Wednesday, August 1, 2007

On Locke

The following is from the August 13 issue of National Review:

"Edward Feser is one of the best contemporary writers on philosophy, and his Locke (One World Publishers) is a lucid, short introduction to this architect of philosophical modernity. 'To understand Locke,' Feser writes, 'is to understand ourselves'--because the tensions within Lockeanism remain alive within, and indeed central to, today's intellectual life. John Locke was simultaneously committed to a political philosophy of natural rights and ... to nominalism: But how can rights be inherent in the human 'kind' if the very definition of a 'kind' is an arbitrary human invention? What Locke wants, according to Feser, is 'a natural law without nature, or at least without a "nature" that would have been recognizable to his medieval predecessors.... His basic philosophical commitments do in fact tend to undermine natural law and the conservative moral and political conclusions that follow from it.'"

This brief quote, by Auld Kirk, simply points out the importance of knowing where "the way we think" comes from. Modern political assumptions--about human rights, democracies, liberalism, tolerance-doctrine--are neither random appearances in history nor are they the final say in what's right and wrong politically. Get to know the sources of modernity--Locke, Machiavelli, Hobbes--and you'll get to know the world and, hopefully, truth a bit better.

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