The division in the Enlightenment between Rousseau and Hobbes is so famous it's practically a cliché at this point. Is human nature fundamentally good, or fundamentally bad? Is society a super-organism with a sovereign head, or a collection of self-interested agents, who need to be threatened to stay in line? Those debates will continue ad nauseam, I am sure. That's not what I mean by the title of this post. Rather, I want to explore the distinction between Locke and Mill.
In Political Liberalism, Rawls argues against his critics, insisting that the original position was merely a thought experiment meant to aid in the intuitive realization of the principles of justice according to a uniform standard of fairness. This essay will briefly summarize the original position (and the veil of ignorance that completes it), explain the metaphysical view of the self the critics imply, and conclude by disagreeing with the critics, but wondering what Rawls is up to, if its not metaphysical.
The new Libertarians are still trying to push the Enlightenment principle of self-governance (individual sovereignty) as far over as it will go, without collapsing into anarchism. But they've divorced themselves from the ground that made self-governance possible in the first place: a commitment to virtue. That commitment can come from religion, or a shared set of philosophically derived metaphysical commitments. But the end result is an individual that has a commitment to the good life, as a life lived in the pursuit of excellence (and, arguably, measured against the transcendent values of truth, goodness, and beauty). Single mothers, whoring themselves out in order to pay for their 15 year old daughters' birth control pills is about as far from that ideal, as you can get. And that is what the Libertarian needs to grapple with.
for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and … Continue reading The Declaration of Independence. Part 3: A Long Train Of Abuses
This is, of course, the passage that everyone is (more or less) familiar with -- at least the first sentence. In the United States, the first sentence has been crystalized into a kind of religious creed, similar in tone and meter to opening lines of the Apostle's Creed: "We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…", and so forth. But Jefferson had philosophical notions in mind when he wrote this, however pious he may (or may not) have been.
Wherein, I pull apart the Declaration of Independence, one paragraph at a time, and analyse the contents. This is an attempt to re-think and improve the analysis I did a few years ago.
The human animal is thought by some to have a "divine spark" in him. What is this? I don't mean, in a metaphysical or definitional sense. I mean, what do humans do, what capacity do they have, what power are they endowed with, that sets them apart from the other animals so much so that they are thought to have this spark? Why on earth would anyone say humans are "touched by the divine"?
Traditionally, there are two great debates at the core of political philosophy. The first is what justifies political authority, and the second is what should be the form of the institution that assumes that authority. The first debate includes questions of fundamental justice. Issues like what the state owes to its subjects, and what the … Continue reading The Two Custodians – Thoughts On The Purpose Of The State
Does Locke offer a convincing account of an individual’s right to property? In his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke constructs a theory of property rights from two explicit arguments for the divine source of the moral claim of ownership, and one implicit argument for the divine source of value in labor. This essay will summarize each of these arguments, offer offer an assessment of the three arguments in combination, and conclude that Locke’s case is unconvincing in isolation. However, there are remedies which could make the case more convincing.