectic. For absolute originality
there was no room. Every kind of material for political
construction was ready to hand in the polemics of the Reformation
controversy, not to speak of the mediaeval writers who had become
to Locke’s contemporaries far more obscure than they are to us.
The researches of modern scholars, among whom the first place is
undoubtedly Gierke’s, have shown that all possible theoretical
combinations, except the much later system of Cabinet Government
which has democratized our monarchy, were anticipated, if not
developed, by the political writers of the sixteenth century.
Locke’s work was inevitably eclectic, and must have been so even
if it had not been conditioned by a definite practical aim. He is
so far from professing to be original that he is almost
ostentatious in following Hooker, whom he vouches at several
points in fairly copious extracts. Hooker, of course, was an
authority whom Anglicans were bound to treat with respect. The
skill and judgement of Locke’s performance were proved in the
most conclusive manner by the commanding position which the
doctrine formulated by him acquired forthwith and held for nearly
a century.
Locke’s political system, like all such systems for a long
time before and a long time after him, purports to be founded on
natural law; that is to say, on rules of conduct which the light
of reason, without aid of any special revelation, and without
assuming the existence or authority of any form of society, can
discover as generally applicable to man as a rational being.
This, I think, is a sufficient account for our purpose of what
Locke’s contemporaries understood by the law of nature, however
widely they differed in their methods of ascertaining its
principles, and in the results which they derived. Hobbes was as
ready as any man to declare that the laws of nature are immutable
and eternal.'(8*) which however did not prevent his laws of
nature from being unlike other people’s, or other people from
regarding several of Hobbes’s immutably true propositions as not
only mischievous but demonstrably false. It is important for any
fair appreciation of Locke to remember that, although the
mediaeval tradition was interrupted, the mediaeval assumption
that there is a law of nature, and that when ascertained it is
supreme, was still prevalent. This indeed had never been
contradicted, save so far as any Protestant controversialists
maintained with Dumoulin that the text of Scripture came first.
Possibly both Locke and his English opponents would have accepted
the Reformers’ position on that point; it was not one which they
had occasion to consider. But Locke does not confine the
obligations of the law of nature to mortal men. He proves a
fortiori that those obligations are binding on princes (sect.
195). They ‘are so great, and so strong, in the Case of Promises,
that Omnipotency it self can be tied by them. Grants, Promises,
and Oaths are Bonds that hold the Almighty.’ Locke may or may not
have read in an earlier writer rediscovered for modern readers by
Gierke that ‘Deus ipse ex promissione obligatur.’
Thus Locke was bound to begin with the ‘state of nature.’ No
other way of answering either Hobbes or Filmer would have given
formal satisfaction. But this state, for Locke as for the
Schoolmen, is rather a perfectly conscious abstraction than an
attempt to construct the actual origin of society. The question
is what a man’s rights would be in the absence of any positive
institutions. Nevertheless an actual state of nature exists
between independent princes and rulers, and between any subjects
of different states (or jurisdictions) who may meet in a place
where there is no civilized government (sect. 14). Under what law
(to put a modern example) are a Scot and a French Canadian in the
Khaibar Pass? Modern jurisprudence can in most cases lay hold of
some circumstance to obtain a working answer. But the topic may
not be pursued here. Hobbes is met with flat contradiction
(though not explicitly, for the reasons already given) at the
earliest possible point. All men are equal by nature in the sense
that no one man has an original claim on any other’s political
obedience; not in any other sense, and so far we are at one with
Hobbes. Every man is entitled and bound to preserve the existence
which God has given him. But (contrary to Hobbes) he is no less
bound to preserve other men, being his fellow creatures and
fellow servants, ‘when his own preservation comes not in
competition.’ This amounts to saying that the problem is not to
account for the existence of society, but to ascertain its best
or normal mode of existence. I should be the first to admit that
Locke’s way of saying it is both less frank and less sound than
Aristotle’s. As against the opponents he had to reckon with, it
was effective and ingenious, being so framed that no one who
accepted the authority of Scripture could well traverse it
without manifest risk of impiety. Hence every man’s natural power
over others is already not arbitrary, as Hobbes would have it,
but quasi-judicial. Every man has natural judicial and executive
power until such powers are regularly constituted.(9*) Hence,
again, the law of nature authors all necessary acts of
self-defence; and this, even under the rule of settled law, is
the only ground for the jurisdiction of any government over
resident aliens: a curious opinion which seems to be peculiar to
Locke, and gratuitous; for one does not see why the theory of
submission by tacit consent, on which Locke has to rely later, is
less applicable to temporary than to permanent allegiance. This
doctrine of the executive power is doubtless open, says Locke, to
the objection that it makes every man a judge in his own cause.
That is so, and the use of civil government is to remedy such
inconvenience. But absolute monarchy fails just in this respect,
for the absolute monarch so dear to Hobbes and Filmer remains in
a state of nature with respect to his own subjects, and therefore
judge in his own cause.(10*)
Further, there is a ‘plain difference between the state of
Nature, and the state of War, which however some men have
confounded’: for ‘men living together according to reason,
without a common superior on earth with authority to judge
between them’ may live in peace if they will, and such is their
will so long as they are reasonable. ‘Want of a common judge with
authority puts all men in a state of nature’; but it is only some
act of aggression, ‘force without right upon a man’s person,’
that makes a state of war. Political authority is instituted to
avoid the risk of a state of war, not to put an end to a state of
war necessarily existing. In short, in the state of nature there
may be peace, though a precarious peace. This is, of course,
intended as a mortal stroke against Hobbes’s theory, and
implicitly denies his position that the worst of governments is
always more tolerable than the state of nature. Slavery is the
result of conquest in a state of war; and freedom is not the
absence of all rule, but ‘is to have a standing rule to live by’
as opposed to being subject to an arbitrary power like a
conqueror’s. Not that even a conqueror’s power is unlimited of
right; for Locke argues in a later chapter, the connexion of
which with his main purpose is not made very clear, that a
conqueror does not acquire general dominion over the property of
the conquered, but is entitled at most to a charge upon it for an
Locke thinks it prudent to establish a natural right of
property (chap. v) antecedent to political institutions. His
solution of the problem is that appropriation is the reward of
labour. A man acquires a right in severally to that which ‘he
hath mixed his labour with.’ The preceding assumption that ‘every
man has a property in his own person’ appeared safe and easy to
Locke, but it is certainly not good law, and was expressly
contradicted by Ulpian (‘dominus membrorum suorum nemo
videtur'(11*)). The rights of every man to personal safety,
reputation, and so forth, are not marketable or transferable, and
are wholly distinct in kind from rights of property. Locke’s
attempt to make an extended conception of Occupation bear the
whole burden of Property was eminently that of an ingenious
layman. It is far from obvious, assuming Locke’s premisses, how
any one can claim the action of the law of nature for
appropriating more than is necessary to support himself and his
family. Locke sees the difficulty, but cannot be said to remove
it. This economic digression, however is now of little interest.
It is explained by Locke’s anxiety to set up as many barriers as
possible against arbitrary interference on the part of the State.
He seems even to ignore the doctrine of Eminent Domain, of which
he must have heard. We cannot suppose that he would have actually
denied the moral right of the State to take private property for
public purposes on payment of just compensation, but he may have
thought it so liable to abuse as to be best kept in the
Property cannot be made secure by natural right alone, and
for the better securing of their properties men have entered into
civil society. The will of the body politic, when formed, is
determined by the will of the majority, and of a bare majority if
there be no different express agreement. For this Locke does not
give any reason but the necessity of the case; it is certain that
much worse ones have been given. As a matter of fact, we now know
that a majority vote has not been generally recognized in archaic
societies; the difficulty of obtaining nominal unanimity was
overcome (as in special cases it still has to be) by various
methods, including varying elements of force and fiction. This
does not apply to the original agreement to form a society, which
is assumed to be unanimous, and includes only the actual parties
to it. Any one who stands out may go his ways and provide for
himself elsewhere. It would seem that the community is entitled
to enforce his departure; it is certain, on Locke’s principles,
that it has not the right to detain him against his will. Could
he agree to stay in an inferior capacity like that of a resident
alien? But it is needless to pursue the auxiliary fictions which
might be devised. A body politic, then, is formed by consent; the
essential term of the agreement is that every member gives up his
natural judicial and executive power to the community (not, as
Hobbes maintains, to an irresponsible sovereign); and this
consent is renewed, tacitly if not expressly, in the person of
every new member; for one cannot accept the benefit of a settled
government except on those terms on which it is offered. Locke is
bold to assert that ‘a child is born a subject of no country or
government,’ and may choose his allegiance for himself at the age
of discretion: this is another opinion which no modern lawyer
will accept, least of all a continental one. It is however
necessary to Locke’s theory, and is one of the many details in
which his individualism, and every scheme of individualism,
breaks down. He guards himself to a certain extent by adding that
a man does not make himself a member of an existing commonweal
merely by accepting the protection of its government. Nothing
short of ‘positive engagement and express promise and compact’
will confer citizenship.
As to the historical objection for want of proof that
governments were in fact originally founded by consent, Locke
answers, first that historical evidence of what men did before
the beginning of history is not to be expected, and secondly that
examples of states being founded by consent, such as Rome and
Venice, are not wanting. More recent and more striking examples
might have been drawn from the settlement of New England, but the
fact that the colonists remained and professed to remain subjects
of the king of England would have given too much of a handle for
controversy; not to mention that the Pilgrim Fathers, whose
deliberate constitution of themselves into a body politic is on
record, were not at all like primitive or pre-historic men. This
last consideration, however, would have had no weight among
seventeenth-century disputants. The general prevalence of
monarchy in early times is admitted as a fact, but not admitted
to be any argument against the origin of government in consent.
Why should not the consent and intention of the founders have
followed the precedent set by the existing usage of families? We
may suppose if we like that ‘a family by degrees grew into a
commonwealth, and the fatherly authority being continued on to
the elder son, every one in his turn growing up under it tacitly
submitted to it, and the easiness and equality of it not
offending any one, every one acquiesced, till time seemed to have
confirmed it and settled a right of succession by prescription’
(sect. 110). This is of some interest as showing exactly how near
Locke could come to a historical point of view.
Summing up his argument (in chaps. vii and viii; I have not
closely followed the order, as it is somewhat clumsy to a modern
reader) Locke states (chap. ix) the reasons which move men to
restrict their natural rights by mutual agreement, and unite into
commonwealths ‘for the mutual preservation of their lives,
liberties, and estates, which I call by the general name,
Property.’ In the state of nature this cannot be assured. The
defects of merely natural society are —
1. Want of established and known law. ‘For tho the Law of
Nature be plain and intelligible to all rational Creatures; yet
Men being biassed by their Interest, as well as ignorant for want
of Study of it, are not apt to allow of it as a Law binding to
them, in the application of it to their particular Cases.’
2. The want of ‘a known and indifferent Judge.’
3. Power to execute sentences; for though every man is, in
default of positive law, ‘both Judge and Executioner of the Law
of Nature,’ the ability is often not proportionate to the right.
Locke, then, admits that mankind are ‘but in an ill
condition’ when left to the state of nature; he is not really
very far from Hobbes’s well-known description of the state of
war. Some surrender of natural right is necessary; where Locke
differs with Hobbes is in holding that, as the surrender is for a
definite purpose, it is not unlimited, but conditional on that
purpose being fulfilled. Accordingly the natural powers of
self-preservation and punishment are put ‘into the hands of the
Society’ not absolutely but ‘to be so far disposed of by the
Legislative, as the good of the Society shall, and the power of
the Commonwealth or its legislative organ ‘can require’; never be
supposed to extend farther than the Common Good.’ Whatever be the
form of government, it must be administered according to known
law, and ‘directed to no other End, but the Peace, Safety, and
publick Good of the People.’ Towards the end of the Essay (chap.
xviii ‘Of Tyranny’) Locke cites an unexpected witness, no other
than King James I, in support of this fundamental position.
The legislative power, once constituted by consent, is the
supreme power in the Commonwealth, but not arbitrary (chap. xi).
We find the reason of its supremacy given very shortly in a later
passage (sec. 150): ‘what can give laws to another must needs be
superior to him.’ But the legislative authority is bound by its
trust and by the law of nature to govern by established laws, to
act in good faith for the common advantage, not to raise taxes
without the consent of the people by themselves or their
deputies, and not to transfer its power of making laws (being
only a delegated power) to any other hands.
This is the most meagre and least satisfying part of Locke’s
work. He does not seem to conceive the possibility of a
legislature having powers limited by express convention but
plenary within those limits; nor does he consider at all the
partial exercise of legislative power by bodies having a merely
delegated authority. He could not be expected to anticipate the
constitutions of self-governing colonies, but he must have known
that the University of Oxford and his own House had statutes: and
he must have desired to see the latter, at any rate, better
secured from arbitrary interference than they had been in his own
case. Yet he does make a very apt reference, in distinguishing
absolute from arbitrary power, to the example of military
discipline, where the officer may have power of life and death
over the soldier, but cannot ‘dispose of one farthing of that
soldier’s estate, or seize one jot of his goods.’ Neither does
Locke touch at all on what is now called constitutional
amendment, except negatively. He seems to assume that nothing of
the kind can be done, in any form of government, without express
provision for that purpose. What makes the omission of argument
on this point the more remarkable is that Sir Thomas Smith,
writing a century and a quarter earlier, had enounced the
unqualified sovereignty of Parliament in terms so full and
explicit that Blackstone, after the lapse of just two centuries,
could add nothing to them; while on the other hand the necessity
of unalterable ‘fundamentals’ in any scheme of government had
been much discussed under the Commonwealth, and maintained by
Cromwell himself among others. Sir Thomas Smith’s Commonwealth of
England is now, for want of a modern edition, not so well known
as it ought to be; but it was more than once reprinted in the
seventeenth century, and one can hardly suppose Locke to have
been unacquainted with it.
In fact there was in Locke’s time respectable authority for
three different theories of the supreme power in England. The
King was absolute, according to the ultra-royalists and Hobbes:
Locke demolished this contention once for all, whatever we may
think of his constructive work. Parliament, or the King in
Parliament, was absolute according to Sir Thomas Smith and the
practice of the Tudor reigns: this view was accepted by
Blackstone and has been the only tenable one among English
lawyers ever since. According to a third doctrine prevalent among
students of the Common Law down to the early part of the
eighteenth century, there are bounds set by natural justice or
‘common right’ even to what the King in Parliament can do; that
is to say, the judges ought to disregard an Act of Parliament if
it is manifestly contrary to natural justice, and perhaps if it
attempts to subvert the foundations of the constitution; for
example, if it purported to abolish the Monarchy or the House of
Commons. Locke’s opinion is in substance a less technical version
of this last; and it is worth while to observe that existing
legal authorities were in his favour. Sir Thomas Smith, whose
opinion ultimately prevailed, was not a common lawyer but a
Locke touches on the separation of legislative from executive
power, which was to become a constitutional dogma for his
eighteenth-century followers; he gives only the practical reason
that there is no need for the legislative to be always in being,
but executive power for both domestic and foreign affairs must be
constantly ready for action. The foreign department of government
is distinguished by the not very happy epithet of ‘federative,’
which was not adopted, so far as I know, by any one.
We have now seen the whole of Locke’s principles of polity.
The last seven chapters of the Essay are a justification in
detail, but by way of elaborate allusion, of their application to
English affairs in the Whig theory of the Constitution, and in
particular of the Revolution of 1688. Power being entrusted to
rulers only on condition, that condition is enforceable at need,
whatever be the legal forms of government: ‘there remains still
in the People a supreme power to remove or alter the Legislative,
when they find the Legislative act contrary to the Trust reposed
in them.’ In this sense the Community is supreme, ‘but not as
considered under any form of government, because the power of the
people can never take place till the government be dissolved.’ In
other words, the ultimate reserved power is extra-legal and
superior to the positive forms of the Constitution. Blackstone,
whose criticism of Locke is in the main intelligent and fair,
does not do him complete justice on this point. In a
constitutional Monarchy the ‘single Person’ at the head of the
Executive may ‘in a very tolerable sense’ be called supreme; and
he is entitled to personal allegiance not, as supreme legislator,
but as supreme executor of the law, made by a joint power of him
with others.’ The ‘power of assembling and dismissing the
Legislative’ may be vested in the Executive by the Constitution,
but, like all governmental powers, it is held in trust for the
public, and abuse of it may justify the people in recourse to
their ultimate rights. On the other hand, Locke suggests that the
representation of the people in the Legislative may perhaps be
amended at the discretion of the Executive, provided that such
action is taken in good faith. Parliamentary reform by Order in
Council was not so obviously remote from practical politics two
centuries ago as it, is now; but what English princes down to
Elizabeth had done in the way of creating new boroughs was not of
encouraging example; and I do not know that Locke’s suggestion
was taken seriously by any one. The failure of Temple’s plan to
establish an efficient and independent Privy Council had in truth
made it impossible beforehand. It is an important question, but a
question of modern politics and far outside Locke’s field of
view, whether the latent capacities of the Privy Council may not
yet be developed for the purposes of co-ordinating the resources
of the Empire and giving the self-governing colonies an effective
share — all the more effective for not being too rigidly defined
— in the handling of affairs of common interest.
Prerogative is identified by Locke with executive discretion,
including some (he avoids saying how much) extraordinary
discretion in emergencies; tempered, like legislative power, by
the possibility of forfeiture. Selden’s way with the supposed
mysteries of prerogative(12*) was more straightforward and
profitable; but Locke wanted to conciliate moderate royalists.
It is obvious that Locke’s position as to the reserved power
of dissolving government is not formally unassailable. A Hobbist
would say that a political power ‘not as considered under any
form of government’ is a contradiction in terms, and is not only
extra-legal but anarchical. Dissolve existing government, under
whatever pretence, and you are remitted to the state of war which
we set out to avoid at all costs. Locke’s reply is indicated
later (sections 224, 225). Its effect is that neither Hobbes’s
nor any other dialectic will make men tolerate an intolerably bad
government. In extremity they will act on the belief that
institutions perverted to ends other than the public good ‘are so
far from being better, that they are much worse, than the state
of Nature, or pure Anarchy.’ To this no further answer seems
possible. Nowadays we should all agree with Locke as against
Hobbes that government is the instrument and not the creator of
society. We should also have something to say of the force of
custom as a fly-wheel in the social machine, steadying and
maintaining the common course of affairs notwithstanding
technical or even substantial abeyance of legality. But of this
Hobbes takes no account at all, and Locke only just touches upon
it (‘People are not so easily got out of their old Forms, as some
are apt to suggest,’ 223).
The final chapter ‘Of the Dissolution of Government’
undertakes to show, but still under a transparent disguise of
verbal generality, that the conduct of James II was in fact such
a breach of ‘the fundamental Appointment of the Society’ as
justified the people in exercising their ultimate right of
self-preservation. It does not seem useful to follow Locke
through the details of his propositions, as nothing short of a
minute historical commentary would illustrate them to any
material extent.
The subsequent influence of Locke’s Essay may be traced, as
the President of Corpus has hinted, not only throughout the
formal political philosophy of the eighteenth century, but in the
doctrine received among English constitutional lawyers, and in
the principles enounced by the promoters of American independence
and the conductors of the French Revolution in its early stages.
Blackstone substantially followed Locke, though he borrowed some
ornamental phrases, not to be taken too seriously, from
continental writers. He was prudent enough, indeed, to repudiate
the assumption of mankind having actually lived in a state of
nature, and proceeded to form society by a ‘convention of
individuals’;(13*) and, writing as a lawyer, he was naturally
more anxious than Locke to vindicate the Revolution settlement as
not only justifiable but legal. It is none the less true that
Bentham, when he sounded the note of destructive criticism in his
‘Fragment on Government,’ was really attacking Locke’s theory of
the State through Blackstone. Again, Blackstone’s Commentaries
were a vehicle of Locke’s doctrine (though not the only one) to a
numerous and public-spirited audience in the American colonies;
and that doctrine was at the foundation of the several Bills of
Rights of the American States, among which Virginia gave the
first example, and of the Declaration of Independence itself.
More than this, it has been shown by modern American scholars
that these instruments became well known in France, and served as
precedents for the Declaration of the Rights of Man.(14*) On the
whole it seems that Locke had as much to do as Rousseau with the
Principles of 1789, or more. The fatal domination of Rousseau’s
ideas belongs to a later stage. It would be idle to consider what
Locke himself would have thought of his latest spiritual


1. Preface to Observations Concerning the Original of Government

2. Preface to The Anarchy of a Limited or Mixed Monarchy (1679).

3. This word was restored by Dr Tonnies from Hobbes’s MS.

4. Chap. vi, of ‘Paternal Power’.

5. First treatise, chap. xi, ‘Who Heir?’ And see the Essay, ad.

6. First treatise, sections 139-142; see too sections 32-39.

7. Scherger, The Evolution of Modern Liberty (New York and
London, 1904)), p. 130.

8. Leviathan, chap. xv.

9. There is a strange verbal parallel in that strangest of
mediaeval vagaries the Mirror of Justice, the work, as I
conjecture, of some eccentric foreign clerk settled in England,
whose authorship and purpose are still mysterious. ‘Ordinary
jurisdiction has every one who is not deprived of it by sin(!),
for every one may judge his neighbour according to the holy rules
of right.’ Book IV, chap. ii.

