Locke's Political Metaphysics

Calfas, Kostantinos
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina

Locke’s achievements in political theory have traditionally been viewed in isolation from his metaphysical and epistemological accomplishments. Consequently, many deformations of Locke’s view of the former and the latter have manifested; principal among these is the notion of an atheist and materialist Locke. The goal of the proceeding study is to show how in what I’ve termed, Locke’s “political metaphysics” we see the emergence of a politics that is a consequence of his metaphysical commitments to human beings as free persons. That freedom is understood by Locke, not merely positively, in what one does, or can be seen by others as being free to do, but negatively, as possibilities, beliefs or attitudes withheld. This is to say that, for Locke, human beings must be understood not merely by what is scrutable in the material or natural properties, but in their capacity to withhold their thoughts, desires, potential from the world. As the consequence of this withholding, an attitude of political toleration is necessitated by the nature of human beings as free persons as one can never be sure their assessments of another in their natural ostensible state reflects the totality of who they are. Moreover, because human beings can make and value things abstracted from the natural world, one is unable to absolutely value the work of human beings based on entirely on the assessments of another. Thus, Locke ingeniously deploys a skepticism and particularist metaphysics that resists the attempts to put people into groups and to impose normative categories on those groups which has been the source of so much political violence. Rather than seek, what Greg Forster once attributed to Locke as “moral consensus” Locke shows how the inscrutable nature of the human mind resists such consensus and demands that all government defer to the free person.

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Art in Social and Political Thought, University of Regina. iii, 90 p.