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Posts tagged with: John Locke

The founding fathers possessed a vision of liberty illumined by philosophy and religion. In order to best understand their vision, it is wise to investigate which writers and thinkers inspired John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and especially Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the constitution.weal_06_img1219

John Locke, philosopher and physician, anonymously published his book on political philosophy, Two Treatises of Government in 1689. It is indisputable that the United States constitution was largely influenced by Locke’s work. Jefferson wrote later, “Neither aiming at originality or principles or sentiments, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American Mind.” While the constitution is not explicitly drawn from any one work, it was the culmination of much influential political thought and philosophy. J.W. Peltason states in his book Understanding the Constitution, that Locke’s Two Treatises of Government “was thought to be an authoritative pronouncement of established principles. Locke’s ideas provided ready arguments for the American cause, and they were especially embarrassing to an English government whose own source of authority was based on them.” (more…)

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Fourth of July Celebration in Centre Square, Philadelphia (1819)

“Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.” – Lord Acton

Today, people across the United States will march in parades, set off fireworks, and don red, white, and blue to huge family cookouts, all in celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. In the years since those first Americans pledged their loyalty to the philosophy of natural rights and the equality of all men, the document has remained a national symbol of pride and freedom.  However, in the years since the founding of the country and the later drafting of the Constitution, the true intentions of the Founders and the spirit of their work has become intermittently lost and misunderstood.

Among the most common and consequential misunderstandings is the idea that the Founders were worshipers of rights for their own sake, radical individualists with the goal only to secure those liberties to which humans believe, through reason or instinct, they are entitled. In truth, even among libertarian heroes like John Locke or Founder Thomas Jefferson, the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were not in pursuit of license.  In fact, many of those who formed and secured the natural rights tradition of the American Founding outright rejected the idea that rights exist for their own sake, without a higher purpose or end.  Our freedoms were thought to exist and were secured for much more than a pleasure-guided exercise of free will. (more…)

justice is blindIn a rather snarky piece in The Atlantic, author Anthony Murray questions whether or not a Supreme Court justice who believes in “natural law” (quotations marks are Murray’s) can make sound rulings. Murray is especially worried about cases involving the HHS mandate such as Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary, etc. and Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. v. Sibelius.

Murray misunderstand natural law. He believes it to be religious, and frantically scrambles through the words of Thomas Jefferson in order to prove his point. Rather, he says, the framers of the Constitution rely on “positive law:”

If natural law were regarded as simply a religious creed, it would not conflict with the positive laws embedded in our Constitution and laws. The threat lies in the use of natural law by courts in judicial decisions. Invoking it in construing the Constitution and statutes raises an obvious question: If natural law exists, what is in it? Is it a blank slate on which anyone may write subjective beliefs? Does it include religious dogmas? If so, of what religions? (more…)

locke3Joe Hargrave argues that John Locke and Pope Leo XIII have more in common than you might imagine:

It isn’t often that John Locke is mentioned in discussions of Catholic social teaching, unless it is to set him up as an example of all that the Church supposedly rejects. After all, Locke is considered one of the founders of a liberal and individualist political tradition that was rejected by the papacy in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, a closer examination of both Locke’s Two Treatises of Civil Government (FT & ST) and the papal encyclical that set modern Catholic social teaching in motion, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (RN), reveals that Locke was not a pure “individualist” as many have assumed, nor was Rerum Novarum a categorical rejection of all things “individual.” Rather, both Locke and Leo XIII craft their basic political arguments — especially with respect to the right to private property — based on the same assumptions about natural law, natural right, and Christian obligation.

Though it is evident from the texts themselves, the agreement between Locke and Leo is also a historical fact.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, October 29, 2012
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In the Western world there are conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals, says David T. Koyzis, but all adhere to the basic principles of liberalism:

The liberalism of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Of Thomas Jefferson and John Stuart Mill. After all, the Declaration of Independence is a liberal document, unquestioningly accepting that popular consent stands at the origin of political authority. As Alasdair MacIntyre has put it, in the Western world there are conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals, but all adhere to the basic principles of liberalism.

So what accounts for the differences between Democrats and Republicans, between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? What separates them is that each represents a different stage in the larger development of liberalism. Those who do not like what liberalism has become in recent decades have not repudiated it as such but have tried instead to hold onto it and return it to an earlier form—one thought to be purer and closer to its original meaning. I believe liberalism can be traced through five stages of development.

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David Brooks recently took on the conservative movement for relying too heavily on pro-market arguments and tired formulas rather than emphasizing its historic features of custom, social harmony, and moral preservation.

As I’ve already noted in response to the Brooks piece, I agree that conservatism needs a renewed intellectual foundation brought about by a return to these emphases, yet I disagree that a lopsided devotion to “economic freedom” is what’s stalling us. If we hope to restore traditionalist conservatism, we’d do well to recognize that this means restoring economic conservatism along with it. Brooks is upset that dogmatic pro-market folks have seized the Republican Party, yet this is the same Republican Party that nominated the architect of Romneycare and can’t seem to get serious about the deficit.

Conservatism is faltering all around, and the reasons for each “sect’s” demise are more or less interrelated. As I’ve written elsewhere, we need to restore a holistic conservative imagination that ties its social and economic strains together by grounding them both in Russell Kirk’s “enduring moral order.”

For David Brooks, restoration is all about “balance,” but for the true conservative, it needs to be about integration.
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Michael Gerson on what the Obama administration’s view of religious liberty shares with John Locke:

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