10. This argument is developed in chap. vii.

11. D. 9. 2. ad 1. Aquil. 13, pr.

12. Table Talk, s.v.

13. Comm. i. 47; as to the ultimate remedy of dissolving
government, ib. 162; Blackstone seems to have thought
‘theoretical writers’ a term peculiarly apt to include Locke; as
to the Convention of 1688, ib. 152.

14. See Parts iii and iv of Scherger, The Evolution of Modern

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John Locke un resumen de sus tesis filosóficas (inglés)

FUENTE http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/99_00/Empiricism/Readings/Encyc_Phil/Locke.html

LOCKE, JOHN (1632-1704), English empiricist and moral and political philosopher. He was born in Wrington, Somerset. Locke’s father, an attorney and for a time a clerk to the justices of the peace in Somerset, fought on the parliamentary side in the first rebellion against Charles I. Locke was reared in a liberal Puritan family and early learned the virtues of temperance, simplicity, and aversion to display. Though his father was severe and remote from him in early youth, as Locke matured they became close friends.

In 1646 Locke entered Westminster School, where he studied the classics, Hebrew, and Arabic. Little time was given at Westminster to science and other studies, and its harsh discipline, rote learning, and excessive emphasis on grammar and languages were later condemned by Locke.

In 1652 Locke was elected to a studentship at Christ’s Church, Oxford. He received his B.A. in 1656 and remained in residence for the master’s degree. He was not happy with the study of Scholastic philosophy and man-aged to inform himself of many new areas of thought. As a master, Locke lectured in Latin and Greek and in 1664 was appointed censor of moral philosophy.

His father’s death in 1661 left Locke with a small inher-itance and some independence. During these years he became acquainted with many men who were to have a profound influence upon his life. From Robert Boyle Locke learned about the new sciences and the corpuscular theory, as well as the experimental and empirical methods. Confronted with the choice of taking holy orders, continu-ing as a don, or entering another faculty, Locke chose medicine. Though well trained, he never practiced medi-cine, nor was he permitted to take the medical degree, which would have permitted him to teach the profession, until 1674, although in 1667 he began to collaborate with the great physician Thomas Sydenham, who deeply influenced him.

In 1665 Locke was sent on a diplomatic mission accom-panying Sir Walter Vane to the elector of Brandenburg at Cleves. He subsequently rejected a secretaryship under the earl of Sandwich, ambassador to Spain, and returned to Oxford. It was at this time that his interests began to turn seriously to philosophy. Descartes was the first philoso-pher whom Locke enjoyed reading and the first to show him the possibility of viable alternatives to the Schoolmen.

Locke had met Lord Ashley, earl of Shaftesbury, in 1662 at Oxford. They found much pleasure in each other’s com-pany, and the astute Shaftesbury quickly recognized Locke’s talents. In 1667 he invited Locke to live with him in London as his personal physician. Later Locke served him well in many other capacities. Under Shaftesbury Locke found himself in the center of the political and practical affairs of the day. He assisted Shaftesbury in the framing of a constitution for the colony of Carolina. For a time he was secretary for the presentation of benefices and then secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations. Locke was always at home in the world of practical affairs, and many of his philosophical attitudes reflect this interest. At the same time he became a fellow in the Royal Society, where he continued to be in touch with learning.

Locke, never robust in health, in 1675 went on a pro-longed visit to France, where he made many friends and came into contact with the foremost minds of his day. His studies and criticisms of Descartes were deepened under the influence of various Gassendists.

In 1679 Locke returned to an England torn by intense political conflicts. Shaftesbury, who had become the leader of the parliamentary opposition to the Stuarts, alternated between political power and impotence. The close asso-ciation with Shaftesbury brought Locke under suspicion; he was kept under surveillance. Shaftesbury was tried for treason in 1681, but acquitted. He subsequently fled Eng-land for Holland, where he died in 1683. Locke, at Oxford, uncertain of his position and fearing persecution, also fled England, arriving in Holland in September 1683. The king had demanded that Locke be deprived of his studentship at Oxford, and news of this demand caused Locke to pro-long his stay. After the death of Charles II and the ascen-sion of James II to the throne, the duke of Monmouth attempted a rebellion, which failed. Locke was denounced as a traitor, and the crown demanded of the Dutch that he be returned to England. No great effort was made to comply with the demand, and Locke remained in Holland.

During his stay in Holland, Locke again acquired a wide circle of distinguished friends and wrote extensively. He contributed an article as well as reviews to the Biblio-theque universelle of Jean Leclerc; these were his first pub-lished works. He wrote in Latin the Epistola de Toleran-tia, which was published anonymously in 1689 and translated as the First Letter Concerning Toleration. He also worked assiduously on the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which he had been writing off and on since 1671. In 1688 the Bibliotheque universelle published an abstract of the Essay.

These activities did not prevent him from being deeply engaged in politics. The plot to set William of Orange on the throne of England was well advanced in 1687, and Locke was, at the very least, advising William in some capacity. The revolution was accomplished in the fall of 1688, and in February 1689 Locke returned to England, escorting the princess of Orange, who later became Queen Mary.

In 1689 and 1690 Locke’s two most important works, the Essay Concerning Human Understanding and the Two Treatises of Government, were published. From 1689 to 1691 Locke shuttled between London and Oates, the home of Sir Francis and Lady Masham, the daughter of Ralph Cudworth. He had declined an ambassadorial post only to accept a position as commissioner on the Board of Trade and Plantations. Apparently his practical wisdom was invaluable, for when he wished in 1697 to resign because of ill health, he was not permitted to do so. He remained until 1700, serving when he could, although his health was extremely poor.

In 1691 Locke made Oates his permanent residence at the invitation of Lady Masham. It was, for the aging Locke, a place of refuge and joy; there he received visits from Newton, Samuel Clarke, and others. These were produc-tive years for Locke. Some Thoughts Concerning Educa-tion appeared in 1693. The second edition of the Essay was published in 1694. In the following year the Reasona-bleness of Christianity was published anonymously. He answered criticism of it in A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity (London, 1695) and in a second Vindication in 1697. From 1697 to 1699 Locke engaged in an epistolary controversy with Edward Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester.

However, Locke’s health steadily failed him. After 1700, when the fourth edition of the Essay appeared, he re-mained almost constantly at Oates. He was engaged in editing the Two Treatises of Government, for no edition which pleased him had yet appeared. In his last years he wrote extensive commentaries on the epistles of St. Paul, which were published posthumously. On October 28, 1704, while Lady Masham was reading the Psalms to him, Locke died. Lady Masham wrote of him, “His death was like his life, truly pious, yet natural, easy and unaffected.”

Character. The Lovelace Collection of Locke’s personal papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, shows that Locke’s character and personality were more complex than had been suspected. The great affection and respect which so many men and women had for him are testimony to his charm and wisdom. That he was modest, prudent, pious, witty, and eminently practical was long known. But he was also extremely secretive and apparently given to excessive suspicion and fears. When his lifelong friend, James Tyrrell, voiced his suspicion that Locke had written the Two Treatises, Locke was evasive and would not admit the fact. When he suspected that Tyrrell was spreading the report that Locke was the author, Locke angrily demanded an explanation. At the same time, Locke showed great affection for many friends and a real fondness for children. In maturity he could not abide religious intolerance or suffer tyranny. He was passionately devoted to truth and strove constantly to state the truth as he saw it, but always with a caution that distrusted all dialectic, even his own, when it appeared to go beyond common sense.

Influences on Locke. Locke’s philosophy is grounded in medieval thought, though he, like Descartes, turned away from it as far as possible. The Cambridge Platonists, nota-bly Ralph Cudworth and Benjamin Whichcote, influenced him greatly with respect to religious tolerance, empirical inquiry, and the theory of knowledge. Locke was indebted to Richard Hooker in his political thought. Hobbes proba-bly influenced him somewhat, though Locke was con-cerned not to be classed as a Hobbist. The two most im-portant philosophical influences upon him were Descartes and Pierre Gassendi. From Descartes he learned much that is incorporated in the Essay, and in Gassendi and the Gassendists he found support to challenge the doctrine of innate ideas and the radical rationalistic realism of Des-cartes. Gassendi helped to convince Locke both that knowledge begins in sensation and that intellect, or rea-son, is essential to the attainment of truth and knowledge.


Locke’s position in the history of Western thought rests upon The Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treatises of Government. He spent long years work-ing out the thought of each, and he carefully and lovingly revised and corrected them for subsequent editions. Locke wrote two drafts of his Essay in 1671, and in 1685 he wrote a third. The first edition, though dated 1690, appeared in late 1689. During the years between 1671 and 1689 Locke revised and reorganized many of his original concepts. In response to criticisms of the first edition of the Essay, he introduced a number of changes in subsequent editions. This long period of gestation and Locke’s subsequent modifications of his initial public statement disclose pri-marily the refinement and clarification of his philosophy by way of certain important additions, but never by a radical or fundamental departure from his basic position.

From the first appearance of the Essay Locke was criti-cized for being inconsistent in his theory of knowledge, vague in the presentation and development of many of his ideas, and wanting in thoroughness in developing other ideas. But these criticisms have in no way dimin-ished either the importance or the influence of the Essay on subsequent thinkers. By no means the first of the British empiricists, Locke nonetheless gave empiricism its firmest roots in British soil, where it still proudly flourishes. It must be remembered that Locke was also a rationalist, though one of quite different orientation from such Conti-nental thinkers as Descartes, Spinoza, and Malebranche. In Locke many strands of traditional thought are rewoven into a new fabric. Subsequent thinkers, notably Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, perhaps fashioned more coherent and consistent systems, but it is doubtful whether they were more adequate to what Locke might have called the plain facts. Locke’s tendency toward inconsistency can be seen in his definition of knowledge as “the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repug-nancy, of any of our ideas” (Essay, IV.i.2). This is plainly incompatible with his later contention that we have intui-tive knowledge of our own existence, demonstrative knowledge of God’s existence, and sensitive knowledge of the existence of particular things. Nonetheless, Locke would not abandon his position for the sake of consistency alone. He was persuaded that common sense and the facts justified his conviction and that whatever faults there were in his position lay in the difficulty of stating a coherent theory of knowledge, not in the reality of things. If this made him an easy prey to a skillful dialectician, like Berkeley, it also left him closer to the common conviction of most of us when we think about anything other than epistemology. It is this viewpoint, almost unique in phi-losophy, that accounts for the abiding interest in Locke’s thought and the great extent of his influence despite the shortcomings of his work.

Purpose of the “Essay.” In the “Epistle to the Reader” Locke related that some friends meeting in his chamber became perplexed about certain difficulties that arose in their discourse about a subject (left unnamed). He pro-posed that before they could inquire further, “it was nec-essary to examine our own abilities and see what objects our understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with.” This discussion in 1670 or 1671 first started Locke on the inquiries that were to continue intermittently for twenty years. What Locke first set down for the next meeting is not known, unless it was Draft A (1671) of the Essay. That the initial suggestion became the abiding purpose of the Essay is clear from Locke’s assertion that his purpose was “to inquire into the original, certainty, and extent of hu-man knowledge, together with the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion, and assent” (I.i.2). At the same time he disavowed any intention to examine “the physical consid-eration of the mind, . . . wherein its essence consists, or by what motions of our spirits or alterations of our bodies we come to have any sensation by our organs or any ideas in our understandings, and whether those ideas do in their formation any or all of them depend on matter or no” (I.i.2).

Locke did not, in fact, offer any detailed or explicit ac-counts of these matters. He would have considered that a subject for natural philosophy. Nonetheless, he did, as indeed he had to, deal with the physical considerations of the mind, as well as all the other matters mentioned.

From the outset Locke was persuaded that our under-standing and knowledge fall far short of all that exists; yet he was equally certain that men have a capacity for knowledge sufficient for their purposes and matters enough to inquire into. These convictions, pragmatic and utilitarian, set Locke apart from most of the other major philosophers of the seventeenth century, who, impressed by the new developments in mathematics and the new physical sciences, boldly plunged ahead with a rationalis-tic realism in the belief that their new methods would enable them in large measure to grasp reality. Locke saw that the very advances made in the new sciences put real-ity farther from the reach of the human mind. This did not make Locke a nominalist or an idealist in any modern sense; rather, he persistently affirmed the real objective existence of things or substances. What he denied was that the human understanding could know with certainty the real essences of substances. If “ideas” stand between reality and the understanding, it is to link them, even if only under the form of appearances. It is not to obliterate any connection between them or to justify a negation of substance — God, mind, or matter.

Ideas. The key term in Locke’s Essay is “idea,” which he defined as “. . . whatsoever is the object of the under-standing when a man thinks, . . . whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking” (I.i.8). Any object of awareness or of consciousness must be an idea. But then how can we have any knowledge of anything other than ideas and their relationships? It is true that Locke spoke of ideas as the “materials of knowledge.” Yet knowledge itself, when possessed and made the object of the mind, must be an idea. For example, to perceive that A is equal to B is to perceive the agreement between A and B. This agreement as perceived must be an idea, or it cannot be an object of the mind when it thinks. Despite this difficulty Locke clung tenaciously to his term “idea” in his disputes with Stillingfleet. He actually intended something other than he stated, namely, that knowledge is an operation, an activity of the mind, not initially one of its objects. It would have served his purpose better had he spoken of “knowing” rather than of “knowledge,” even though this would not have entirely removed the difficulty, since to set the mind at a distance where we may look at it, in order to know what knowledge is, is still to have an idea.

Locke, however, went beyond ideas to assume the real existence of things, substances, actions, processes, and operations. Ideas, except when they are the free constructs of the mind itself, signify and represent, however imper-fectly, real existences and events. So deep was Locke’s conviction on this point that no argument could shake him, although he constantly tried to remove the difficulties implicit in his definitions of “ideas” and “knowledge.” This conviction is evident in the first two books of the Essay, in which Locke inquired into the origin of our ideas.

No innate ideas. It was Locke’s central thesis, devel-oped extensively in Book II of the Essay, that we get all our ideas from experience. The whole of the first book is given to an overlong criticism, at times not germane to the subject, of the doctrine that we have innate ideas and innate knowledge.

Locke contended that there are no innate principles stamped upon the mind of man and brought into the world by the soul. In the first place, the argument that people have generally agreed that there are innate ideas, even if true, would not demonstrate the innateness of ideas. Moreover, there are no principles to which all give assent, since principles such as “Whatever is, is” and “It is im-possible for the same thing to be and not to be” are not known to children, idiots, and a great part of mankind, who never heard or thought of them. Locke here assumed that innateness was equivalent to conscious perceiving and argued that to be in the mind is to be perceived or to be readily recalled to perception. Locke allowed that there is a capacity in us to know several truths but contended that this lent no support to the argument that they are innate.

To argue that all men know and assent to certain truths when they come to the use of reason proves nothing, since they will also come to know many truths that are not in-nate. It would appear, then, that all truth is either innate or adventitious. Again, why should the use of reason be necessary to discover truths already innately in the mind? Locke allowed that the knowledge of some truths is in the mind very early, but observation shows such truths are about particular ideas furnished by the senses; for exam-ple, a child knows the difference between the ideas of sweet and bitter before it can speak and before it knows abstract ideas. Even assent at first hearing is no proof of innateness, for many truths not innate will be assented to as soon as understood.

On the contrary, the senses first furnish us with particu-lar ideas, which the mind by degrees becomes familiar with, remembers, and names. The mind subsequently abstracts from these particular ideas and gives names to general ideas. Thus, general ideas, general words, and the use of reason grow together, and assent to the truth of propositions depends on having clear and distinct ideas of the meaning of terms. Locke held it to be evident that particular propositions are known before the more univer-sal and with as much certainty.

We have natural faculties or capacities to think and to reason. This is not, however, the same thing as having innate ideas, for if anyone means by innate ideas nothing but this natural capacity, he uses terms, according to Locke, in a manner plainly contrary to common usage.

In a similar fashion, Locke argued that we have no in-nate moral or practical principles, for there is no universal agreement about such principles; great varieties of human vice have been at one time or place considered virtues. We all have a desire for happiness and an aversion to misery, but these inclinations give us no knowledge or truth. Locke was persuaded that there are eternal principles of morality, which men may come to know through the use of reason about experience. This, however, is far from proving them innate.

In the third chapter of Book I Locke argued that no prin-ciples can be innate unless the ideas contained in them are innate, that is, unless men can be conscious of them. Im-possibility and identity are hardly innate, yet without them we cannot understand the supposedly innate principle of identity, that it is impossible for the same thing both to be and not be. Similarly, the proposition that God is to be wor-shipped cannot be innate, for the notion of God is so diverse that men have great difficulty agreeing on it, while some men have no conception of God whatsoever.

Locke’s target. Who was Locke criticizing in his long and repetitious attack on the doctrine of innate ideas? Was the position he denounced held by anyone in the form in which he presented the theory? Why did he examine the question at such length?

Since the Essay was first published tradition has held that Locke’s target was Descartes and the Cartesians. Cer-tainly Leibniz thought so, as did others after him. In the late nineteenth century, critics pointed to Locke’s own rationalism and noted that his recognition of men’s natural faculties and innate powers to think and reason is not far from the position of Descartes, who wrote, “Innate ideas proceed from the capacity of thought itself,” and “I never wrote or concluded that the mind required innate ideas which were in some sort different from its faculty of think-ing.” Various other possible objects of Locke’s attacks were suggested, the Cambridge Platonists, certain groups in the universities, and various clergymen. Recently R. I. Aaron has argued persuasively that the older tradition, that Descartes, the Cartesians, and certain English thinkers were the targets of Locke’s attack, is the correct one and that Locke was not simply striking at a straw man of his own making.

