Sunday, January 22, 2012

Locke as Subversive?

The Founding Fathers revered John Locke, the Whig philosopher and supporter of the Glorious Revolution. Classical liberal thought is founded on his political philosophy. The preamble of the Declaration of Independence is a summary of Locke's philosophy of natural rights. Both libertarians and conservatives held Locke in highest esteem, the latter seeking to conserve the founding principles of our republic. It would seem odd to find in the esteemed publication of the ISI the following limerick (page 17):
There once was a man named John Locke.
A fan of tradition he was not.
By rejecting his teaching,
ISI is preaching
How to stand athwart history and yell “stop!”
The last sentence refers to William Buckley famous article in the first issue of National Review in 1955 when communism spread over half the world and modern liberalism was unchallenged. Was Locke a dangerous wooly-eye radical causing the downward spiral of his day? What's happened to the ISI (formerly known as Intercollegiate Society of Individualists)?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both libertarians and conservatives held Locke in highest esteem, the latter seeking to conserve the founding principles of our republic.

I don't think this is true regarding true or original conservatism. Russel Kirk, Hilaire Belloc, Leo Strauss all hated classical liberalism and the Enlightenment. I think true conservatism is as much an enemy of classical liberalism as is Leftism. Most conservatives today are really more liberals (classical) then they are conservatives. But take a look at a guy like Santorum. He keeps stressing that "freedom entails responsibility" and that "freedom needs limits and restraints" and that individualism must be subordinated to society. Those are all original conservative sentiments.

The bottom line is that the reason why the Right has not been able to mount a real counter to the Left is that the right is held back by conservatism. Also, classical liberalism has been undermined by the subjectivist strains of libertarian thought (ie Ron Paul and the Rockwellians, and the Rothbardians for that matter). If you do a search of conservatism and John Locke you will find *many* conservatives who think that he was a mixed and flawed influence precisely because he placed too much stress on individualism and because his epistemological skepticism helped weaken the power of religion.


1/24/12, 7:15 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Quite accurate. I wonder how many conservatives know Kirk's hostility towards the concept of individual rights. And that hostility extends to the Declaration of Independence. I often hear conservatives quote Jefferson's famous words. I often wonder if the average conservative is aware of the hostility towards natural rights (and Enlightenment ideas) that exists in the traditional camp. This hostility, by implication, is a hostility to the core principles that animated our founding fathers.

I had forgotten that the ISI was in the anti-Locke camp. Of course, I should have remembered they published the debate Freedom and Virtue between trads and classical liberals. Naturally, the subjectivist libertarians confirm the "libertine" suspicions of the trads.

Your other points are excellent also. It's great to hear from you, Jack.

1/25/12, 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have brought up a very excellent points, thankyou for the post.

7/5/12, 12:55 AM  
Blogger William Jones said...

Locke was subversive because, well, he didn't for the life of him take credit for his work until he admitted to it in his last will and testament after his death.
A human right raises the people to the stature of a whore. A civil right is a legal right that marries the people to a more perfect Union as a bride. A natural right gives the bride authority in the marriage. In other words, a natural right had nothing to do with legal precedence as such an inborn inheritance reduced on the physical level all the way to the Soul. After all, there existed no such endeavor as the cognitive sciences during that time.
John Locke was a great man. There was no left and right about it during that time. Our Founders were against the two party system. The two party system wasn't an advancement over the U.S. Constitution. That designation went to the American Movement process which happens wholly outside of the electoral process.

6/8/13, 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...his epistemological skepticism helped weaken the power of religion."

Religion is the subjugation of man's rational mind to the irrational and to the collective. Ergo, religion is the antithesis of individual freedom.

Enlightment was about to set man free from all sorts of tyranny, but not from moral essentials.

7/31/13, 11:32 AM  

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