| Thinking hard|
or hardly thinking?
|Major trains of thought|
|The good, the bad|
and the brain fart
|Come to think of it|
“”He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.
|—Charles Darwin, 1838: Notebook M|
John Locke (August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704) was a British philosopher famous for his works in social ethics, politics, and the social contract theory, as well as famous discourses on the rights of individuals. He was also a strong proponent of tabula rasa, or the idea that a person is a blank slate to be shaped by experience alone.
Locke is often claimed by libertarians as one of their own, due to his writings' central emphasis on private property, liberty, and individual sovereignty. He was also the founder of modern empiricist thought. However, his beliefs were strongly influenced by his Christianity, and aren't exactly compatible with the modern libertarian worldview. For instance, he believed that the needy have a right to the property of the wealthy, that land could only be owned if there was still plenty left in common for others, that it is "useless and dishonest" to take more as property than you actually need, and regarded economic exploitation of workers as akin to slavery. Hmm. Then again, he invested in the slave trade himself, so... maybe it's ok after all? Of course, like others he could also simply be a hypocrite.
Really hardcore libertarians and anarcho-capitalists who oppose the idea of the social contract also find themselves in direct conflict with Locke, who was a major proponent thereof.
It's worth noting that John Locke died long before the advent and implementation of modern democracy, capitalism, and public welfare programs as we know them today, so attempting to shoehorn all his ideas into the modern condition has limited value at best, whether one is a libertarian, a Marxist, or of some other persuasion.
- Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind by Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth (2007) University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226102432.
- "The Libertarian Heritage": John Locke
- Reclaiming John Locke from libertarians
- See the Wikipedia article on Lockean proviso.
- Marxists quoting Locke. Crazy, eh?
- "And a man can no more justly make use of another’s necessity to force him to become his vassal by withholding that relief God required him to afford to the wants of his brother, than he that has more strength can seize upon a weaker, master him to his obedience, and, with a dagger at his throat, offer him death or slavery."