Reasons for attacking innate ideas. Locke suggested that the doctrine of innate ideas lends itself to a certain author-itarianism and encourages laziness of thought, so that the foundations of knowledge are not likely to be examined. The expression “innate ideas” is an unfortunate one and admittedly extremely vague. It carries with it the sugges-tion that certain ideas and knowledge are, in Locke’s sense, imprinted on the mind and are in no way dependent on experience. Certainly there are passages in Descartes which strongly suggest that certain ideas are innately in the mind, and more than a few thinkers took this to be Descartes’s meaning. Furthermore, Locke wished to pre-pare the ground for his own thesis that all ideas and all knowledge are acquired. If he overemphasized the crude sense of the theory of innate ideas, he also showed that even the refined doctrine is unnecessary in accounting for knowledge.

There is another point that Locke discussed later in the Essay. Descartes asserted that the essence of the mind is to think. To Locke this meant that the mind could not both be and not think. He argued that the mind does not think always and that its real essence cannot be thinking. If the mind thinks always, either some ideas must be innate or the mind comes into being only after it has been furnished with ideas by experience. Neither alternative was accepta-ble to Locke.

Source of ideas. Locke, in his positive thesis in Book II, valiantly and sometimes awkwardly endeavored to show that every idea we have is ultimately derived from experi-ence, either from sensation or reflection. Locke began by asserting that a man is conscious of two things, the fact “that he thinks” and “the ideas” in the mind about which he thinks. Locke’s initial concern was with the question of how a man comes by his ideas; and he made an assump-tion in terms of several similes. “Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be fur-nished? . . . Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge?” (II.i.2). Locke replied to his own questions that we get all our ideas from experience, the two fountainheads of which are sensation and reflection. Our senses are affected by external objects (bodies) and afford us ideas, such as yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, and sweet. Perceiving the operations of our own minds when we reflect, we are furnished with ideas of percep-tion, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, and willing.

The ideas that are furnished by experience are the ma-terials of reason and knowledge. These materials are either the immediate objects of sense, such as color, or the unex-amined but direct awareness of such acts as doubting or knowing. Locke’s meaning becomes explicitly clear in his account of solidity. He held that we get the idea of solidity by touch. “That which … hinders the approach of two bodies, when they are moving one towards another, I call solidity” (II.iv.1). He sharply distinguished this sense from the purely mathematical use of the term. Impenetrability is an acceptable alternative name for solidity. It is clearly distinct from space and hardness. After an extensive dis-cussion Locke stated, “If anyone asks me what this solidity is, I send him to his senses to inform him. Let him put a flint or a football between his hands and then endeavour to join them, and he will know” (II.iv.6). All philosophical and scientific discourse about solidity, however complex and sophisticated it may be, must ultimately refer back to that from which it began, namely the experience or sensa-tion we have when we put something such as a flint or a football between our hands. Similarly, we cannot by dis-course give a blind man the idea of color or make known what pain is to one who never felt it. All knowledge about the physics of light and color or sound refers back to what we perceive when we see and hear. It is in this sense, then, that we get all our ideas from sensation and reflection. Locke nowhere, however, suggested that we can or should stop there. Once the mind is furnished with ideas, it may perform various operations with them.

Ideas and the real world. Throughout the first book of the Essay Locke assumed the real existence of an external physical world and the substantial unity of a man in body and mind. He undoubtedly accepted the thesis that the external physical world is corpuscular and acts by bodies in motion that possess only those qualities which Locke called primary. Locke spoke of secondary qualities as powers in bodies to produce in our minds ideas that are signs of these powers but that in no way resemble the powers which produce them. Often he suggested that if we had the means of observing the minute motions of the particles making up gross bodies, we might have a clearer notion of what we mean when we call secondary qualities powers. Locke’s position here is physical realism. It is not simply a manner of speaking. The ideas we have do represent real things outside of us and do constitute the links by which we know something of the external physical world.

Identity. Among the bodies that exist are those of plants, animals, and men. Existence itself constitutes the principle of individuation. Identity is not applied in the same way to a mass of matter and a living body. The identity of an oak lies in the organization of its parts, which partake of one common life. So it is with animals. Again, “the identity of the same man consists: viz, in nothing but a participation of the same continued life, by constantly fleeting particles of matter, in succession vitally united to the same organized body” (II.xxvii.6).

Origin of sensation. With these controlling hypotheses in the Essay in view, we may return to Locke’s invitation to consider the mind as a blank sheet of paper without any ideas. Is a mind without ideas anything but a bare capacity to receive ideas? If we ask what a man is without ideas, we can say he is an organized body existing in a world of other bodies and interacting with them. Experience is a matter of contact of the organized human body with other bodies before it is a matter of sensation or perception. Not every body impinging on our body gives rise to sensation; if it does not, we take no notice of it. However, if some external bodies strike our senses and produce the appropriate mo-tions therein, then our senses convey into the mind several distinct perceptions. How this takes place Locke avoided considering, but that it takes place he was certain; a man, he asserted, first begins to think “when he first has any sensation” (II.i.23).

Simple and complex ideas. Locke proceeded to distin-guish between simple and complex ideas. A simple idea is “nothing but one uniform appearance or conception in the mind, and is not distinguishable into different ideas” (II.ii.1). A color seen, a sound heard, warmth felt, an odor smelled, are all simple ideas of sense. Once it is furnished with a number of simple ideas, the mind has the power to repeat, compare, and unite them into an almost infinite variety of combinations; but it is utterly incapable of in-venting or framing a new simple idea. Thus, with respect to simple ideas the mind is mostly passive; they are simply given in experience. The ideas are given not in isolation from each other but in combinations, as when we simulta-neously feel the warmth and softness of wax or the cold-ness and hardness of ice; nevertheless, simple ideas are distinct from each other in that the mind may mark off each from the other, however united the qualities may be in the things that cause the simple ideas in the mind. Moreover, only those qualities in things that produce ideas in us can ever be imagined at all. Thus, our knowledge of existence is limited by the ideas furnished by experience. Had we one sense less or more than we now do, our experience and knowledge would be respectively decreased or increased.

We have certain ideas, such as color or odor, from one sense only; others, like figure and number, from more than one sense. Reflection alone provides us with experience of thinking and willing. Other ideas, such as pleasure, pain, power, existence, and unity, we have from both sensation and reflection.

Primary and secondary qualities. Locke made a second basic distinction-between primary and secondary quali-ties. In doing so he clearly went beyond ideas. He wrote, “Whatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or is the immedi-ate object of perception, thought, or understanding, that I call idea; and the power to produce any idea in our mind, I call quality of the subject wherein that power is” (II.viii.8). Primary qualities, he argued, are utterly inseparable from body. They are known to be primary because sense con-stantly finds them there if body can be perceived at all, and the mind by critical reflection finds them inseparable from every particle of matter. Solidity, extension, figure, and mobility are all primary qualities. Our ideas of these qualities resemble the qualities themselves, and these qual-ities really exist in body, whether or not they are per-ceived. Berkeley was to show that to speak of resemblance supposes that a comparison, an observation, can be made. Locke was aware of the difficulty, as is shown in his Exam-ination of Malebranche. Apparently he believed it was the only explanation plausible in spite of its difficulties.

Secondary qualities, in Locke’s terms, were nothing but powers to produce various sensations. Bodies do so by the action of their bulk, figure, and texture, and by the motion of their insensible parts on our senses. Somehow they produce in us such ideas as color, odor, sound, warmth, and smell. These ideas in no way resemble the qualities of bodies themselves. They are but signs of events in real bodies. Locke also frequently called these ideas secondary qualities. He would have been clearer had he called them sensory ideas of secondary qualities, preserving the dis-tinction between qualities as attributes of a subject and ideas as objects in the mind. A third class of qualities (sometimes called tertiary) is the power of a body to pro-duce a change in another body, for example, the power of the sun to melt wax.

Nowhere is Locke’s physical realism more evident than in his distinction between primary and secondary quali-ties. Whatever epistemological difficulties the distinction might entail, Locke was persuaded that the new physics required it. Indeed, the distinction was made by Boyle, Descartes, Galileo, and others before him and was thor-oughly familiar in his day. Admittedly there is a problem in the assertion that a certain motion in body produces in us the idea of a particular color. Nevertheless, Locke was persuaded that it was so. In such difficult cases Locke fell back upon the omnipotence and wisdom of God and the fact that our knowledge is suited to our purpose.

Ideas of reflection. Locke observed that perception is the first faculty of the mind and without it we know noth-ing else. Hence, the idea of perception is the first and simplest idea we have from reflection. What perception is, is best discovered by observing what we do when we see, hear, or think. Locke added that judgment may alter the interpretation we make of the ideas we receive from sen-sation. Thus, if a man born blind gains his sight, he must learn to distinguish between a sphere and a cube visually, though he can do so readily by touch. By habit the ideas of sensation are gradually integrated into the unified experi-ence of complex ideas, and by judgment we come to ex-pect things that look a certain way to also feel or smell a certain way. It is worth noting that Locke was persuaded that animals have perception and are not, as Descartes held, mere automatons.

Memory and contemplation. The second faculty of the mind that Locke held indispensable to knowledge is the retention manifested in both contemplation and memory. Contemplation consists in holding an idea before the mind for some time. Memory, however, gave Locke some difficulties. He asserted that “our ideas being nothing but actual perceptions in the mind-this laying up of our ideas in the repository of the memory signifies no more but this: that the mind has a power in many cases to revive perceptions which it has once had, with this additional percep-tion annexed to them, that it has had them before” (II.x.2). The inadequacy of this statement is at once evident. It proposes no more than a kind of subjective conviction that may often be in error. Locke’s analysis of memory was more psychological than philosophical. He passed over the consideration of how memory is possible at all and the criteria by which a true memory may be distinguished from a false memory. He did say, however, that attention, repetition, pleasure, and pain aid memory and are the conditions under which memory is strengthened or weak-ened. Again he asserted that animals have memory.

Other ideas of reflection. Other faculties of the mind are discerning and distinguishing one idea from another, com-paring and compounding, naming, and abstracting. Locke considered each point also in respect to animals, holding, for example, that animals compare and compound ideas only to a slight extent and do not abstract ideas at all. At the conclusion of this chapter (II.xi.15) Locke asserted that he thought he had given a “true history of the first begin-nings of human knowledge.”

Complex ideas. Locke next considered complex ideas. Just as the mind observes that several combinations of simple ideas are found together, so too, it can by its own action voluntarily join several simple ideas together into one complex idea. There are three categories of complex ideas-modes, substances, and relations. Modes are dependencies or affections of substances. Simple modes are variations or different combinations of one simple idea, whereas in mixed modes several distinct ideas are joined to make a complex idea. Ideas of substances represent distinct particular things subsisting in themselves. Com-plex ideas of relation consist in comparing one idea with another.

This classification is not entirely satisfactory because ideas of modes invariably entail relations in the broadest sense. Locke seems to have been closer to Aristotle than to modern usage in his employment of the term “relation.” Under modes Locke included space, duration and time, number, infinity, motion, sense qualities, thinking, pleas-ure and pain, power, and certain mixed modes. Under substance he placed the idea of substance in general, the ideas of particular substances, and collective ideas of sub-stances. In the category of relation, he considered a num-ber of ideas, including cause and effect, relations of place and time, identity and diversity, and others that he classified as proportional, natural, instituted, and moral.

The greater number of these concepts have in other philosophies been credited with some a priori and ex-traempirical character. They are not direct objects of sen-sory experience; and they appear to have a certainty not found in the mere coexistence of sensory ideas. They are more abstract and universal than the simple ideas of sen-sation and reflection. Locke’s broad use of the term “ideas” tends to confuse and obscure the distinction be-tween sensory percept and concept. Nevertheless, Locke undertook to show how the mind actively constructs these complex ideas, abstract and conceptual though they may be, out of the materials of knowledge, the simple ideas of sensation and reflection. In this undertaking Locke’s rationalism was most evident, for he held that while the mind constructs complex ideas, it cannot do so arbitrarily. In this sense, Locke could claim for them an objective reality.

The mode of space. Examination here will be limited to only those complex ideas that are most important and difficult. Among modes, only space, duration, number, thinking, and power will be considered. Locke contended that the modifications of a simple idea are as much distinct ideas as any two ideas can be. Space in its first manifesta-tion is a simple idea, since in seeing and touching we immediately perceive a distance between bodies and the parts of bodies. Though the idea of space constantly accompanies other sensory ideas, it is distinguishable from them. All our modes of the idea of space derive from the initial sensory experience. Thus space considered as length is called distance, considered three-dimensionally is capac-ity, considered in any manner is termed extension. Each different distance, especially when measured by stated lengths, is a distinct idea, including the idea of immensity, which consists in adding distance to distance without ever reaching a terminus. So too, figure allows an endless vari-ety of modifications of the simple idea of space. Place is distance considered relative to some particular bodies or frame of reference.

Locke disagreed with Descartes’s assertion that exten-sion is the essence of matter, although he agreed that we cannot conceive of a body that is not extended. But a body has solidity, and solidity is distinct from the notion of space; for the parts of space are inseparable in thought and in actuality and are immovable, whereas a solid body may move and its parts are separable. Descartes’s argument that the physical universe is a plenum was dismissed by Locke as unsound, for there is no contradiction in the conception of a vacuum. If body is not infinite, we can conceive of reaching out beyond the physical limits of the universe to a place unoccupied by matter. The idea of pure space is necessarily infinite, for we can conceive of no limit or terminus to it. Locke professed not to know whether space was a substance or an accident and offered to answer the question when the ideas of substance and accident were clarified. He was more confident of the idea of pure space than he was of the traditional philosophical categories. Locke placed a great load on the simple idea of space, and by the activity of his reason he went beyond the bounds of possible experience.

Duration and time. The idea of duration is broader than that of time. If we consider the train of ideas that passes through our minds, we observe that one idea constantly succeeds another, and so we come by the idea of succes-sion. By reflection we acquire the idea of duration, which we may then apply to motion and sensory ideas. Where there is no perception of the succession of ideas in our minds, there is no sense of time. Locke insisted that mo-tion does not furnish us with the idea of duration, and he directly opposed Aristotle’s definition that “time is the measure of motion with respect to before and after.”

Once we have the idea of duration, we need a measure of common duration. Time is the consideration of duration marked by certain measures such as minutes, hours, days. The most convenient measures of time must be capable of division into equal portions of constantly repeated periods. We cannot be certain of the constancy of motions or of the time spans they measure. Locke was concerned with liber-ating time from motion. Consequently, he argued that we must consider duration itself as “going on in one constant, equal, uniform course; but none of the measures of it which we make use of can be known to do so” (II.xiv.21). Once time is liberated from motion, Locke held, we can conceive of infinite duration even beyond creation. Thus we can expand by endless addition the idea of duration to come to the notion of eternity.

Were it not for the implicit realism of Locke’s arguments, it would be possible to agree with those scholars who have seen in his arguments about duration and expan-sion a vague groping for a position somewhat similar to Kant’s a priori aesthetic. For both men, space becomes the framework of body, and duration or time the structure of the mind, or the inner sense.

Number. The idea of unity is everywhere suggested to the mind, and no idea is more simple. By repeating it we come to the complex modes of number. Once we have learned to perform this operation, we cannot stop short of the idea of infinity. Locke regarded both finite and infinite as modes of quantity. Because we are able to apply the idea of number to space and time, we are capable of con-ceiving of them as infinite. The idea of infinity is essen-tially negative, since we come to it by enlarging our ideas of number as much as we please and discover that there is no reason ever to stop. We may know that number, space, and duration are infinite, but we cannot positively know infinity itself. Locke insisted that however remote from the simple ideas of sensation and reflection these ideas may be, they have their origin in those simple ideas.

The modes of thinking. Locke gave only casual and formal attention to the modes of thinking, such as sensa-tion, remembrance, recollection, contemplation, attention, dreaming, reasoning, judging, willing, and knowing. Equally superficial was his consideration of modes of pleasure and pain, which consisted of little more than definitions of various emotions.

Power. The chapter on power is the longest in the Essay, and Locke felt obliged to rewrite portions of it time and again, for each new edition.

It is evident that power is not perceived as such. Locke observed that the mind, taking note of the changes and sequences of our ideas and “concluding from what it has so constantly observed to have been, that the like changes will for the future be made in the same things, by like agents, and by the like ways . . . comes by that idea which we call power” (II.xxi.1). From this it hardly seems that the idea of power is a simple idea, unless Locke meant no more than that the idea of power is only the observation of the regular order and connection of our ideas. But Locke wrote that “since whatever change is observed, the mind must collect a power somewhere able to make that change, as well as a possibility in the thing itself to receive it” (II.xxi.4). Here the idea of power is a necessary idea of reason, grounded in certain other experiences. Locke never made clear this distinction. He admitted that the idea of power included some kind of relation but insisted that it was a simple idea.

Power is both passive and active. Whether or not matter has any active power, Locke pointed out, we have our idea of active power from the operations of the mind itself. We find by direct observation that we have the power to begin, continue, or stop certain actions of our minds and motions of our bodies. This power we call will, and the actual ex-ercise of this power, volition, or willing. Action is voluntary or involuntary insofar as it is or is not consequent upon the order or command of the mind.

Locke proceeded to explore the ideas of will, desire, and freedom in terms of the idea of power. “The idea of liberty is the idea of a power in any agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, whereby either of them is preferred to the other” (II.xxi.8). Where this power is absent, a man is under necessity. Locke consequently dismissed as unin-telligible the question of whether or not the will is free. The only intelligible question is whether or not a man is free. Freedom is one power of an agent and will is another; one power cannot be the power of another. “As far as this power reaches, of acting or not acting, by the determina-tion of his own thought preferring either, so far is a man free” (II.xxi.21). Freedom then, for Locke, was the absence of constraint. If we distinguish will from desire, we cannot make the mistake of thinking the will is free.

What then determines the will with respect to action is some uneasiness in a man that may be called the uneasiness of desire. Good and evil work on the mind but do not determine the will to particular actions. The only thing that can overcome the uneasiness of one desire is the greater uneasiness of another. The removal of uneasiness is the first and necessary step to happiness. Since it is present desire that moves the will to action, good and evil contemplated and known in the mind can move us to ac-tion only when that knowledge is accompanied by a greater uneasiness than any other. Since we have many desires and can have knowledge of desired good in the future as well as feared evil, we can suspend the pursuit of any desire until we have judged it. Thus, government of our passions is possible whenever there is a greater un-easiness in not doing so. This power is the ground on which we hold men responsible for their actions. Good and bad are nothing but pleasure or pain, present or future. Error in choice is usually due to the greater strength of present pleasure or pain in comparison with future pleas-ure and pain. A true knowledge of what contributes to our happiness can influence a choice only when to deviate from that choice would give greater uneasiness than would any other action. Thus it is possible to change the pleas-antness and unpleasantness of various actions by consideration, practice, application, and custom.

Locke’s conception of power, like his ideas of cause and effect, was inadequate and vague. It was both a simple idea and a complex one; it was the notion of regular se-quence and that of efficacious cause; and it was at once given and a priori. The rational and empirical elements in Locke were at war here. Locke was at his best in showing how the word “power” is commonly used. His analysis of the will and freedom was likewise involved in difficulties.

The will is not free and thus man’s actions are determined; but at the same time we can suspend the execution of any desire by our judgment. Locke was aware of these difficulties, but he saw no satisfactory alternative.

Mixed modes. Mixed modes are made by the mind and are exemplified by drunkenness, a lie, obligation, sacri-lege, or murder. To a great degree we get these ideas by the explanation of the words that stand for them.

Substance. Of all the ideas considered by Locke none gave him more difficulty than that of substance, and no-where was his empiricism more in conflict with his ration-alism. The diverse trends of Locke’s thought concerning substance and the problems he raised prepared the ground for Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and many others who struggled with the same questions. At every opportunity throughout the Essay he returned to consider particular substances and the general idea of substance. Locke held that we are conversant only with particular substances through experience; yet his rationalism and realism would not permit him to abandon the general idea of substance.

The mind is furnished with many simple ideas by the senses, and it observes by reflection that certain of them are constantly together. It then presumes that these belong to one thing and for convenience gives them one name. In this way the mind arrives at the complex idea of particular substances, such as gold, which we observe to be yellow and malleable, to dissolve in aqua regia, to melt, and not to be used up in fire. A substance so defined gives us only a nominal definition.

Locke added that “not imagining how these simple ideas can subsist by themselves, we accustom ourselves to sup-pose some substratum wherein they do subsist, and from which they do result; which therefore we call substance” (II.xxiii.1). This idea of a substratum is extremely vague, and Locke called it a “something we know not what.” Our ideas do not reach, and we cannot have, a knowledge of the real essence of substances. Nonetheless, Locke continued to believe that real essences do exist, although our knowledge comes short of them.

Our knowledge of corporeal substances consists of ideas of the primary and secondary qualities perceived by the senses and of the powers we observe in them to affect or be affected by other things. We have as clear an idea of spirit as of body, but we are not capable of knowing the real essence of either. Locke observed that we know as little of how the parts of a body cohere as of how our spirits perceive ideas or move our bodies, since we know nothing of either except our simple ideas of them. Locke even sug-gested that God could if he wished, as far as we know, add to matter the power to think, just as easily as he could add to matter a separate substance with the power to think.

Even our idea of God is based on simple ideas that are enlarged with the idea of infinity. God’s infinite essence is unknown to us. We can only know that he exists.

Relations. The mind can consider any idea as it stands in relation to any other; and thus we come by ideas of relation, such as father, whiter, older. Frequently, the lack of a correlative term leads us to mistake a relative term for an absolute one. Locke distinguished the relation from the things related and appears to have made all relations ex-ternal. Indeed, he held that many ideas of relation are clearer than ideas of substances; for example, the idea of brothers is clearer than the perfect idea of man.

Though there are many ideas and words signifying relations, they all terminate in simple ideas. There is a difficulty here. If the idea of relation is not a simple idea or a combination of simple ideas, then it is distinct from them. Like the general idea of substance, it is a concept derived from reason. No doubt the mind is capable of comparing the relation of one idea with another, but our perception of this operation must have for its object either a simple idea or the operation itself. On this point Locke was obscure and evasive and avoided the difficulties by the vague assertion that all relations terminate in simple ideas.

Causation. The relation to which Locke first turned was cause and effect. His discussion was inadequate and marked by the duality found in his consideration of other ideas. We observe the order and connection of our ideas and the coming into existence of things and qualities. In pointing this out Locke was on strictly empirical grounds. When, however, he defined cause as “that which produces any simple or complex idea,” and “that which is produced, effect” (II.xxvi.1), he went beyond experience and rested his argument on reason. Locke undoubtedly saw the difficulties of his position. He was concerned, on the one hand, to show how we have the ideas of cause and effect from experience. On the other hand, he was not satisfied with a mere sequence theory. The difficulty arose, as it did with power and substance, because he was persuaded that there is a reality beyond the ideas manifest to us. It is a reality, however, about which he could say little in terms of his representationalism.

Identity and diversity. Under relation Locke also exam-ined identity and diversity, by which he meant the relation of a thing to itself, particularly with respect to different times and places. As was stated above, the identity of a plant, an animal, or a man consists in a participation in the same continued life. To this Locke added an examination of personal identity. He argued that personal identity is consciousness of being the same thinking self at different times and places.

Locke also discussed other relations, such as proportional, natural, instituted, and moral, which are not essential to the main argument of the Essay and which will, therefore, not be discussed here.

The remaining chapters of Book II of the Essay are devoted to “Clear and Obscure, Distinct and Confused Ideas,” “Real and Fantastical Ideas,” “Adequate and Inad-equate Ideas,” “True and False Ideas,” and “The Asso-ciation of Ideas.” All of them have merit in clarifying other parts of the Essay but add little that is new and not discussed elsewhere. Consequently, they will be passed over.

Language. At the end of Book II of the Essay Locke related that he had originally intended to pass on to a consideration of knowledge. He found, however, such a close connection between words and ideas, particularly between abstract ideas and general words, that he had first to examine the “nature, use, and signification” of language, since all knowledge consists of propositions. Book III, therefore, was incorporated into the Essay.

The merits of Book III are the subject of some controversy. Most scholars have dismissed it as unimportant and confused. Some, such as Aaron, see many merits in it despite its manifest inadequacies.

The primary functions of language are to communicate with our fellow men, to make signs for ourselves of internal conceptions, and to stand as marks for ideas. Language is most useful when general names stand for general ideas and operations of the mind. Since all except proper names are general, a consideration of what kinds of things words stand for is in order. “Words, in their primary or immediate signification, stand for nothing but the ideas in the mind of him that uses them” (III.ii.2). We suppose they stand for the same ideas in the minds of others. Words stand for things only indirectly. General words stand for general ideas, which become general by separation from other ideas and from particular circumstances. This process Locke called abstraction.

Definition. Definition by genus and differentia is merely a convenience by which we avoid enumerating various simple ideas for which the genus stands. (In this, Locke prepared the way for descriptive definition, which makes no pretense of defining the real essence of things.) It fol-lows that general or universal ideas are made by the understanding for its own use. Thus the essences of so-called species are nothing but abstract ideas. Locke asserted that every distinct abstract idea is a distinct essence. This must not be taken in a Platonic sense, for it is the mind itself that makes these abstract ideas. If essences are distin-guished into nominal and real, then with respect to simple ideas and modes there is no difference between nominal and real essence. In substances, they are decidedly different, in that the real essence of substance is unknowa-ble to us.

Names. Locke asserted that the names of simple ideas are not definable. One wonders, Is blue a general idea? If so, what is this blue as against that blue? What is separated out? What retained? Locke never examined these ques-tions, with the result that his conception of abstraction is vague and vacillating. Locke gave several distinct mean-ings to such terms as “general ideas” and “universal ideas,” shifting from one meaning to another and never clarifying them.

Complex ideas consisting of several simple ideas are definable and intelligible provided one has experience of the simple ideas that compose them. Without experience how can a blind man understand the definition of a rainbow?

Simple ideas are “perfectly taken from the existence of things and are not arbitrary at all” (III.iv.17). Ideas of substances refer to a pattern with some latitude, whereas ideas of mixed modes are absolutely arbitrary and refer to no real existence. They are not, however, made at random or without reason. It is the name that ties these ideas together, and each such idea is its own prototype.

Since names for substances stand for complex ideas perceived regularly to go together and supposed to belong to one thing, we necessarily come short of the real es-sences, if there are any. One may use the word “gold” to signify the coexistence of several ideas. One man may use the term to signify the complex idea of A and B and C. Another man of more experience may add D, or add D and leave out A. Thus, these essences are of our own making without being entirely arbitrary. In any case, the boundaries of the species of substances are drawn by men.

Connective words. In a brief chapter, “Of Particles,” Locke pointed out that we need words signifying the con-nections that the mind makes between ideas or proposi-tions. These show what connection, restriction, distinction, opposition, or emphasis is given to the parts of discourse. These words signify, not ideas, but an action of the mind. Again a difficulty arises. If “is” and “is not” stand for the mind’s act of affirming or denying, then either the mind directly apprehends its own actions in some way or we do have ideas of affirmation or denial. If we do have ideas of the mind’s acts, then these words ought to signify the ideas of these acts; if we do not have ideas which these words signify, then either we do not apprehend them or something besides ideas is the object of the mind when it thinks.

The remainder of Book III concerns Locke’s thoughts on the imperfection of words, the abuse of words, and his suggested remedies for these imperfections and abuses.

Knowledge. The first three books of the Essay are large-ly a preparation for the fourth. Many scholars see a fundamental cleavage between Book II and Book IV. Yet Locke saw no conflict between the two books, and whatever split existed in Locke’s thought runs throughout the Essay, as J. W. Yolton and others have pointed out. An effort can be made to reconcile Locke’s empiricism and his rationalism, his grounding of all ideas and knowledge in experience and his going beyond experience to the existence of things.

Many of Locke’s difficulties stem from his definition of “idea.” It is so broad that anything perceived or known must be an idea. But Locke showed, in Books I and II, that we get all our ideas from experience, not in order to claim that nothing exists except ideas, but to show that there is an alternative to the theory of innate ideas. For Locke, experience is initially a contact of bodies and subsequently a reflection of the mind. He never doubted the existence of an external physical world, the inner workings of which are unknown to us.

Sources of knowledge. There are two sources of knowl-edge-sensation and reflection. The ideas we have from reflection are in some important ways quite different from those we have from sensation. In Book II Locke asserted that the mind “turns its view inward upon itself and ob-serves its own actions about those ideas it has (and) takes from thence other ideas” (II.vi.1). The important point here is that in reflection the mind observes its own action. It is true that Locke spoke of modes of the simple ideas of reflection, such as remembering, discerning, reasoning, and judging. Nonetheless, if the mind does observe its own action, then something more than ideas are the object of the mind in reflection, or else ideas of reflection are somehow importantly different from the ideas of sensation. This point will show up in a consideration of Locke’s theory of knowledge.

Propositions. Locke defined knowledge as “the percep-tion of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy, of any of our ideas” (IV.i.2). This agreement or disagreement is in respect to four types: identity and diversity, relation, coexistence or necessary connection, and real existence. Perceiving agreement or disagreement is quite different from just barely perceiving the ideas that are said to agree or disagree. Strictly speaking, this perception must be a distinct idea of either agreement or disagreement. Yet this was not Locke’s meaning. Where there is knowledge, there is judgment, since there can be no knowledge without a proposition, mental or verbal. Locke defined truth as “the joining or separating of signs, as the things signified by them do agree or disagree one with another” (IV.v.2). There are two sorts of propositions:

mental, “wherein the ideas in our understandings are, without the use of words, put together or separated by the mind perceiving or judging of their agreement or disagreement” (IV.v.5); and verbal, which stand for mental propo-sitions.

Judgments. In this view, ideas are the materials of knowledge, the terms of mental propositions. They are, insofar as they are given in sensation and reflection, the subject matter of reflection. If perception of agreement or disagreement in identity and diversity is the first act of the mind, then that act is a judgment. If we infallibly know, as soon as we have it in our minds, that the idea of white is identical with itself and different from that of red, and that the idea of round is identical with itself and different from that of square, we must distinguish between the bare hav-ing of these ideas and the knowledge of their identity and diversity. The knowledge of their identity and diversity is a judgment. It is reflective, and in it the mind perceives its own action or operation. There can be no distinction between the judgment and the idea of it. This is perhaps Locke’s meaning, which is unfortunately obscured by his broad use of the term “idea.” This perception of its own action is quite distinct from the abstract idea of the power of judgment. We may be uncertain as to how the mind makes judgments, what determines it to judge, or in what kind of a substance this power inheres, but we may be sure that in the actual making of a true judgment the mind perceives its own act. This position may be beset with difficulties, but it makes some sense out of Locke’s definition of knowledge.

Degrees of knowledge. Locke recognized two degrees of knowledge, in the strict sense of the term-intuition and demonstration. Of the two, intuition is more fundamental and certain. “The mind perceives the agreement or disagreement of two ideas immediately by themselves, without the intervention of any other” (IV.ii.l). Such knowl-edge is irresistible and leaves no room for hesitation, doubt, or examination. Upon it depends all the certainty and evidence of all our knowledge. Here, clearly, what the mind perceives is not any third idea, but its own act. In demonstration the mind perceives agreement or disagreement, not immediately, but through other mediating ideas. Each step in demonstration rests upon an intuition. This kind of knowledge is most evident in, but is not limited to, mathematics.

A third degree of knowledge is “employed about the particular existence of finite beings without us, which going beyond bare probability and yet not reaching per-fectly to either of the foregoing degrees of certainty, passes under the name of knowledge” (IV.ii.14). Locke called this sensitive knowledge. Fully aware of the dialectical difficulty entailed in this position, he grounded his reply to critics on common sense. The differences between dreaming and waking, imagining and sensing, are strong enough to justify this conviction. Hunger and thirst should bring a skeptic to his senses. For Locke, it was enough that com-mon sense supported him, for he always took sensory ideas to be signs or representations of something beyond them-selves.

Limits of knowledge. Locke asserted that knowledge extends no farther than our ideas and, specifically, no further than the perception of the agreement or disagree-ment of our ideas. We cannot have knowledge of all the relations of our ideas or rational knowledge of the necessary relations between many of our ideas. Sensitive knowledge goes only as far as the existence of things, not to their real essence, or reality. Two examples were given. In the first, Locke argued that though we have the ideas of circle, square, and equality, we may never find a circle equal to a square and know them to be equal. In the second, he observed that we have ideas of matter and thinking but may never know whether mere material being thinks. This has been discussed earlier.

In his controversy with Stillingfleet, Locke never aban-doned this latter thesis. And throughout this section (IV.iii) Locke showed that many relations of coexistence give us no certainty that they will or must continue to be so. He seemed persuaded that the continued discovery of new knowledge suggests that there are vast horizons of reality that we may advance upon but can never reach. With respect to the relations between abstract ideas we may hope to advance very far, as in mathematics. To this he added the belief that a demonstrable science of moral-ity is possible. On the other hand, he held that we can have no certain knowledge of bodies or of unembodied spirits.

Knowledge of existents. Locke argued that though our knowledge terminates in our ideas, our knowledge is real. “Simple ideas are not fictions of our fancies, but the natural and regular productions of things without us, really operating upon us; and so carry with them all the conform-ity which is intended; or which our state requires” (IV.iv.4). On the other hand, he argued: “All our complex ideas, except those of substances, being archetypes of the mind’s own making, not intended to be copies of anything, nor referred to the existence of anything, as to their originals, cannot want any conformity necessary to real knowl-edge” (IV.iv.5).

Universal propositions, the truth of which may be known with certainty, are not concerned directly with existence. Nonetheless, Locke argued that we have intuitive knowl-edge of our own existence. Here the argument is much the same as Descartes’s, and it is valid only if we accept the view that the mind in reflection perceives its own acts. This knowledge of our own existence has the highest degree of certainty, according to Locke.

We have a demonstrable knowledge of God’s existence, Locke held. He used a form of the Cosmological Argu-ment: starting with the certainty of his own existence, he argued to the necessary existence of a being adequate to produce all the effects manifest in experience. The argument assumed the reality of cause, the necessity of order, and the intelligibility of existence.

Of the existence of other things, as has been shown, we have sensitive knowledge. Locke felt the inconsistency of his position on this matter, yet accepted what he believed common sense required. We know of the coexistence of certain qualities and powers, and reason and sense require that they proceed from something outside themselves. Throughout these arguments about existence Locke went beyond his own first definition of knowledge.

Probability. The remaining portions of the Essay are concerned with probability, degrees of assent, reason and faith, enthusiasm, error, and the division of the sciences. Though Locke’s treatment of probability is inadequate, he recognized its importance. The grounds of probability lie in the apparent conformity of propositions with our experience and the testimony of others. Practical experience shows us that our knowledge is slight, and action requires that we proceed in our affairs with something less than certainty.

Faith was, for Locke, the acceptance of revelation. It must be sharply distinguished from reason, which is “the discovery of the certainty or probability of such proposi-tions or truths, which the mind arrives at by deduction made from such ideas which it has got by the use of its natural faculties, viz, by sensation or reflection” (IV.xviii.2). Though reason is not able to discover the truth of revelation, nevertheless, something claimed to be revelation cannot be accepted against the clear evidence of the understanding. Thus, enthusiasm sets reason aside and substitutes for it bare fancies born of conceit and blind impulse.

Error. Error cannot lie in intuition. Locke found four sources of error: the want of proofs, inability to use them, unwillingness to use them, and wrong measures of proba-bility. Locke concluded the Essay with a brief division of science, or human knowledge, into three classes-natural philosophy, or phyike, practical action and ethics, or praktike, and semieotike, or the doctrine of signs.

Influence of the “Essay.” Many minds of the seventeenth century contributed to the overthrow of the School philosophies and the development of the new sciences and philosophies. Descartes and Locke between them, however, set the tone and direction for what was to follow. Certainly Locke was the most prominent figure in the early eighteenth century, the indispensable precursor of Berke-ley and Hume as well as a fountainhead for the French Encyclopedists. If it is said that the two strains of Car-tesian rationalism and Lockian empiricism met in Kant, it can be added that Hume built on Locke’s foundation and Kant formalized much that was first a vague groping in Locke. Though Locke was not a wholly satisfactory thinker, his influence on thought in England and America has never completely abated, and even now there appears to he a revived interest in the Essay.


Locke’s earliest known political writings were the Es-says on the Law of Nature, written in Latin between 1660 and 1664 but not known until the Lovelace Collection was examined in 1946. They were first published in 1954 with a translation by W. von Leyden. Though much in these essays appears in the Essay Concerning Human Under-standing and the Two Treatises, there remain many points at which the early essays are in conflict with parts of both later works. This fact and the bother of translating them may have deterred Locke from publishing them, despite the urging of Tyrrell. Since von Leyden can find no evi-dence of direct influence of these essays on anyone other than Tyrrell and Gabriel Towerson, the student of Locke is referred to von Leyden’s publication for additional information.

The “Two Treatises.” The Two Treatises of Government appeared anonymously in 1690, written, it is said, to justify the revolution of 1688, or, according to the preface, “to establish the Throne of Our Great Restorer, our present King William; to make good his Title, in the Consent of the People.” Locke acknowledged his authorship only in a codicil in his will listing his anonymous works and giving to the Bodleian Library a corrected copy of the Two Treatises. He never felt that any of the editions printed during his lifetime had satisfactorily rendered his work. Only in 1960 did Peter Laslett publish a critical edition based on the Coste master copy of the Two Treatises.

The first treatise. It has long been suspected that the first treatise was written in 1683 and that the second trea-tise was written in 1689. Laslett has presented much evi-dence to show that the second treatise was the earlier work, written between 1679 and 1681. If his thesis is cor-rect, it was a revolutionary document, whose purpose was not primarily to philosophize but to furnish a theoretical foundation for the political aims and maneuvers of Shaftesbury and his followers in their struggle with Charles II. Only further scholarly probing will resolve this question.

In his preface, Locke stated that the greater part of the original work had been lost. He was satisfied that what remained was sufficient, since he had neither the time nor the inclination to rewrite the missing sections. The evidence is clear that it was portions of the first treatise that were lost.

The first treatise is a sarcastic and harsh criticism of Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha, which argued for the divine right of kings. Locke’s treatise is more of historical than philosophical importance. It argued that Adam was not, as Filmer claimed, divinely appointed monarch of the world and all his descendants. Neither was the power of absolute monarchy inherited from Adam. Adam had no absolute rights over Eve or over his children. Parents have au-thority over children who are dependent upon them and who must learn obedience as well as many other things for life. The function of the parent is to protect the child and to help him mature. When the child comes to maturity, parental authority ends. In any case, the relation of parent and child is not the same as that of sovereign and subject. Were Filmer right, one would have to conclude that every man is born a slave, a notion that was utterly repugnant to Locke. Even if Filmer were correct, it would be impossi-ble to show that existing rulers, especially the English kings, possess legitimate claims to their sovereignty by tracing it back to lawful descent from Adam.

The second treatise. Locke began the second treatise with the proposition that all men are originally in a state of nature, “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions, and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the Law of Nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the Will of any other man (II.ii.4). Although Locke sometimes wrote as if the state of nature were some period in history, it must be taken large-ly as a philosophical fiction, an assumption made to show the nature and foundation of political power, a fiction at least as old as Plato’s treatment of the Prometheus myth in the Protagoras. It is a state of equality but not of unbounded license. Being rational and being a creature bound by God, man must be governed by the law of nature.

Natural law. Though the concept of the law of nature is as old as antiquity, it flourished in the seventeenth century in the minds of a considerable number of ethical and po-litical thinkers. In general it supposed that man by the use of reason could know in the main the fundamental principles of morality, which he otherwise knew through Chris-tian revelation. Locke was extremely vague about the law of nature, but in his Essays on the Law of Nature he held that that law rests ultimately on God’s will. Reason discov-ers it. It is not innate. When, however, Locke spoke of it as “writ in the hearts of all mankind,” he suggested some kind of innateness. There are obvious difficulties here, for sense and reason may fail men, even though the law of nature is binding on all. Moreover, the various exponents of the law of nature differ on what it consists of, except that it presupposes the brotherhood of man and human benev-olence.

State of nature. In a state of nature, according to Locke, all men are bound to preserve peace, preserve mankind, and refrain from hurt to one another. The execution of the law of nature is the responsibility of each individual. If any man violates this law, he thereby puts himself in a state of war with the others, who may then punish the offender. The power that one man may hold over another is neither absolute nor arbitrary and must be restrained by proportion. The state of nature was for Locke a society of men, as distinct from a state of government, or a political society.

Social contract. There are certain inconveniences in a state of nature, such as men’s partiality and the inclination on the part of some men to violate the rights of others. The remedy for this is civil government, wherein men by com-mon consent form a social contract and create a single body politic. This contract is not between ruler and ruled, but between equally free men. The aim of the contract is to preserve the lives, freedom, and property of all, as they belong to each under natural law. Whoever, therefore, attempts to gain absolute power over another puts himself at war with the other. This holds in the political state as well as the state of nature. When a ruler becomes a tyrant, he puts himself in a state of war with the people, who then, if no redress be found, may make an appeal to heaven, that is, may revolt. This power is but an extension of the right of each to punish an aggressor in the state of nature. Unlike Hobbes, Locke was persuaded that men are capable of judging whether they are cruelly subjected and unjustly treated. Since one reason for men entering into the social contract is to avoid a state of war, the contract is broken when the sovereign puts himself into a state of war with the people by becoming a tyrant.

Slavery. Curiously, Locke justified slavery on the grounds that those who became slaves were originally in a state of wrongful war with those who conquered them and, being captive, forfeited their freedom. Apart from being bad history, this argument ignores the rights of the children of slaves. Locke’s inconsistency here may mercifully be passed over.

Property. Property was an idea which Locke used in both a broad and a narrow sense. Men have a right to self-preservation and therefore to such things as they need for their subsistence. Each man possesses himself absolutely, and therefore that with which he mixes his labor becomes his property. “God has given the earth to man-kind in common.” No man has original, exclusive rights to the fruits and beasts of the earth. Nevertheless, man must have some means with which to appropriate them. This consists of the labor of his body and the work of his hand. By labor, man removes things from a state of nature and makes them his property. Without labor, the earth and things in general have but little value. However, only so much as a man improves and can use belongs to him, nor may a man deprive another of the means of self-preservation by overextending his reach for property.

Though the right to property is grounded in nature, it is not secured therein. It is one of the primary ends of the state to preserve the rights of property, as well as to make laws governing the use, distribution, and transference of property. In communities or countries under government, there are fixed boundaries to the common territory, and there is land and property held in common which no one may appropriate to himself and to which those not mem-bers of the community have no right at all. Money, being something which does not spoil, came into use by mutual consent, serving as a useful means of exchange. At the same time it made possible the accumulation of wealth greater than warranted by need or use.

Political society. Having established several rights and duties belonging to men by nature and having shown certain inconveniences and disadvantages of the state of nature, Locke turned to political society. The first society consists of the family, whose aims are not initially or primarily those of political society, but which may be in-cluded under political society.

In political society “any number of men are so united into one Society, as to quit everyone his Executive power of the law of nature, and to resign it to the public” (II.vii.89). The legislative and executive powers are “a right of making laws with penalties of Death, and consequently all less Penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the exe-cution of such laws, and in the defense of the common-wealth from foreign injury, and all this only for the public good” (II.i.3). By the social contract men give up, not all their rights, but only the legislative and executive right they originally had under the law of nature. This transfer-ence of power is always subordinate to the proper and true ends of the commonwealth, which are “the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates.”

Each man must voluntarily consent to the compact either explicitly or implicitly. An individual who at age of discretion remains a member of the community tacitly consents to the compact.

Since the compact is made between the members of the community, sovereignty ultimately remains with the people. The sovereign, in the form of a legislative body, and executive, or both, is the agent and executor of the sover-eignty of the people. The community can act only by the rule of the majority, and everyone is bound by it, because an agreement of unanimity is virtually impossible. It is the people who establish the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers. Thus, an absolute monarch is incompatible with civil society.

Locke’s theories so far are compatible with either mon-archy, oligarchy, or democracy so long as it is recognized that ultimate sovereignty lies with the people. He believed that a constitutional monarchy with executive power, in-cluding the judiciary, in the hands of the monarch, and legislative powers in a parliamentary assembly elected by the people was the most satisfactory form of government. The supreme power he held to be the legislative, for it makes the laws that the executive must carry out and enforce. Whenever the executive violates the trust that he holds, no obligation is owed him and he may be deposed. The legislature may also violate its trust, though Locke believed it less likely to do so. Whenever this occurs, the people have a right to dissolve it and establish a new government. For this reason a regularly elected legislative body is desirable.

Rebellion. Locke explicitly recognized, as the events during his lifetime had shown, that men may become tyrants to those whom they were bound to serve. It may be a king, an assembly, or a usurper that claims absolute power. In such cases the people have a right to rebellion if no other redress is possible. Locke was not unmindful of the fact that the executive needs latitude and prerogative so that he may govern, and that the legislative body must deliberate and make laws which they believe to be in the public good. The right to rebellion is warranted only in the most extreme conditions, where all other means fail. Locke did not believe that men would lightly avail themselves of this power, for men will suffer and endure much before they resort to rebellion.

In transferring to the government the right to make and execute law and make war and peace, men do not give up the natural light of reason, by which they judge good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice. In specific laws or executive decisions judgment must be allowed to the legislature and the executive. If, however, a long train of acts shows a tyrannical course, then men, judging that the sovereign has put himself into a state of war with them, may justly dethrone the tyrant. On the other hand, the legislative and executive power can never revert to the people unless there is a breach of trust.

The dissolution of government is not the dissolution of society. The aim of revolution is the establishment of a new government, not a return to a state of nature. The dissolution of a government may occur under many circum-stances, but foremost among them are when the arbitrary will of a single person or prince is set in place of the law; when the prince hinders the legislature from due and lawful assembly; when there is arbitrary change in elec-tions; when the people are delivered into subjection by a foreign power; and when the executive neglects and abandons his charge. In all such cases sovereignty reverts to the society, and the people have a right to act as the supreme power and continue the legislature in themselves, or erect a new form, or under the old form place sovereignty in new hands, whichever they think best. On the other hand, “the power that every individual gave the society, can never revert to the individuals again, as long as the society lasts” (II.xix.243).

As theory, Locke’s second treatise is full of inadequacies, but its magnificent sweep of ideas prepared the ground for popular and democratic government.


Locke’s thought on education and religion was not presented in strictly philosophical terms. It was, however, deeply rooted in the fundamental concepts of the Essay and the Two Treatises. His works in these areas display clearly the liberal bent of his mind as well as his love of freedom, tolerance, and truth. His attitude was pragmatic and based on considerable psychological insight into the motives, needs, passions, and follies of men. Some Thoughts Concerning Education, several letters on tolera-tion, and The Reasonableness of Christianity profoundly affected educational and religious thought in the eight-eenth century and after. Two of these works, Some Thoughts Concerning Education and the first Letter on Toleration, continue to be fresh and relevant.

Education. When Locke was in Holland, he wrote a number of letters to Edward Clark advising him on the education of his son, a young man of no particular distinction. Locke had in mind the education of a gentleman who would one day be a squire. In 1693 Locke modified these letters somewhat and published the contents as Some Thoughts Concerning Education in response to “so many, who profess themselves at a loss how to breed their chil-dren.” His thought was marked by a ready understanding of, and warm sympathy with, children. Three main thoughts dominate the work. First, the individual aptitudes, capacities, and idiosyncrasies of the child should govern learning, not arbitrary curricular or rote learning taught by the rod. Second, Locke placed the health of the body and the development of a sound character ahead of intellectual learning. In the third place, he saw that play, high spirits, and the “gamesome humor” natural to children should govern the business of learning wherever possible. Compulsory learning is irksome; where there is play in learning, there will be joy in it. Throughout he placed emphasis on good example, practice, and use rather than on precepts, rules, and punishment. The work was an implicit criticism of his own education at Westminster and Oxford, which he found unpleasant and largely useless.

Writing almost as a physician, Locke advised “plenty of open air, exercise, and sleep; plain diet, no wine or strong drink, and very little or no physic; not too warm and strait clothing; especially the head and feet kept cold, and the feet often used to cold water and exposed to wet.” The aim in all was to keep the body in strength and vigor, able to endure hardships.

Locke urged that early training must establish the au-thority of the parents so that good habits may be estab-lished. The prime purpose is the development of virtue, the principle of which is the power of denying ourselves the satisfaction of our desires. The child should be taught to submit to reason when young. Parents teach by their own example. They should avoid severe punishments and beatings as well as artificial rewards. Rules should be few when a child is young, but those few should be obeyed. Mild, firm, and rational approval or disapproval are most effective in curbing bad behavior. Children should be frequently in the company of their parents, who should in turn study the disposition of the child and endeavor to use the child’s natural desire for freedom and play to make learning as much like recreation as possible. High spirits should not be curbed, but turned to creative use. Curiosity too should be encouraged, and questions should be heard and fairly answered. Cruelty must always be discouraged and courageousness approved.

As the child grows, familiarity should be increased so that the parent has a friend in the mature child. Virtue, breeding, and a free liberal spirit as well as wisdom and truthfulness were the goals set by Locke in all his advice. Affection and friendship were for him both means and ends of good education.

Learning, though important, Locke put last. First, he would have the child learn to speak and read his own language well by example and practice, not by grammar. In the study of all languages, he would put off the study of grammar until they can be spoken well. He would begin the learning of a second modern language early. Reluctantly he would allow a gentleman’s son to learn Latin, but he did not recommend much time on Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, rhetoric, or logic, which constituted the curricula of the universities of his day. Rather, time should be given to the study of geography, arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, history, ethics, and civil law. Dancing he encouraged, and music as well, in moderation. He was less sympathetic to poetry. Remarkably, he urged that everyone learn at least one manual trade and make some study of accounting. Finally, travel was valuable if not done before one could profit by it.

If much of this is familiar and even trite, it must be remembered that Locke was among the first to formulate these ideas. His influence on educational thought and practice was enormous and is still very much with us in its fundamental outlook and method.

Religion. Locke saw some merits in all the competing claims of various religious groups. He also saw the de-structive force that was released when these claims sought exclusive public dominion at the expense of individual conscience. He looked in several directions at once. This tendency has earned for him the reputation of being timorous and compromising. Nonetheless, it is on this trait of mind that much of his great influence and reputation rests. For Locke, fidelity to the evidence at hand always out-weighed cleverness, consistency, and dialectic. It is the chief testimony to his claim that truth was always his aim, even when he might have won an easy victory by dogmatic consistency.

Locke’s writings on religion are voluminous. When he died he was working on extensive commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul, as well as a draft of a fourth Letter on Toleration. Earlier he had written and published three letters on toleration, The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695), and two Vindications (1695 and 1697) of the latter work. Moreover, Locke’s three letters to Stillingfleet, the bishop of Worcester, are concerned with religious questions as well as epistemological ones.

Religious tolerance. Locke’s first Letter Concerning Toleration stated his position clearly, and he never deviated from it substantially. It was originally written in Latin as a letter to his Dutch friend Philip van Limborch. In 1689 it was published on the Continent in Latin, and in the same year a translation of it by William Popple appeared in English.

Locke was not the first to write in advocacy of religious toleration. His was, however, a powerful, direct, and passionate plea. It was linked with the Essay by its recog-nition of the limits of human knowledge and human fallibility, and with the Two Treatises by his deep commitment to individual rights and freedom.

Locke took toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true church, for religious belief is primarily a relation between each man and God. True religion regulates men’s lives according to virtue and piety, and without charity and love religion is false to itself. Those who per-secute others in the name of Christ abjure his teachings, seeking only outward conformity, not peace and holiness. Who can believe that in torture and execution the fanatic truly seeks the salvation of the soul of his victim? Moreover, the mind cannot be forced or belief compelled. All efforts to force or compel belief breed only hypocrisy and contempt of God. Persuasion is the only lever that can truly move the mind.

A church is “a voluntary society of men, joining them-selves together of their own accord in order to the public worshipping of God in such manner as they judge acceptable to Him, and effectual to the salvation of their souls.” It is sharply distinct from a state, or commonwealth. The state is concerned with the public good, protecting life, liberty, and property. It has no authority in matters of the spirit. “Whatever is lawful in the commonwealth cannot be prohibited by the magistrate in the church.”

It is to be doubted that any man or group of men possess the truth about the one true way to salvation. In the Scriptures we have all that may reasonably be claimed by Christians to be the word of God. The rest are the specula-tions and beliefs of men concerning articles of faith and forms of worship. Sincere and honest men differ in these matters, and only tolerance of these differences can bring about public peace and Christian charity. Jews, pagans, and Muslims are all equally confident in their religious faith. Mutual tolerance is essential where such diversity exists. This is most evident when we observe that it is the most powerful party that persecutes others in the name of religion. Yet in different countries and at different times power has lain in the hands of different religious groups. It is physical power, not true faith, which decides who is persecuted and who persecutes.

Throughout Locke’s argument the liberty of person and the liberty of conscience are decisive. He limited this liberty only by denying to religion the right to harm directly another person or group or to practice clearly im-moral rites. By a curious and probably prudential excep-tion, he denied tolerance to atheists, because promises, covenants, and oaths would not bind them, and to any church so constituted “that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince.”

Despite these limitations, Locke’s letter moved subsequent generations to a greater spirit of tolerance in religious matters. It is still part of the liberal democratic ideal and transcends the time of its composition.

Faith and reason. The Reasonableness of Christianity and the Vindications are works more bound to Locke’s own time. Locke was probably neither a Socinian nor a deist, even though certain deists and Unitarians found comfort and inspiration in his work. He was a sincere Christian, who tried to diminish the flourishing schisms and sects by proposing a return to the Scriptures and an abandonment of the interminable theological disputes of his day. He accepted the divine inspiration of the Bible. Nevertheless, he held that even revelation must be tested by reason. In the New Testament, Christianity is rational and simple. The core of Christian faith lies in the belief in the fatherhood of God, the divinity of Christ the Messiah, the morality of charity, love, and divine mercy. Justification by faith means faith in Christ, whose essential revelation is that God is merciful and forgives the sinner who truly repents and strives to live a life of Christian morality. The Mosaic law, God’s mercy, and Christian morality are all consonant with human reason. Revelation discloses to man what unaided reason could not discover — the mysteries, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the divinity of Christ. But when disclosed, these do not violate the canons of reason. Here as elsewhere, Locke’s emphasis on reason was circumscribed, reason roust be followed where possible, but it does not carry us far enough by itself.

Locke’s influence was wide and deep. In political, reli-gious, educational, and philosophical thought he inspired the leading minds of England, France, America, and to some extent, Germany. He disposed of the exaggerated rationalism of Descartes and Spinoza; he laid the groundwork for a new empiricism and advanced the claims for experimentalism. Voltaire, Montesquieu, and the French Encyclopedists found in Locke the philosophical, political, educational, and moral basis that enabled them to prepare and advance the ideas which eventuated in the French Revolution. In America, his influence on Jonathan Ed-wards, Hamilton, and Jefferson was decisive. Locke’s zeal for truth as he saw it was stronger than his passion for dialectical and logical niceness, and this may account for the fact that his works prepared the ground for action as well as thought.

Works by Locke

Essays on the Law of Nature. Translated from the Latin and edited by W. von Leyden. Oxford, 1954. Also gives an account of the Lovelace Collection.

An Early Draft of Locke’s Essay (Draft A). R. I. Aaron and J. Gibb, eds. Oxford, 1936. Valuable as a study of the development of the Essay.

An Essay Concerning the Understanding, Knowledge, Opinion and Assent (Draft B), B. Rand, ed. Cambridge, Mass., 1931. Valua-ble, but superseded by manuscript in Bodlejan Library.

Epistola de Tolerantia. Gouda, 1689. Translated by William Popple as A Letter Concerning Toleration. London, 1689. Several defenses appeared in the 1690s and fragments of a fourth in 1706.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. London, 1690; 2d ed. with large additions, London, 1694; 3d ed., London, 1695; 4th ed., with large additions. London, 1700; 5th ed., with many large additions, London, 1706. Best modern edition, from which all quotes in this article are taken, is a reprint of the fifth edition, J. W. Yolton, ed., 2 vols. New York and London, 1961.

Two Treatises of Government. London, 1690. The critical and collated edition of Locke’s corrected copy by Peter Laslett (Cam-bridge, 1960) surpasses all previous editions.

Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. London, 1692. Two additional papers on money appeared in 1695.

Some Thoughts Concerning Education. London, 1693.

The Reasonableness of Christianity. London, 1695. Defenses of this work were published in 1695 and 1697.

A Letter to the Right Rev. Edward Ld. Bishop of Worcester, concerning Some Passages relating to Mr. Locke’s Essay of Hu-mane Understanding. London, 1697. Two further letters appeared, in 1697 and 1699.

A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Gala-tians [etc.]. London, 1705.

Posthumous Works of Mr. John Locke. 6 vols. London. 1706.

The Remains of John Locke, E. Curl, ed. London, 1714.

Works of John Locke, 3 vols. London, 1714; 10th ed., 10 vols., London. 1801.

The Correspondence of John Locke and Edward Clarke, B. Rand, ed. Oxford. 1927.

For the remainder of Locke’s published and unpublished pa-pers, consult the works listed below by Aaron, Christopherson, von Leyden. Long, Ollion. and Yolton. See von Leyden and Long particularly for the Lovelace Collection.

Works on Locke


Bourne, H. R. Fox, Life of John Locke, 2 vols. London, 1876. Excellent, but inadequate since Lovelace Collection became available.

Cranston, Maurice, John Locke, a Biography. London, 1957. A thorough study of the life of Locke, using all materials available at present.

King, Lord Peter. The Life and Letters of John Locke. London, 1829. Not good, but contains original material.


Aaron, R. I., “Locke’s Theory of Universals.” PAS, Vol. 33 (1932! 1933). Useful and enlightening.

Aaron, R. I., John Locke. Oxford, 1937; rev. ed., Oxford, 1955. Best general commentary.

Adamson. S. W., The Educational Writings of John Locke. Cam-bridge, 1922.

Bastide, C., John Locke, ses theories politiques et leur influence en Angleterre.

Paris, 1906. Still valuable work on Locke’s political philosophy.

Christopherson, H. 0., A Bibliographical Introduction to the Study of John Locke. Oslo, 1930. Incomplete.

Clapp, J. G., Locke’s Conception of the Mind. New York, 1937. Cranston.

Maurice. “Men and Ideas; John Locke.” Encounter, Vol. 7 (1956), 46-54.

Czajkowski, C. J., The Theory of Private Property in Locke’s Political Philosophy. Notre Dame, Ind., 1941. Useful on the labor theory of value.

DeMarchi, E., “Locke’s Atlantis.” Political Studies, Vol. 3 (1955), 164-165.

Gibson, James. Locke’s Theory of Knowledge. Cambridge, 1917. Emphasizes Locke’s rationalism.

Gibson, James, John Locke. British Academy, Henrsette Hertz Lecture. 1933.

Gierke, Otto von, Naturrecht und deutsches Recht. Translated and edited by Ernest Barker as Natural Law and the Theory of Society, 2 vols. Cambridge, 1934. A major study.

Gough, J. W., John Locke’s Political Philosophy. Eight Studies. Oxford, 1950. Important.

Jackson, Reginald, “Locke’s Distinction Between Primary and Secondary Qualities.” Mind, Vol. 38 (1929), 56-76.

Jackson, Reginald, “Locke’s Version of the Doctrine of Repre-sentative Perception.” Mind, Vol. 39(1930), 1-25.

James, D. G., The Life of Reason. Hobbes, Locke, Bolingbroke. London, 1949.

Krakowski, E., Les Sources medievales de Ia philosophie de Locke. Paris, 1915. One of the few studies of influences on Locke.

Lamprecht, S. P., The Moral and Political Philosophy of John Locke. New York, 1918.

Laslett, Peter, “The English Revolution and Locke’s Two Trea-tises of Govemment.” Cambridge Historical Journal, Vol. 12 (1956). Interesting and controversial.

Leibniz, G. W., Nouveaux Essais sur lentendement humain. Leipzig and Amsterdam, 1765. Translated by A. G. Langley as New Essays concerning Human Understanding. New York and London, 1896. An important critique of Locke by a contemporary.

Leyden, W. von, “John Locke and Natural Law.” Philosophy, Vol. 31(1956). A useful examination.

Long, P., A Summary Catalogue of the Lovelace Collection of Papers of John Locke in the Bodleian Library. Oxford, 1959.

O’Connor, D. j., John Locke. Harmondsworth, England, 1952.

Ollion, H., Notes sur Ia correspondance de John Locke. Paris, 1908.

Polin, B., La Politique de John Locke. Paris, 1960. Interesting contrast to Laslett.

Pollock, Sir Frederick, “Locke’s Theory of the State,” in his Essoys in the Law. London, 1922. Ch. 3.

Ryle, Gilbert, Locke on the Human Understanding. Oxford, 1933.

Smith, N. K., John Locke. Manchester, England, 1933. Ware, C. S., “The Influence of Descartes on John Locke.” Revue internationale de philosophie (1950), 210-230.

Webb, T. E., The lntellectualism of Locke. An Essay. Dublin, 1857. Presents Locke as a precursor to Kant.

Yolton, J. W., “Locke’s Unpublished Marginal Replies to John Sergeant.” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 12 (1951), 528-559.

Yolton, J. W., “Locke and the Seventeenth-Century Logic of Ideas.” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 16 (1955), 431-452.

Yolton, J. W., Locke and the Way of Ideas. Oxford, 1956. A careful study.

Yolton, J. W., “Locke on the Law of Nature.” Philosophical Review, Vol. 67 (1958), 477-498.


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Modelos de religión desde la Era Moderna

FUENTE http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7170.html
Discovering Religious History in the Modern Age
Hans G. Kippenberg

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Chapter 1


SCHOLARS of religion have devoted little attention to the connections between their views of religious history and the philosophy of religion. Hayden White’s comment that “there can be no ‘proper history’ which is not at the same time ‘philosophy of history'”1 can also be applied to religious history, but that is seldom considered today. On the contrary! Religious studies has taken pains to keep the philosophy of religion far away from its field. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of evidence for the assertion that the historiography of religion was also in fact an implicit philosophy of religion. A search for such qualifications soon yields results, coming up with metahistorical assumptions originating in the philosophy of religion. These sorts of connections have been conscientiously noted by Edward E. Evans-Pritchard, Eric J. Sharpe, Jan de Vries, Jan van Baal, Brian Morris, J. Samuel Preus, and Jacques Waardenburg in their histories of the field. Yet, to date, no one has made a serious attempt to apply Hayden White’s comment systematically to research in the field of religious history. But there is every reason to do so. Evidence points to more than simply coincidental and peripheral connections between religious studies as a historical discipline and the philosophy of religion. Perhaps the idea of a history of religions with all its implications can be developed correctly only if we observe it from a broader and longer-term perspective of the philosophy of religion.

The Priority of the Public Good over Private Belief

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) directly experienced the English revolution that combined two strands: one was a middle-class revolution that demanded private property, the abolition of feudal despotism, and the sovereignty of Parliament; the second was a radical revolution supported by millenarianism and called for both common property and democracy.2 During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, religious wars raged not only in England but also in other parts of Europe. Hobbes did not perceive them as some unique excess, but simply as a return of the state of nature that had prevailed before the formation of governments. In the state of nature, war prevailed–all-out war. Everyone had to fight for his survival. This disastrous condition was ended when men–purely out of fear for their own death–transferred their sovereignty to one single person, or one single assembly, and authorized that agency to act as their representative and end the state of war. This transfer was also rational in itself, even though they were compelled by the fear of violent death. The sole purpose and reason for the state was to force internal peace.

Hobbes saw the religious wars raging all over Europe in his time as the result of a dangerous error on the part of the clergy. It consisted of the assumption that the Church was identical with the Empire of God and that one man or one assembly could represent this empire. The state had to form a counterweight to that. Hobbes’s analysis clearly reveals a royalist position. While serving as a tutor to the noble Cavendish family, he wrote the essay Elements of Law Natural and Politic (1640), in which he supported the unlimited sovereignty of the English king over the revolutionary Parliament.3 Eleven years later in his masterpiece Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, -&- Power of a CommonWealth Ecclesiastical and Civill (1651), he essentially expanded and deepened his thoughts considerably. The remarkable title contained his basic idea that the state must be a mortal God in order to be able to hold anarchy and civil war in check.4 Ecclesiastical belief had become a source of horrible and excessive violence. Incidentally, recent historical studies agree with Hobbes’s position on this issue. It would be too simple to see religion only as an ideology concealing class struggle, as Friedrich Engels maintained. The absolute nature of belief generates its own dynamic.5 Because the opponents are religious groups and so metaphysical values are involved, the state itself must become God in order to defend the internal peace of the community. Jacob Taubes posited this link between political experience and philosophical reflection: “The seventeenth century is the first period of modern history where we see land. In the constellation of this century, we recognize ourselves and our own problems. Hobbes was aware of this period and experienced it as a thinker.”6

Latent and open civil war can be abolished only if the community has an absolute ruler to whom every citizen owes unquestioned obedience. The boldness of his observation was not lost on Hobbes. Promising unconditional obedience to men is illegitimate. If God’s law conflicts with human law, the believer is commanded to obey God rather than man. Hobbes wanted to dispel this objection with a rigorous interpretation of Scripture. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (13:1-6) and other Scriptures considered it unlawful not to obey the authorities. There is only one single fundamental and absolutely necessary article of faith in Christianity: “Jesus is the Christ.” All other dogmas are irrelevant for salvation and hence can be stipulated by the state authority as obligatory in accordance with their goal and function of establishing internal peace.

Hobbes devoted a separate chapter to religion in Leviathan. The idea of God as a “Prime Mover” was a thoroughly reasonable assumption.7 Unlike animals, men observed events around them and tried to understand their causes. The acknowledgment of a single omnipotent God originates in the wish to know the causes of all unpredictable events and possibly to influence them. Religion derived from a natural seed: belief in spirits, ignorance of causes, adoration of what is feared, and belief in omens. Over time, this natural seed was developed in different ways by pagan statesmen and Jewish prophets–to produce a peaceful society. For the Jews, the civil regime was part of the Empire of God; for the heathen the cult of the gods was part of the state regime. In both cases, religion served the public welfare of the citizens. Both solutions managed to gain control over the latent conflict between religion and politics and thus successfully put an end to the state of nature. With this explanation, Hobbes moved completely into the context of ancient historiography, or rather ethnography, which considered religion a part of the political nomos of a people. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus had also described the particular nature of Judaism in light of Herodotus’s model.8

Early Christianity’s fundamental distinction between the Kingdom of God and state legislation contained another solution to the ever-lurking conflict between belief in the Kingdom of God and the need for social peace. Jesus Christ taught that His Kingdom was not of this world and required His followers to obey only the laws of the state.9 Thus, He made a fundamental distinction between the Kingdom of God of the next world and the kingdom of state law of this world. Unfortunately, in the course of history, this initial condition did not endure, because of the “unpleasing priests; and those not only amongst Catholiques, but even in that Church that hath presumed most of Reformation.”10 Misinterpretations of Scripture were the main cause of error.

According to Scripture, the Church had no right to demand obedience from citizens. “I have shewn already (in the last Chapter) that the kingdome of Christ is not of this world: therefore neither can his Ministers (unlesse they be Kings,) require obedience in his name.”11 Hobbes’s argumentation amounts to a rigorous separation of public religion from private religion:

There is a Publique, and a Private Worship. Publique, is the Worship that a Common-wealth performeth, as one Person. Private, is that which a Private person exhibiteth. Publique, in respect of the whole Commonwealth, is Free; but in respect of Particular men it is not. Private, is in secret Free; but in the sight of the Multitude, it is never without some Restraint, either from the Lawes, or from the Opinion of men; which is contrary to the nature of Liberty.12
Hobbes’s private religion lacks all independence. As leader of the public religion, the political sovereign decides all questions disputed in the religious wars: what books are canonic, which prophets proclaim the word of God, what is heresy, and so on.13 Only what has been sanctioned publicly by him can claim to be holy and thus binding on all citizens. Hence, the citizen is to practice his private religion only in seclusion. Even conscience did not give him the duty to make a conviction public or to oppose the demands of the ruler.14 Even when a believer is unfairly persecuted by a godless ruler, he is obligated to pay lip service and to dissimulate instead of mounting an open opposition.15 Death for only one article of faith, “Jesus is the Christ,” can qualify as martyrdom.16 Thus Hobbes reached a hypothesis he considered established in the Bible, but which is really in an old heretical tradition:17 only a strictly internal esoteric piety, which values disguise and concealment higher than courageous resistance, is genuinely Christian. The experience of the horrible religious wars had led him to the radical conclusion that making private belief public endangers the political public good.

Hobbes supported this argument with more categorical distinctions between an internal belief, fides, and an external one, confessio, between veritas and auctoritas, between morality and politics. It was important to him to depoliticize religion, which made him the progenitor of a corresponding philosophical tradition.18 For him, “Private worship” is not an authority a citizen can appeal to. Rather it is to make belief politically neutral, and has no independent authority in moral judgments. The historian Reinhart Koselleck has gone into the political context of these observations. In the social and political milieu of absolutism, acts of state and moral sensibilities were separated: auctoritas, non veritas facit legem. The laws governing acts of state could and should be independent from morality. Paradoxically, this separation enabled the development of a civil morality independent from practical political constraints. Among other things, this happened in civil organizations, which had multiplied rapidly in the eighteenth century.19 Yet during the eighteenth century, the cultivation of civil morality in a state run by “Realpolitik” gained public influence. In the debate with absolutism, citizens began to appeal publicly to their conscience and to their own religion of the heart. They even required acts of state to conform to private civil morality. We shall see in Jean-Jacques Rousseau how the private thus became an independent realm of religious sensibilities and moral judgments. But first we must discuss David Hume. Hobbes knew from his own experience that an irrational religion had firm control of men and their history. Hume went further: the history of mankind is a natural history of religion.

The Pendulum of Religious History

Like Hobbes, David Hume (1711-76) knew a proof of God’s existence. Yet this belief based on reason seemed to imply little for the history of religions. To understand that history, the place of religion in human nature had to be determined. In this context, he wanted to rely solely on experience and observation. “As the teaching of man is the only solid basis for other sciences, so the only certain basis we can give this science is inherent in experience and observation.”20 Nevertheless, these are not final authorities either, but are dependent on the laws of cognition; and here, Hume distinguished two categories: impressions that come from objects to the subject (“impressions;” “matters of fact”) and are processed into simple ideas; and secondly, “relations of ideas,” including laws of geometry, algebra, and arithmetic. They are based on assumptions that precede all experience and can be seen as correct only on the basis of intuition. Compared with them, the facts of experience are more precarious. When people link cause and effect, they are really connecting two different impressions. For example, Hume used the connection of heating water with steam to explain that the assumption of a necessary connection between the two does not result from observation itself, but ensues from it: “Necessity is something that exists in the mind, not in the objects.”21

The title of Hume’s The Natural History of Religion (1757) adopts a key concept of his time. Natural history was a program to catch the diversities of facts within chronological parameters.22 In the very first sentence, Hume presents a distinction that was to give the philosophy of religion a special direction and thus marks a watershed: “As every enquiry, which regards religion, is of the utmost importance, there are two questions in particular, which challenge our attention, to wit, that concerning its foundation in reason, and that concerning its origin in human nature.”23 Separating the truth of religion, on the one hand, and its origin in human nature, on the other, posed the problem in a brand new form.24

In A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), Hume had previously answered the first question concerning the rationality of religion: “The entire structure of the world reveals an intelligent Author.” Hume considered a proof of God’s existence quite possible: the order of the universe proves the existence of an omnipotent Spirit. In the later Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779) he revealed the same view: the functionalism of the world, analogous to a crafted product–proves the existence of a Deity. His Natural History also alluded to this teleological proof of the existence of God.25

The second question was the subject of the Natural History. The history of religion follows from a law other than that of reason. Actual belief in God could hardly derive from knowledge of the order of the universe, as Deism thought. One of the spokesman of Deism, Herbert of Cherbury (1581-1648), maintained that people came to the view shared by everyone on the basis of rational knowledge: that God exists, that He deserves adoration, that virtuous behavior was a duty, sins were to be avoided, and man was an object of reward and punishment.26 For Hume, on the other hand, “the first ideas of religion arose not from a contemplation of the works of nature, but from a concern with regard to the events of life, and from the incessant hopes and fears, which actuate the human mind.”27 The disturbances of nature, but not her amazing regularity, filled men with the strongest religious feelings. Hence, the resemblance between a belief of reason and historical theism was only external. In fact, they had absolutely nothing in common and had different roots. An earlier letter by Hume, in 1743, indicates why he ruled out the idea that the Deity could be an object of human feelings. Invisible and intangible, the Deity excludes passions and feelings as adequate means for knowing God. All “enthusiasts” are wrong. Even the idea that a prayer could be effective in any way seemed blasphemous to him.28 The actual history of religion is not advanced by rational thoughts, but by irrational fears.

From this vantage point, Hume interpreted what was then known of the ancient history of religions. Fear of the unpredictability of life led people to assume personal powers behind the forces of nature, and they hoped to influence these powers through cults. In fact, the gods are only representations of unknown causes. The initial polytheism soon gave way to a theism that used the fear of believers to concentrate their worship increasingly on a single omnipotent Deity. The resulting theism of the masses shows only “‘an accidental correspondence'” with the philosophical theism of the educated. In truth, it was constructed on irrational principles and was merely superstition. That also explains why theism soon lapsed back to polytheism. That is, the one God of the people had become too remote, and so they worshipped intervening intermediaries. Thus, in the natural history of religions, polytheism and theism alternate in an ebb and flow. Hume’s metaphors of “tides,” “pendulum,” or “oscillation” indicate the conformity to psychological laws that have historically propelled an anxiety-obsessed belief in God.29 The history of belief in God inevitably oscillates back and forth between polytheism and monotheism.

In the second part of his Natural History (Sections 9-14), Hume compared polytheism and theism, particularly examining their moral regulations. Both forms of religion clearly differed regarding persecution or tolerance, courage or obsequiousness, reason or absurdity, doubt or conviction. And here theism came off badly. If believers directed all efforts at gaining the pleasure of their god, they would start persecuting the followers of other gods. Thus, theism entailed intolerance, while polytheism brought tolerance.30 Tolerance among the Dutch and the English was not to be attributed to their beliefs, but to the determination of their governments. Once again, we recognize Hobbes’s old problem. But it finds another solution. Only as an alternative does Hume allow the state to play a role in forcing internal peace. The major argument is historical. The dynamic of the history of religion produces divergent political norms. The internal peace of a community is dependent on the pendulum stroke of religious history. Reason was no longer to be found only in the rational proof of God’s existence. It was also available in a weakened form in the religious history.

The Civilizing of Religion

In France at the same time, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was working on a purely moral definition of rational religion. He saw religion not as the expression of fear, but as an intuitive recognition of human obligations. Proud of being from Geneva, the stronghold of Calvinism and a citizen (citoyen) of that community, Rousseau was still imbued with Protestantism even after he converted to Catholicism at the age of sixteen. In 1742, he went to Paris, where he hoped to make his fortune with a musical notation he had invented. An opera made him famous and gave him entry to the circle of the Baron d’Holbach. One day in 1749, on his way to visit Diderot, who was held prisoner in Vincennes, he read in the newspaper a contest question announced by the academy of Dijon: “Has the revival of arts and sciences contributed to the improvement of customs?”31 Even as he read the contest question, he was overcome by a vision that he captured in words twelve years later in a letter:

If ever anything was like a sudden inspiration, it was the emotion that began in me with this reading: suddenly I see my mind blinded by a thousand insights, a plenitude of thoughts surfaced, with such strength and at the same time, in such a muddle that I was thrown into indescribable confusion. . . O my lord, if I could only write a quarter of what I felt and saw under that tree, with what clarity I revealed all the contradictions of our social system, with what force I demonstrated the abuse of our institutions, with what simplicity did I prove that man is good by nature and it is only the institutions that make men evil.32
In 1750 Rousseau submitted to the Academy the work that emerged from this vision, entitled Discours sur les sciences et les arts. Science and courtesy, the jury members read, are ruling men and producing a despicable uniformity: “One incessantly follows customs, never one’s own genius.”33 There was a connection between the revival of the arts and sciences on the one hand and morality on the other, but it worked in reverse: advances in the arts and sciences led to a loss of morality. Yet Rousseau combined this critical answer to the contest question with a hopeful perspective. Man was still thoroughly capable of liberating himself from his institutional deformities. He only had to learn to distinguish his innate abilities from those acquired later. This criticism of culture affected Rousseau’s concept of religion. He consistently distinguished two kinds of religion: one of man and one of the citizen. The religion of man knows no temple, no altar, no rituals, and is limited to the purely internal cult of the Highest God and to the eternal obligations of morality. The religion of the citizen, on the other hand, applies only to one country and prescribes its special gods to him. It has its own dogmas, rituals, and cults.

La profession de foi du Vicaire Savoyard is a magnificent plea for the religion of man. Rousseau included this text, which had already been written in 1758, in Émile . . .. Here he argued against both the “natural religion” of the philosophers and the “revealed religion” of the theologians. With his well-known candor, he denounced the nonsense that true religion could be represented by anyone. Imagine that God really revealed Himself through prophets and had His revelation recorded in books. “Who wrote these books?” asked Rousseau. And answered: “Men.’ And who saw these miracles? ‘Men who attest to them.’ What! Always human testimony? Always men who report to me what other men have reported! So many men between God and me!”34 Such a religion was a matter of geography. The force of the arguments depends on the country in which they are presented.

“In order to judge a religion well, it is necessary not to study it in the books of its sectarians.”35 If you want to make the right choice among the three major religions of Europe (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), you should simply close the Holy Scriptures. History cannot establish any eternal truths. “I regard all the particular religions as so many salutary institutions which prescribe in each country a uniform manner of honoring God by public worship.” But the obligation to obey them did not apply to the dogma of intolerance. “The essential worship is that of the heart.”36 To recognize the true religion, a person needs neither philosophy nor theology. The best teacher is not the judgments of his intellect, but the sensibilities of his heart. “The true duties of religion are independent of the institutions of men.”37 Rousseau saw religion as the strongest social bond connecting people. If Hobbes had political reasons for his great doubt about conscience, for Rousseau, it became an infallible authority that reliably and definitely prescribes the rules of social behavior. “I have only to consult myself about what I want to do. Everything I sense to be good is good; everything I sense to be bad is bad. The best of all casuists is the conscience.”38 There can be no debate about the demands of conscience, for it is an innate principle of justice and virtue, and expresses not judgments but sensibilities. “The forgetting of all religion leads to the forgetting of the duties of man,” says the Profession de Foi.39 Atheists cannot conceivably be good citizens.40

From this concept of a religion of men, in the well-known Chapter Eight of the Contrat Social, “Civil Religion,”41 Rousseau drew the logical conclusion that all political communities must have been legitimated by religion right from the start. Every state had its own gods. The wars it waged were fought on behalf of its gods. This situation changed with Christianity, which put an end to wars between nations and toppled polytheism. But since it separated political from religious loyalties and Church and State posed competing claims for the loyalties of the citizens, the result was an endless chain of civil wars, as Hobbes had correctly seen. In Rousseau’s view, European religious history exists in a permanent dilemma. National religions triggered wars between nations; the universal religion of Christianity incited wars between citizens.

He saw the solution to this problem in a social contract the citizens had to make if they wanted to form a reasonable political community. This contract could be based neither on the religion of men nor on the religion of citizens. The former separates the citizen’s heart from the state; the latter demands war with other nations. The task of the necessary civil religion was to reconcile two different things: to see all men as brothers, and at the same time, to love the fatherland. The sovereign must stipulate a civil religion for the citizens and thus make “sentiments of sociability” obligatory for everyone. The positive propositions of this religion were to be the existence of a Deity; a future life; reward for the righteous; punishment for evildoers; the sanctity of the social contract and the laws. “Its negative dogmas I confine to one, intolerance, which is a part of the cults we have rejected.”42

Hobbes’s trust in the powerful state as a safeguard of the internal peace of a society was no longer available in Rousseau. On the contrary: this price seemed too high for him. The wars waged by the states of Europe against one another indicated that religion urgently needed revision. Only if the political religion was balanced with the universal religion that every man is given in his conscience could it provide the foundation of a genuine civil society.

Rousseau’s argumentation was to give an important impetus to the philosophy of religion because it shaped a discourse of religion that enabled the public acknowledgment of a religion that was identical neither with that of men nor of the state. Civil society had taken a place in the philosophy of religion, as civil religion.

The Public Examination of Private Historic Belief

The thought of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) continued the approaches of Hume and Rousseau.43 His epistemology worked on the problems Hume posed, and his moral philosophy on those raised by Rousseau. As shown by The Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant combined the two. The concept of God epistemologically is a transcendental idea that exceeds every possible experience, and therefore on principle cannot be proved. But that does not lead Kant to conclude that metaphysical ideas are superfluous and dispensable as illusions. That is, what he had expelled from the kingdom of certain knowledge, he allowed to come back in as postulates of ethics in Critique of Practical Reason (1778) and in Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793). Practical reason could also demand acknowledgment from unprovable assertions. Kant listedthree such postulates: that God exists, that the soul is immortal, and that we have free will. Even if these assumptions could not be proved, there are convincing reasons for them. In this reasoning, Kant used an important distinction in his Critique of Pure Reason: between terms that constitute objects and those that have only a regulating function.44 For this purpose, Kant put religion completely within the realm of the Should, which is fundamentally different from Being: “Religion is (subjectively regarded) the recognition of all duties as divine commands.”45

An institutionalized religion is only partly required for attaining moral knowledge. It is reason that decides what is timeless in the historical religion, what is universal in the particular belief, what is common in established teaching, what is unchanging in the ephemeral. Despite all limitations, Kant recognized that a particular religion can achieve a certain preliminary work for the religion of reason. Their relationship is like two concentric circles.46 The historical revelation can include the religion of reason, but the religion of reason cannot include the historical revelation. Although a historical belief has only a particular validity, that does not make it any less useful. It can be a means to the end of the belief of reason. In this respect, Kant talked of “vanguard, “vehicle,” or “organum.” The layman must only be liberated from all ecclesiastical dictates and obey his own reason. The apron strings of the holy tradition then become increasingly unnecessary.47 Where that happens, the particular belief can become the source of a publicly binding morality. Looking at the practical effects of Kant’s postulates, it is clearly no accident that they replicate Christian dogmas. Kant acknowledged Christianity as a sensual vehicle of pure religious belief. However, the vehicle needed the canons of reason to be generally obligatory.48 Ascribing such obligation to it meant succumbing to superstition.

Kant described the procedure of this transformation as a process in the university that was also described as The Conflict of the Faculties. Three departments of the university–theology, law, and medicine–draw their theories from texts prescribed by the government: theology from the Holy Scriptures, jurisprudence from statutory laws, medicine from the medical system. It is up to the philosophy department to examine the particular writings in terms of the basic reason of their truth. It was important to Kant to locate this examination in the university because that was the only way to assure that it took place in public. The quarrel with theology accompanying this examination was inevitable since it was the only means to turn ecclesiastical belief into a reasonable belief and to shape the foundations of a civil morality.

Kant’s argumentation reversed the usual pattern of establishing ethics through religion. Particular religions had to justify themselves in the court of practical reason occupied by philosophers. Since Kant entrusted the examination to philosophy, he gave it competence in public acknowledgment of religion. The examination was to be free of government interests as well. Kant provided nineteenth-century religious discourse with a crucial model, not only with the reversal of religion and ethics. The concept of a philosophical examination of religion was equally effective. It is not surprising that not only Christianity but other religions, too, were also soon subjected to this procedure.

Historical Religions as Educational Powers

Kant had taken the tension between the history and reason of religion so far that it is no accident that an opposite view was developed, whose leading exponent was Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). Herder marks the start of a reevaluation of historical religions, which had received extremely bad grades from Hobbes, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant. Herder was the first of a series of thinkers who displayed good, even brilliant evidence for them. Herder was born in the East Prussian town of Mohrungen and was sent to study medicine in Königsberg in 1762. There, however, he changed his major, enrolled in theology, and attended Kant’s lectures. Kant took a liking to the eighteen-year-old student and allowed him to attend his lectures free of charge. At this time, Herder also became friendly with Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88), the “Magus of the North.” After graduation, he was first a preacher in Riga, then went to France. In 1770, he traveled to Strassburg, where he met Goethe.

Like Rousseau, it was a contest question that led him to organize and write his ideas. In 1769, the Berlin Academy of Science announced the contest question: “Could human beings invent language for themselves, left to their natural abilities?” Anyone with a hypothesis on this could submit it by January 1, 1771. Herder did and won first prize with Essay on the Origin of Languages.49 Ever since the mid-eighteenth century, feelings had run high about the question of where language comes from, whether it was a human invention or a gift of God.50 Christian theologians, led by Johann Peter Süssmilch, opposed the view that language originated in nature (from a humanlike animal).51 According to Süssmilch, . . . the logical perfection of grammar argues unambiguously in favor of its divine origin. Moreover, in human language, there are several symbols that could not have been invented by the human mind. God gave man language to stir and develop his reason.

Like Süssmilch, . . . Herder rejected a rational theory of language, in which words were regarded only as signs of objects and thoughts. Herder noted that the emotional dimension was missing. “The older and the more original languages are, the more the feelings intertwine in the roots of the words.”52 Human speech and thought would not indicate things without also giving them meanings at the same time. But how is “the interweaving of the roots of the words with ideas” to be explained? Unlike Süssmilch, Herder thought that the spirit of metaphor appeared not only in the so-called divine language, Hebrew, but was available in all languages and must therefore come from human inner life. Metaphors originated in the nature of human speech and hearing: not of individuals, but of “the nation” and the “peculiarity of its way of thinking.” With these considerations, Herder granted the sense of hearing a privileged position. In comparison with the cold sense of sight, the perceptions of the ear were distinguished by a special intimacy: words resounded inside the soul.53 However, such words could also degenerate completely and become a mere instrument of signs, thus forfeiting their spirit of metaphor. Only history teaches the full meaning. “The more original a language, the fewer its abstractions and the more numerous its feelings.”54

This suggests conclusions that refute current views of reason. Genuine education cannot be an internal, timeless, universal matter. It was necessarily external, temporary, particular. Herder took on this subject in his Philosophy on the History of Mankind (1774). Languages inscribed a spirit in human views. This appreciation of languages, which led ten years later to a forthright plea for the philosophical comparison of languages,55 followed the rehabilitation of particular religions. That is, they have preserved something that has gotten lost in the cold culture of Europe. From this point of view, Herder devoted himself to the differences between East and West. Didn’t they show something of the impoverishment of European education? “The human mind received the first forms of wisdom and virtue with a simplicity, strength, and majesty that–put bluntly–is absolutely unparalleled in our cold philosophical, European world. And just because we are so incapable of understanding it, feeling it, not to mention enjoying it anymore–we mock, deny and misinterpret! . . . No doubt religion is also part of this, or rather, religion was ‘the element in which all of that lives’ and wove.”56

In Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (1784-85), Herder attacked the current assumption that man had become all that he was by himself. This was a delusion. “Not one of us became a man all by himself.” Reason is not a pure power, independent of senses and organs. Even in terms of his spiritual capacities, man was not autonomous.57 While Rousseau heaped scorn on “tradition,” Herder made it the prerequisite of true education. If an idea is to be conveyed to someone else, it must have the word as a visible sign. This is the only way the invisible can be made visible and past history remain preserved for posterity. This is the true mission of philosophy. “The philosophy of history . . . which follows the chain of tradition is, to speak properly, the true history of mankind, without which all the outward occurrences of this world are but clouds or revolting deformities. . . The chain of improvement alone forms a whole of these ruins, in which human figures indeed vanish, but the spirit of mankind lives and acts immortally.”58

In this “chain of improvement” religion occupies a place of honor, even the religion of savages at the edge of the earth. “Whence is the religion of these people derived? Can these poor creatures have invented their religious worship as a sort of natural theology? Certainly not; for absorbed in labor, they invent nothing, but in all things follow the traditions of their forefathers. . . Here, therefore, tradition has been the propagator of their religion and sacred rites, as of their language and slight degree of civilization.59

Herder had a critical intention in bringing tradition and religion into it. He considered religion as something other than an intellectual exercise, but as an exercise of the human heart and a development of the soul. Since past and foreign religions had preserved human sensibilities intense, Herder ascribed a high status to them. While Herder regarded the history of religion in terms of the education of the subject, he adopted Kant’s idea of a public examination of religion, but gave it a different twist. He saw the contempt for tradition in his time as a result of a seizure of power by the intellect, which was to blame for the mechanization of life and for spiritual impoverishment.60 Awareness of the history of religions could contribute fundamentally to a human culture.

Speeches of Religion as an Individual View of the Universal

Friedrich Schleiermacher’s avowed goal was a reevaluation of positive religion. He was born in Breslau in 1768 and died in Berlin in 1834. Pietism and romanticism, the intensity of emotion and natural experience, clashed and combined in him. Schleiermacher was educated by the Moravian Brethren, but left them and went to Halle to study theology (and philosophy). From 1796 to 1802, he served as the Reformed pastor of the Charité hospital in Berlin. He formed a warm friendship with Henriette Herz, and in her salon he was thrilled and inspired by the intellectual debates that were going on in Berlin at that time. The prevailing thought in those salons was not influenced very much by political hierarchies and social conventions,61 but the transition from the Enlightenment to Romanticism was discussed intensely. Schleiermacher’s work on his book, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, was accompanied by an animated exchange of ideas with Henriette Herz. The following year, he published the Speeches anonymously; it was an enormous success. Although Schleiermacher later rewrote it several times,62 its first version remained the freshest. Schleiermacher left Berlin in 1802 but returned in 1807, married in 1809, and accepted a professorship at the new university in 1810. When he died in 1834, nearly 30,000 people attended his funeral, which gives some indication of his outstanding importance for his fellow citizens.

Schleiermacher began writing at a time when positive religions were scorned and hated by many. The horrible persecutions and bloody wars that had taken place in its name were still fresh in people’s memory. Schleiermacher blamed that on those who, as he put it, had “pulled” religion from deep in the heart into the civic world.63 He himself belonged to a generation that had welcomed criticism of absolutism and clericalism, but that had also experienced the outcome of the political transformation of the new civic morality in the disaster of the French Revolution.64 One who thinks that religions should be taken seriously philosophically, contrary to prevailing opinion, must first correct prejudices about religion. Schleiermacher had also developed a theory of understanding that regarded misunderstanding, and not understanding, as normal. In his hermeneutics, he distinguished two different practices of interpretation: “There is a less rigorous practice of this art which is based on the assumption that understanding occurs as a matter of course. The aim of this practice may be expressed in negative form as: ‘Misunderstanding should be avoided.’ . . . There is a more rigorous practice of the art of interpretation that is based on the assumption that misunderstanding occurs as a matter of course, and so understanding must be willed and sought at every point.”65 Hans-Georg Gadamer considered Schleiermacher’s distinction a unique achievement. For only hermeneutics as the art of avoiding misunderstanding can rise above a pedagogical exercise and turn into a separate method. “Hermeneutics is the art of dealing with the power of misunderstanding.”66

Something of this hermeneutics can also be seen in Schleiermacher’s Speeches. The nature of religion is not given in a naïve way, but must be found behind misunderstood rationalizations. The opinion that religion had its place in metaphysics (transcendental philosophy) and morality was predominant. Schleiermacher demanded from his audience to begin with the clear-cut distinction between our piety and what you call morality.67 Religion, correctly understood, stands beside the realms of thought and behavior as a separate third field. Thus it is also independent of theories and stipulations. Even when God and immortality are doubted, religion does not disappear.68 It must only be sought.

The Speeches present a religion whose center is “the sense and taste for the infinite.” Their source is not God, but the universe. Anyone who wants to have the infinite outside of the finite is deceiving himself, for it is the universe that reveals itself to the person who is completely passive and receptive to it. The universe forms its own beholder and admirer. This revelation happens constantly, and hence there is no hope of pinning it down in myths or theories. Schleier-macher was consistent in recognizing no obligatory representation of religion, which gives his view of “history” its specific meaning. Since there can be no final and obligatory revelation of the infinite, it necessarily manifests itself only in individual variations. This multiplicity of religions is quite different from the multiplicity of churches, for, in principle, experienced religion is remote from and opposed to organized and systematic religion. History documents this endless multiplicity of revelations of the universe and is therefore the highest subject of religion.

Anyone who sets out to study the history of religion experiences a wonderful transformation in himself. “From these wanderings through the whole territory of humanity, pious feeling returns, quickened and educated, into its own Ego, and there finds all the influences that had streamed upon it from the most distant regions You are a compendium of humanity. In a certain sense your single nature embraces all human nature. Your Ego, being multiplied and more clearly outlined, is in all its smallest and swiftest changes immortalized in the manifestations of human nature.”69

The Speeches not only present such a religion, they also represent it. If anything can still represent “religion” today, it is the Speeches. In the last part, Schleiermacher gets into the “Social in religion.” Here he has to explain how a religion can be represented and conveyed, if it cannot be fixed in myth or doctrine, and is present only in strictly individual views of the universe. His own Speeches tacitly had to assume something of that sort.70 Thus Schleiermacher was consistent in developing a theory of the literary form of the “speech,” using a comparison with the competing forms of “book” and “conversation.” In the form of the book, religious communication is robbed of its original life. And a conversation does not suit such a serious subject. Only in the form of the “speech” can religion be communicated. And it wants to be communicated. Because everyone who has experienced the effect of the universe does not want to keep this experience to himself but wants to be a witness for others. To communicate it, he uses the arts: “Hence a person whose heart is full of religion only opens his mouth before an assembly where speech so richly equipped might have manifold working.”71

If we consider Schleiermacher’s concluding reflection on the social aspect of religion, we recognize that he shared the view of his predecessors, Rousseau, Kant, and Herder, that religions are objects of public discussion and examination. Speech will create a common bond of all those who feel moved by the universe. Religion remains both subject and object of public discourse when the individual is considered the implacable final authority of religion.

Different Religions, Different Subjectivities

Schleiermacher’s definition of religion encountered the sharp opposition of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), who allowed himself the following nasty comment: If religion were based only on the feeling of dependence, the dog would be the best believer.72 The immediacy of a relation was merely a naturalness that still lacked an awareness. From here, Hegel aimed his darts against all Romantics. The unity of nature and mind they glorified was really only the primitive starting point of human history; it was somewhat bestial. Naturally, religion should and must be a matter of feeling. Yet feelings first had to prove their legitimacy. Hegel included this objection in 1822 in a foreword to Hinrich’s Philosophy of Religion:

Religion, like duty and law, shall become and even should become a matter of feeling, and lodge in the heart, as freedom also generally lowers itself into feeling and becomes in man a feeling of freedom. But it is entirely something else whether such content, created out of feeling, as God, truth, and freedom, whether such objects should have feeling for their justification; or whether, conversely, such objective content, valid in and for itself, comes to lodge in the heart and in feeling, and feelings, rather, come to receive their content as well as their determination, rectification, and justification from this objective content.73
Hegel’s rejection of feeling as the basis of religion had serious consequences for his philosophical examination of religions. In natural religions, the spiritual and the natural coincide. But this does not apply to all religions. Thus, Hegel could see positive religions as a potential object of rational cognition, as he showed in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, which are based on the assumption that immediacy is natural, but awareness is exaltation above nature. Such an exaltation is characteristic of religions–aside from natural religions. Religions documented a discord of awareness, since they themselves distinguished the true from the natural, and spirit from nature–even if, as Hegel rigorously noted, they were not always consistent. Thus Hegel made the exaltation of the spirit over the natural into a point of view that can produce rational cognition from the study of the history of religion.74

Hegel combined awareness with mediation. Thus he both continued Kant’s thought and turned against him at the same time. Kant had determined that the pure categories of thought were independent of the things in themselves. Hegel found this claim weak and barren. Doesn’t the external always bear the stamp of the internal, and vice-versa? The way of mediating reality by notions is itself historically determined. Thus he was especially interested in the question: Where and how in human history does consciousness of a difference between subject and object, between spirit and nature emerge? In natural religions, it is not yet available. But what about the religions of Asia?

Hegel’s picture of India was initially determined by his rejection of Romanticism. The unity of spirit and nature that Schlegel saw as the highest stage of development as exemplified in India, Hegel considered the lowest rung. In 1824, when Hegel acquired more precise knowledge about Indian philosophy, he revised and refined his judgment.75 In 1823, Henry Thomas Colebrooke had delivered lectures entitled On the Philosophy of the Hindus to the Royal Asiatic Society of London, which were published a year later. After reading them, Hegel promptly expanded his Lectures on the History of Philosophy with a chapter on “Oriental Philosophy,”76 correcting the opinion that the Orientals lived in unity with nature, as a superficial and distorted impression. For, as Hegel substantiated his charge, this genuine unity essentially contains the element of the negation of nature, as it is immediate. The spiritual is one with nature only when being in itself, and at the same time posing the natural as negative.77 Indian philosophy was very familiar with the difference between spirit and nature, since only on this assumption could the spiritual negate the natural. According to the Indian view, the individual gains his freedom from the natural only by losing himself in contemplation in the general substance, from which the universe emerged. The highest thing in religion as in philosophy is that man as consciousness makes himself identical with substance: through devotion, sacrifice, strict atonement–and through philosophy, through occupation with pure thought.78 Because of Colebrooke’s lectures, Hegel realized that Indian thought knew the difference between subject and object, spirit and nature, and consequently deserved its own chapter in the history of philosophy. But this difference had other practical results than in the Greek-Christian religion: the individual obtained his value not by confronting nature as subject, but by vanishing into substance. That was its defect.79

As soon as Hegel had carried out this revision, another opportunity appeared for refining his philosophical reconstruction of Indian religion. In 1825 and 1826, Wilhelm von Humboldt had delivered two lectures on the much admired Bhagavad Gita at the Royal Academy of Science in Berlin. In 1827, Hegel published a comprehensive review, focusing on a contradiction. The Bhagavad Gita inculcates something that was ruled out: that is, it calls for both the performance of dutiful works and the renunciation of works. The demand for action appears repeatedly in Krishna’s words on Ardshuna alongside the opposite demand for contemplation without action. Hegel’s interpretation fixed on this contradiction. It could not be solved in Indian thinking, he judged. “The solution is impossible because the most sublime in Indian mentality, the absolute Being, Brahman, is as such without qualities. . . In this separation of the universal and the concrete both are spiritless–that as empty Oneness, this as unfree manifold; man as bound to this is only subject to life’s law of nature; elevating himself to that extreme, he is on the escape and in a state of negating all concrete, spiritual activity.”80

As a philosopher, Hegel indicated one essential feature of Indian religion with special emphasis: the divine substance knows no internal differentiation. Accordingly, the released individual loses himself in contemplation and becomes one with the metaphysical substance. This substance does not emerge as a denial of the world and does not constitute a new autonomous subject–as in Christian religion. Thus, the possibility of a tension with the world is not realized. Renunciation only affects acts conditioned by desire, and not obligatory acts. Nor does this encroach on the existing caste system. The individual released from the world is outside the world, not in it, as in Christianity.

Developing two countermodels of denial of the world by comparing Indian religion with Christianity, Hegel created an unprecedented description of religions. For Hegel, God, ethics, and salvation remained immutable ideas. A glance at the Romantics shows clearly what was new in his view. While they found Indian “worship” a confirmation that man is in unity with nature, Hegel regarded “worship” as a “conception” that creates a form of awareness in which man knows himself as one with the divine substance. The facts of the case are the same. But Hegel perceived “idea” where the Romantics saw only “feeling.” Therefore, he viewed religion as the area of development of the subject and the epitome of his experience.

Such a philosophical consideration also required the kind of elements that were remote from Kant’s examination of the regulative function of religions. Hegel reconstructed philosophical religion from the history of religions: from the ideas of God, the conception of the soul, religious practice, and so on. These are the independent conceptions of truth Hegel observed. For from these concepts, the position of the individual in the division between spirit and nature can be perceived. Philosophy can think religion, but not replace it.81 The history of religion documents the process of developing consciousness of the subject.

The Option of Renouncing the World

With Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), philosophy turned even more decisively to the history of religions than Hegel had done. Schopen-hauer was an outsider, who received no recognition for quite some time. He was not appointed to a university professorship, even though he received his doctorate in 1813 in Jena and qualified as a university professor in Berlin in 1820. In Dresden, he wrote his major work, The World As Will and Representation in 1818, which he expanded to a second volume in 1844. Since no one wanted to read his books, they were pulped. Only at the age of sixty-six did he achieve recognition.82

From the start, Schopenhauer placed an extraordinary emphasis on the sources of the history of religion. In the preface to the first volume of his magnum opus, in 1818, he acknowledged: “Kant’s philosophy . . . is the only one with which a thorough acquaintance is positively assumed in what is to be here discussed. But if in addition to this the reader has dwelt for a while in the school of the divine Plato, he will be the better prepared to hear me, and the more susceptible to what I say. But if he has shared in the benefits of the Vedas . . . if, I say, the reader has also already received and assimilated the divine inspiration of ancient Indian wisdom, then he is best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him.” The new century had a special advantage: the Upanishads gave access to the Vedas. Schopenhauer expected “that the influence of Sanskrit literature will penetrate no less deeply than did the revival of Greek literature in the fifteenth century.”83

In a debate with Kant, Schopenhauer delineated his basic position. Kant’s “logical I,” which gives our views and thoughts unity and is the permanent bearer of all our ideas, cannot itself be conditioned by awareness. Something else must assume it. “This, I say, is the will.”84 Thereupon, Schopenhauer took a first step: from thinking to willing. The will to live as a practical relationship to the world presupposes the subject-object differentiation. The possibility of knowing the world is formed and conditioned by the will to live. This origin does not ennoble the world; it owes its existence ultimately to a blind, insatiable urge of will. Thus, it is wrong to call it the best of all possible worlds, as Leibniz did. It is “the worst of all possible worlds.”85 Yet, there is an escape from this world: the renunciation of will. The pivot and crux of this operation is the process of individuation. The princi-pum individuationis is the source of all hatred and grief. When the person sees through these, he can lift the veil of Maya, the hocus-pocus of illusion, all by himself. Thus the egotistical difference between one’s own self and the Other fades. Then, discovery of the whole, of the nature of the Things-in-Itself becomes the Quietiv.86 Schopenhauer calls this possibility “asceticism.” It is to be found not only in reports of Indian religiosity, but also in German mysticism. Ultimately, it is also encountered in acts. Thus, the lives of saints can be more instructive for philosophers than philosophical treatises. But the ethics of religions can also contribute to closer knowledge. Christianity knows asceticism when it demands self-denial, although this demand is obscured by the Jewish part of Christianity. If that is eliminated, the same thing that is portrayed more fully and vividly in the ancient Sanskrit works is found. The Hindu ethic shows a willingness for voluntary death which is quite foreign to us, as for example when Hindus throw themselves under the wheels of the juggernaut. What has survived as a practice for so long among so many millions of peoples, while imposing the most difficult sacrifice, cannot be an arbitrary whim, but rather must have its basis in the nature of mankind.87 Moreover, there is also the experience of horror that is triggered by conversion. The story of the conversion of Raimund Lullius is relevant here. He expected the fulfillment of all his wishes when a beautiful woman he had been courting for a long time summoned him to her room, at which time she opened her blouse and showed him her horrible bosom eaten by cancer. From this moment on, as if he had seen hell, he converted.88 But that was only the second best way.

In the complementary second volume of 1844, Schopenhauer raised the status of the history of religion even more with regard to the denial of the will to live. In accordance with the origin of cognition from the will, which was demonstrated in the first volume, all religions at the peak of mysticism and mystery end in darkness and veils. If the Jewish Bible is taken out of Christianity and the true Christianity of the Gnostics is followed, then Christianity belongs to the ancient, true, and sublime faith of mankind. This faith stands in contrast to the false, shallow, and pernicious optimism that manifests itself in Greek paganism, Judaism, and Islam.89 There is Indian blood in the body of Christianity that supports its constant tendency to get rid of Judaism. Even Protestantism knows the ascetic spirit of genuine Christianity. For Schopenhauer, the concurrence of this renunciation of the world despite extreme differences in times, countries, and religions was no coincidence. If contemporaries saw it as a stumbling block, he, on the other hand, saw it as a proof of its sole accuracy and truth.90

The proximity to and distance from Hegel cannot be ignored. Schopenhauer condemned the miserable Hegelism, that school of dullness, that center of stupidity and ignorance, that mind-destroying, spurious wisdom.91 Honesty, however, prompted him to say that he interpreted the Indian sources from the same point of view as his opponent Hegel. But what Hegel considered their defect, Schopen-hauer saw as their superiority. Thus he turned a principle of subjectivity, which was correct for Hegel only in terms of universal history, into a relevant option: the denial of individuation. But in the process, the history of religions obtained a declarative value that was more existential than in the thought of previous philosophers. “What the faculty of reason is to the individual, history is to the human race. By virtue of this faculty, man is not like the animal, restricted to the narrow present of perception, but knows also the incomparably more extended past with which it is connected, and out of which it has emerged. But only in this way does he have a proper understanding of the present itself, and can he draw conclusions as to the future.”92

From the History of Religion to Rational Religion and Back

A survey of the positions on the history of religions adopted in philosophy from Hobbes to Schopenhauer allows us to talk of a reversal of the starting position. At first there was a rigorous separation of historical religions from rational religion. At the end, the history of religion serves as a source of a reason superior to enlightened thought. Hobbes’s own experience was clear proof to him that the more private and apolitical religions were, the more rational they were. Making private beliefs public endangered the social welfare of everyone. Thus, his measure of its rationality was whether it vanquished civil war, especially the horrible wars of religion. For Hume, on the other hand, private religion per se was no longer suspicious, and the state-prescribed religion per se was not rational. The history of religions was subject to a psychological law that made men vacillate back and forth in their history between polytheism and monotheism, tolerance and intolerance. Different types of religions generated divergent public norms. The internal peace of a community depended on whether the pendulum of the history of religion went toward polytheism. Hume assigned the state only the role of a stand-in to compel internal peace.

Separating a rational religion from historical religions posed new difficulties. How could the menacing political function of the church be compatible with the equally obvious social and moral function of a “religion of the heart”? How could the middle class throw off their subordination to historical dogmas and institutions without destroying the morality of the community? Rousseau and Kant worked on this problem and developed a model of behavior of rational religion that was different from that of existing religion. Both thinkers saw the possibility of reforming private religious convictions by means of a public examination and government regulation, thus making them the basis of public morality. Private belief must become public; public requirement of reason must become private. Georg Simmel’s phrase is well suited to Kant’s and Rousseau’s philosophy of religion.

Even before the collapse of the political enlightenment in the French Revolution, there was opposition to such a primarily social and moral view of religion. Religions were much more comprehensive worldviews that molded the thought, behavior, and emotions of human beings. They were a compendium of human culture, either of nations (Herder) or individuals (Schleiermacher). But there was a price for this reevaluation of religions: the Romantic idealization of a unity of spirit and nature. For Hegel, that price was too high. Besides, closer study of Indian religiosity revealed that India had been incorrectly cited as a model for such a unity. Hegel saw the process of a split between spirit and nature, subject and object at work in the great religions. Hence philosophy can identify different structures of subjectivity in the history of religion. While India wanted to overcome the tension between spirit and nature through contemplation, the West cultivated it. What Hegel described as historically universal, Schopenhauer made into individual options, and turned it upside down. India is a good example of how we too can rid ourselves of the false claim to subjectivity.

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John Locke y Empirismo inglés en power point

presentación en formato power point sobre los filósofos pertenecientes al Empirismo inglés
de utilidad para esquematizar las tesis políticas de John Locke y de su oponente Thomas Hobbes

fuente http://centros4.pntic.mec.es/ies.vela.zanetti/filosofia/jesuslobo/empir.ppt.

John Locke: Teorías políticas

FUENTE http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/4n.htm

Locke: Social Order
John Locke’s intellectual curiosity and social activism also led him to consider issues of general public concern in the lively political climate of seventeenth-century England. In a series of Letters on Toleration, he argued against the exercise of any governmental effort to promote or to restrict particular religious beliefs and practices. His epistemology is directly relevant to this issue: since we cannot know perfectly the truth about all differences of religious opinion, Locke held, there can be no justification for imposing our own beliefs on others. Thus, although he shared his generation’s prejudice against “enthusiastic” expressions of religious fervor, Locke officially defended a broad toleration of divergent views.

Locke’s political philosophy found its greatest expression in the Two Treatises of Civil Government, published anonymously during the same year that the Essay appeared under his own name. In the First Treatise Locke offered a point-by-point critique of Robert Filmer’s Patriarchia, a quasi-religious attempt to show that absolute monarchy is the natural system of human social organization. The Second Treatise on Government develops Locke’s own detailed account of the origin, aims, and structure of any civil government. Adopting a general method similar to that of Hobbes, Locke imagined an original state of nature in which individuals rely upon their own strength, then described our escape from this primitive state by entering into a social contract under which the state provides protective services to its citizens. Unlike Hobbes, Locke regarded this contract as revokable. Any civil government depends on the consent of those who are governed, which may be withdrawn at any time.

From the outset, Locke openly declared the remarkable theme of his political theory: in order to preserve the public good, the central function of government must be the protection of private property. (2nd Treatise §3) Consider how human social life begins, in a hypothetical state of nature: Each individual is perfectly equal with every other, and all have the absolute liberty to act as they will, without interference from any other. (2nd Treatise §4) What prevents this natural state from being a violent Hobbesian free-for-all, according to Locke, is that each individual shares in the use of the faculty of reason, so that the actions of every human agent—even in the unreconstructed state of nature—are bound by the self-evident laws of nature.

Understood in this way, the state of nature vests each reasonable individual with an independent right and responsibility to enforce the natural law by punishing those few who irrationally choose to violate it. (2nd Treatise §§7-8) Because all are equal in the state of nature, the proportional punishment of criminals is a task anyone may undertake. Only in cases when the precipitate action of the offender permits no time for appeal to the common sense, reason, and will of others, Locke held, does this natural state degenerate into the state of war of each against all. (2nd Treatise §19)

Everything changes with the gradual introduction of private property. Originally, Locke supposed, the earth and everything on it belongs to all of us in common; among perfectly equal inhabitants, all have the same right to make use of whatever they find and can use. The only exception to this rule is that each of us has an exclusive right to her/his own body and its actions. But applying these actions to natural objects by mixing our labor with them, Locke argued, provides a clear means for appropriating them as an extension of our own personal property. (2nd Treatise §27) Since our bodies and their movements are our own, whenever we use our own effort to improve the natural world—the resulting products belong to us as well.

The same principle of appropriation by the investment of labor can be extended to control over the surface of the earth as well, on Locke’s view. Individuals who pour themselves into the land—improving its productivity by spending their own time and effort on its cultivation—acquire a property interest in the result. (2nd Treatise §32) The plowed field is worth more than the virgin prairie precisely because I have invested my labor in plowing it; so even if the prairie was held in common by all, the plowed field is mine. This personal appropriation of natural resources can continue indefinitely, Locke held, so long as there is “enough, and as good” left for others with the gumption to do the same. (2nd Treatise §33)

Within reasonable limits, then, individuals are free to pursue their own “life, health, liberty, and possessions.” Of course the story gets more complicated with the introduction of a monetary system that makes it possible to store up value in excess of what the individual can responsibly enjoy. (2nd Treatise §37) The fundamental principle still applies: labor is the ultimate source of all economic value. (2nd Treatise §42) But the creation of a monetary system requires an agreement among distinct individuals on the artificial “value” frozen in what is, in itself, nothing more than a bit of “colored metal.” This need for agreement, in turn, gives rise to the social order.

Civil Society
The first instance of social organization, on Locke’s view, is the development of the family, a voluntary association designed to secure the propagation of the human species through successive generations. (2nd Treatise §78) Although each individual in the state of nature has the right to enforce the natural law in defence of property interests, the formation of a civil society requires that all individuals voluntarily surrender this right to the community at large. By declaring and enforcing fixed rules for conduct—human laws—the commonwealth thus serves as “umpire” in the adjudication of property disputes among those who choose to be governed in this way. (2nd Treatise §87-89) An absolute monarch, by contrast, can only remain in a state of nature with respect to the subjects under its rule.

Securing social order through the formation of any government invariably requires the direct consent of those who are to be governed. (2nd Treatise §95) Each and every individual must concur in the the original agreement to form such a government, but it would be enormously difficult to achieve unanimous consent with respect to the particular laws it promulgates. So, in practice, Locke supposed that the will expressed by the majority must be accepted as determinative over the conduct of each individual citizen who consents to be governed at all. (2nd Treatise §97-98) Although he offered several historical examples of just such initial agreements to form a society, Locke reasonably maintained that this is beside the point. All people who voluntarily chooses to live within a society have implicitly or tacitly entered into its formative agreement, and thereby consented to submit themselves and their property to its governance. (2nd Treatise §119)

The structure or form of the government so established is a matter of relatively less importance, on Locke’s view. (2nd Treatise §132) What matters is that legislative power—the ability to provide for social order and the common good by setting standing laws over the acquisition, preservation, and transfer of property—is provided for in ways to which everyone consents. (2nd Treatise §134-8) Because the laws are established and applied equally to all, Locke argued, this is not merely an exercize in the arbitrary use of power, but an effort to secure the rights of all more securely than would be possible under the independence and equality of the state of nature.

Since standing laws continue in force long after they have been established, Locke pointed out that the legislative body responsible for deciding what the laws should be need only meet occasionally, but the executive branch of government, responsible for ensuring that the laws are actually obeyed, must be continuous in its operation within the society. (2nd Treatise §144) In similar fashion, he supposed that the federative power responsible for representing this particular commonwealth in the world at large, needs a lengthy tenure. Locke’s presumption is that the legislative function of government will be vested in a representative assembly, which naturally retains the supreme power over the commonwealth as a whole: whenever it assembles, the majority of its members speak jointly for everyone in the society. The executive and federative functions, then, are performed by other persons (magistrates and ministers) whose power to enforce and negotiate is wholly derived from the legislative. (2nd Treatise §153) But since the legislature is not perpetually in session, occasions will sometimes arise for which the standing laws have made no direct provision, and then the executive will have to exercize its prerogative to deal with the situation immediately, relying upon its own counsel in the absence of legislative direction. (2nd Treatise §160) It is the potential abuse of this prerogative, Locke supposed, that most often threatens the stability and order of a commonwealth.

Whether any specific use of executive prerogative amounts to an abuse of power, is a question that transcends the social contract itself, and can only be judged by a higher appeal, to the divinely ordained law of nature. (2nd Treatise §168) Remember that according to Locke all legitimate political power derives solely from the consent of the governed to entrust their “lives, liberties, and possessions” to the oversight of the community as a whole, as expressed in the majority of its legislative body. (2nd Treatise §171) The commonwealth as a whole, then, is dissolved (and a new one formed) whenever there is a fundamental change in the membership of the legislature. (2nd Treatise §220)

The most likely cause of such a revolution, Locke supposed, would be abuse of power by the government itself: when the society unduly interferes with the property interests of the citizens, they are bound to protect themselves by withdrawing their consent. (2nd Treatise §222) When great mistakes are made in the governance of a commonwealth, only rebellion holds any promise of the restoration of fundamental rights. (2nd Treatise §225 ) Who is to be the judge of whether or not this has actually occurred? Only the people can decide, Locke maintained, since the very existence of the civil order depends upon their consent. (2nd Treatise §240) On Locke’s view, then, the possibility of revolution is a permanent feature of any properly-formed civil society. This provided a post facto defense of the Glorious Revolution in England and was a significant element in attempts to justify later popular revolts in America and France.

Political Theory

Published in: on November 8, 2009 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment