Addendum: Locke & Natural Law

Some questions have been raised in the discussion on my posts on Locke & Catholic political thought about the extent to which Locke’s political theory conforms to or detracts from natural law. This follow-up post, which will be relatively brief, should serve to answer such questions at least in part.

First, I want to note that I am not alone in my observations regarding the differences between the states of nature of Locke and Hobbes. Peter Laslett notes in his Introduction to the Cambridge edition of Locke’s treatises that Locke’s understanding of reason is squarely in the Christian tradition. I already pointed out how both Locke and Leo place human reason into their arguments for private property, so I won’t restate it here. Here is Laslett:

This language [of reason] is traditional and the distinction between man and beasts based on the presence or absence of the quality of reason goes back beyond Christianity to the Stoics and Aristotle, but it was of peculiar significance to Locke’s generation… and Locke makes full and peculiar use of it in his account of state and society. (95)

Lastlett later goes on to state: “Locke’s state of nature, with its immanent sociability and its acceptance of man’s dependence on his fellows, does in a sense incorporate the Aristotelian attitude.” (100)

It was said in some of the comments that there is, for Locke, no intrinsic good in the state of nature – as it is with Hobbes. But this is simply not the case. The “immanent sociability” in Locke’s state of nature is nowhere at all to be found in that of Hobbes. And this sociability, whether directly implanted by God into man, or arrived at through reason which God creates man with it, in any case appears to be an intrinsic good.

It was also argued that Locke’s theory of property is different than that of St. Thomas Aquinas, supposedly because one is “natural” and “absolute” while the other is “derivative” and “conditional.” This argument is really, in my view, a massive distortion of the real issues involved. We’ve already seen that Leo quotes Aquinas directly in Rerum Novarum when establishing his teaching on property, and we have also seen how Locke’s treatment of property, when his position on Christian charity is taken into account, is identical. But to put the question to rest, let’s have a look at the Summa Theologica on the topic of private property.

The second part of the second book, question 66, is where St. Thomas takes up the question of private property. Fairly early on, he states that Aristotle (aka “the philosopher”) proved, citing the Politics, “that the possession of external things is natural to man.” Does this mean that private property is therefore a natural right? Well, St. Thomas goes on to state that private property is “necessary to human life.”

Now, is it plausible that a thing which is necessary to human life would be anything less than a natural right? Only if one introduces the perverse notion that if everyone renounced their private property to the state, the state would then take care of everyone, i.e., that the thing is not really necessary at all. But St. Thomas simply restates Aristotle’s three major objections to “communism” as it would have existed then had such madness been attempted.

Finally, both Locke and Leo base this “natural right” to property on the same grounds of necessity, and I invite readers to re-read the relevant quotations I provided in the posts for confirmation of that. Thus supposed opposition between “derivative” and “natural” rights to property appears chimerical.

One might think that it is found in St. Thomas’ reply to objection 1 in Article 2. For here here writes, “Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law… the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above.”

Well, readers will have to forgive me for positing that there is a sort of inconsistency here, as my last paragraph ought to indicate. Because even if the “community of goods is ascribed to the natural law”, St. Thomas is also arguing that putting an end to this community and instituting private property is, again, necessary to human life.

I will therefore be so bold as to say that Locke’s account of property – and Leo’s, for that matter – is more clear than that of St. Thomas. For both Locke and Leo begin from the premise that God does indeed give the world to man in common originally, but that the necessities of life require that he be able to take a portion as his private possession. Well, this is the exact same argument that St. Thomas makes, with the only difference being that private property, because it follows in the logical sequence of events after the community of goods in the state of nature, is considered “an addition thereto devised by human reason.” Whereas for Locke, and Leo, reason does enter the logical argument for private property, but is not – as far as I can tell – therefore considered a mere addition. It is rather a conclusion that necessarily follows from the premise, that private property is necessary to human life. And this is why it is included in the natural law itself, and not considered an addition.

Honestly, I don’t think this difference amounts to a hill of beans. I think one can reasonably include or exclude private property rights from natural law, depending on how one approaches the issue, but one can’t deny their necessity and stay in concord with any of these men. I’m of the mind that this necessity should render private property a part the natural law argument, but I can also understand why St. Thomas would consider it an addition.

In any case, I think Aquinas, Locke, and Leo were all operating with the same self-evident premises and conclusions. And they all agree on how private property ought to be used with respect to the poor and needy, as readers can see in Part II of my series. All this really shows is the lengths to which some people will go to justify regulatory and confiscatory regimes. No one can go to St. Thomas for that, since his discourse on theft and need is essentially no different than Locke’s. From Article 7 of the same part:

Since, however, there are many who are in need, while it is impossible for all to be succored by means of the same thing, each one is entrusted with the stewardship of his own things, so that out of them he may come to the aid of those who are in need.

And when the need is great, “then it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another’s property, by taking it either openly or secretly.”

Nothing there about the state. And if Aristotle is the man to look to for conclusions about what works and what doesn’t, well, consider this:

Where there are revenues the demagogues should not be allowed after their manner to distribute the surplus; the poor are always receiving and always wanting more and more, for such help is like water poured into a leaky cask. Yet the true friend of the people should see that they be not too poor… the proceeds of the public revenues should be accumulated and distributed among its poor, if possible, in such quantities as may enable them to purchase a little farm, or, at any rate, make a beginning in trade or husbandry. (Book 6)

So to square it off, I think Aristotle, St. Thomas, Locke, and Leo would all be on board with Distributism. So would Jefferson. But that’s for another time.

 

 

57 Responses to Addendum: Locke & Natural Law

  • MJAndrew says:

    It was said in some of the comments that there is, for Locke, no intrinsic good in the state of nature – as it is with Hobbes. But this is simply not the case. The “immanent sociability” in Locke’s state of nature is nowhere at all to be found in that of Hobbes. And this sociability, whether directly implanted by God into man, or arrived at through reason which God creates man with it, in any case appears to be an intrinsic good.

    Of course, most Locke scholars point to the utter vagueness of what Laslett means by “immanent sociability,” but let’s suppose that Laslett is right. Would it follow that immanent sociability is an intrinsic good? Of course not. As Locke states time and again, there is no “good” or “right” without a declaration by the sovereign will. That means that whatever is “good” or “right” on Locke’s view is not intrinsically so. Rather, Locke gives us a voluntarist account of good, just like Hobbes. An intrinsic good is good irrespective of it being declared so by a sovereign (that’s what it means to say a good is “intrinsic”–it is good per se). Remember the Euthyphro dilemma: is something pious because the gods love it or do the gods love it because it is pious? Locke, with Hobbes, accepts the latter as an account of ALL moral good and political right. Most of the Catholic tradition (exceptions being figures like Scotus and Ockham), and most relevantly Thomas Aquinas and Pope Leo XIII accept the former. On Locke’s and Hobbes’ view, whatever is good or right can be changed by the will of the sovereign, so nothing is intrinsically good or right. I do not know of a single Locke scholar–including Laslett–who does not accept this account.

    It seems to me that you are trying to make Locke something that he is not in order to meet your ends. You appeal only a smattering of quotes from one work by Locke and to an introductory essay on his political views. As I suggested before, you really ought to look at Locke’s Questions Concerning the Law of Nature and the Essay to round out the picture. You will see that your picture of Locke is very distorted.

    Now, is it plausible that a thing which is necessary to human life would be anything less than a natural right?

    First, you accidentally posit an identity relation between “x is necessary to human life” to “x is a natural right.” What you probably mean to say is that “x is necessary to human life” and “everyone has a natural right to x.” Second, it does not follow from something being necessary to human life that all have a right to that something. That would be to commit the is/ought fallacy (which Aquinas avoids doing), which is a logical error. And, by the way, that’s the error Locke makes. Aquinas and CST ground rights in the requirements of practical rationality, not in what is natural to humans. This difference is much bigger than any “hill of beans,” since it is the difference between two accounts of the foundations of all morality and political right. Your flippant dismissal of this difference suggests to me that you have not understood either Locke or CST on these foundations.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Before I address the rest of this, I have to note this first:

    “You appeal only a smattering of quotes from one work by Locke and to an introductory essay on his political views.”

    Well, this just isn’t so. I mean, it is so for this individual post, but there is far more than a “smattering” of Locke across the four posts I made. I also referenced a couple of other Locke scholars in part II. Maybe you haven’t read it yet.

    Meanwhile I haven’t seen your claims about Locke yet backed by even a single quotation, nor have you even named a single scholar. Much of what you’re saying here is just a massive evasion and distortion of the issues. Sounds “armchair” to me.

    “As Locke states time and again, there is no “good” or “right” without a declaration by the sovereign will.”

    Where? I’ll even grant that you’re right, and not just blowing smoke, though I’d like to see at least one reference so I know where you’re coming from (and perhaps before you criticize me once again of not having “understood” Locke) – he also states time and again that good and right come from God, ultimately. This you dismiss as “smoke and mirrors” in another thread. So even you have admitted that he does appeal to God.

    Well, even if that’s so, his arguments that invoke God make more sense, even if he doesn’t intend them to, than his arguments that try to squeeze him out of the picture, precisely because of the ought/is problem.

    Everything that follows after this point is just moot. I know you think you’re teaching me something here, but I’m well aware of the issues you raise. They’re only relevant if Locke really says what you say he says, which you haven’t shown. And even if he does say it, he also says the opposite, meaning he argues opposite things in opposite works.

    “It seems to me that you are trying to make Locke something that he is not in order to meet your ends.”

    All I’ve done is show how his arguments regarding the origin of government, private property, and its proper use, completely converge with Leo and I think Aquinas as well, a minor quibble aside. It seems to me that you’re trying to deny it with unsupported assertions that you put forward as given facts.

    You acknowledge on the one hand that Locke is difficult to interpret, as everyone who studies him knows, and then you declare over and over again that there’s only one way we can understand him.

    You’re all over the place. Not me. And this is to suit your ends – to de-legitimize Locke and his account of private property because it serves as a moral rebuke to the sort of economic regime you and other leftists would prefer.

    As for the rest:

    “First, you accidentally posit an identity relation between “x is necessary to human life” to “x is a natural right.””

    There’s nothing accidental about it.

    “it does not follow from something being necessary to human life that all have a right to that something.”

    Actually it does.

    I mean, think about it. Aquinas says its lawful for a man to steal in cases of extreme want. That’s the same as saying that he has a right to what will preserve his life. This man in extreme need for whatever reason hasn’t been able to make use of the right to property that actually exists, so he makes use of the same right in a different way (taking from one who has property, as opposed to the God’s common gift to mankind).

    Where does this right to steal come from? From the same place the right to property comes from – necessity of life. So I’d say Locke was more clear, and more consistent on the matter, than Aquinas, though both are saying the same thing.

    “That would be to commit the is/ought fallacy (which Aquinas avoids doing)”

    But he doesn’t, really. He just introduces it elsewhere.

    That said,

    It isn’t really an “ought/is” error at all if GOD “is.” Ought/is is only a problem for atheists or others who deny the sovereignty of an active, personal God. Once that is given, then we reason from what we know of God, his commandments, his teachings, etc.

    ” Aquinas and CST ground rights in the requirements of practical rationality, not in what is natural to humans.”

    Article 1 of question 66 begs to differ.

    “man has a natural dominion over external things, because, by his reason and will, he is able to use them for his own profit, as they were made on his account”

    and,

    “It is by this argument that the Philosopher proves (Polit. i, 3) that the possession of external things is natural to man.”

    It is in the next article that he says that possession of things is an addition of human reason. Why is it natural for man to possess things, but merely “rational” to possess them privately?

    Because the particular division of things will fall under human reason and human law. So its really just a difference between the general and the specific, the universal and the particular. We have a natural right to private property; human reason will devise the laws that govern the particular details of its possession and use. By natural law American citizens had a right to go West and claim the land; but they did so in accordance with rules set down by the Homestead Act. And so on and so forth.

    And this is shown in Rerum Novarum as well, when Leo mentions the laws and customs of different races or nations in the same context as arguing for a general, natural right to possess private property through labor. All of that I cover in Part II.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I mean, Leo says in paragraph 9:

    “we have further proof that private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature”

    And then goes on to give Locke’s labor theory of property!

    He goes on to write of “that which is required for the preservation of life, and for life’s well-being”

    Either these men had no idea what they were talking about, all three of them, or there are some subtle distinctions we can make to bring it into harmony.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Also, here’s Aquinas again on theft:

    “It is not theft, properly speaking, to take secretly and use another’s property in a case of extreme need: because that which he takes for the support of his life becomes his own property by reason of that need.”

    Becomes his own property – by reason of that need! I think this clearly supports what I am saying here. I think it is clear that when Aquinas says private property comes from human law, he’s talking about the specific division of it, the human laws that govern how it is to be used in specific societies and nations. He’s not talking about the general right to it.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Meanwhile I haven’t seen your claims about Locke yet backed by even a single quotation, nor have you even named a single scholar. Much of what you’re saying here is just a massive evasion and distortion of the issues. Sounds “armchair” to me.

    Should I not sit in an armchair while reading and commenting on Locke? I will write a post or two containing heavy citations of Locke, as I promised. I assure you, there is no evasion at all, much less a distortion.

    Where? I’ll even grant that you’re right, and not just blowing smoke, though I’d like to see at least one reference so I know where you’re coming from (and perhaps before you criticize me once again of not having “understood” Locke) – he also states time and again that good and right come from God, ultimately. This you dismiss as “smoke and mirrors” in another thread. So even you have admitted that he does appeal to God.

    In my promised post(s) I will gladly comply with your request.

    But he doesn’t, really. He just introduces it elsewhere.

    That said,

    It isn’t really an “ought/is” error at all if GOD “is.” Ought/is is only a problem for atheists or others who deny the sovereignty of an active, personal God. Once that is given, then we reason from what we know of God, his commandments, his teachings, etc.

    It does not appear you understand what the is/ought fallacy is. In short, it amounts to saying that one cannot derive an “ought” from a mere “is,” and to do so is a logical fallacy. It has nothing to do with God’s existence. If I point to a mere fact about the natural world and attempt to derive some obligation from that fact, I make a logical mistake since my premises contain only “is” while my conclusion contains an “ought.” Locke derives natural rights and obligations from a set of brute facts about nature in the Second Treatise. What I am saying about Locke in this regard is not at all controversial and is perspicuous to anyone who closely read Locke. Hence, my bewilderment over your assertions.

    As for God’s commandments, the mere fact that God issues them does not in itself indicate that we are obligated to fulfill them (see Thomas Aquinas on this). Rather, the commandments are morally obligatory since they are determined by what is intrinsically good. The Catholic moral tradition does not hold that God invents the good or evil, but rather God’s will is determined by what He knows to be good. Hence, we say that God himself is intrinsically good and does no evil. If God could simply decide what is good, then there would be no intrinsic standard of goodness upon which the obligatoriness of the commandments rest. Again, this is where Locke commits the fallacy, since for him, the mere fact that a sovereign issues a commandment constitutes the obligatoriness of that commandment. It’s just bad logic.

    “man has a natural dominion over external things, because, by his reason and will, he is able to use them for his own profit, as they were made on his account”

    and,

    “It is by this argument that the Philosopher proves (Polit. i, 3) that the possession of external things is natural to man.”

    It is in the next article that he says that possession of things is an addition of human reason. Why is it natural for man to possess things, but merely “rational” to possess them privately?

    There is no mention of a right in anything you quote. It seems you are confused between what is naturally possessed by humans and what a human has a right to. By your logic, what is possessed by bees and jaguars naturally is that to which they have a right. Again, no right or obligation from a brute fact of nature. Moreover, as I said in a previous comment, Aquinas derives the right to property from the basic goods and requirements of practical rationality. For Aquinas, something is good and right not because it is natural (as you think), but it is natural because it is reasonable.

    And this is shown in Rerum Novarum as well, when Leo mentions the laws and customs of different races or nations in the same context as arguing for a general, natural right to possess private property through labor.

    Your misreading of Leo XIII is the same as your misreading of Aquinas, and that is why you think their position is congruent with that of Locke. You seem to confuse the derivation of rights, which Leo and Aquinas base on practical rationality and Locke makes based on brute facts of nature.

    But, like I said, I’ll put all this in a post that will cite much more from Locke that all four of your posts.

  • MJAndrew says:

    “we have further proof that private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature”

    Natural law on Thomas and Leo XIII’s view is not derived from facts of nature (see especially ST I-II q. 90-94). Natural law on Locke’s view is derived from facts of nature. Again, you are confusing two very different doctrines, perhaps because you spot the same terms being used. That’s understandable. As I said before, you really have to read more of Locke’s works to understand his view of morality and right. My post will draw from these several works.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Well, these waters are deep, and I appreciate the back and forth. The person of Locke, like his philosophy, is confused, and occasionally dishonest. I think it is fair to say that he did not want to admit his debt to Hobbes.

    With regard to political philosophy, Locke’s advancement of Majority-Rule has only superficial relations to Catholic social thought. His definition of political power does contain words such as “this only for the public good.” However, Locke’s clearest statments of majority principle state that any number of men consented to make community or government in majority have a right to act and conclude. This is the faith of a majority rule democrat, and it is reasonable to project he does refer to ethical right. But I’ll dust off my Locke for more specifics as time allows.

    In sum, it is fair to state that his solution for the basic problems of politics is – on most points, and insofar as he is clear! – that of majority-rule. This is simply incompatible with our religious thought.

    With regard to the Treatises, while the view that what is right is that which the majority wills is not necessarily explicitly consistent, (i.e. the majority shall will that which is right), these two propositions come to a similiar place concerning first principles of politics….meaning it follows from both that a good and ethical political system will place power in majority.

    This is a big problem!

  • MJAndrew says:

    The person of Locke, like his philosophy, is confused, and occasionally dishonest. I think it is fair to say that he did not want to admit his debt to Hobbes.

    Good to see you, Jonathan! Yes, you are very correct. Locke was extremely duplicitous, both in lying about having read Hobbes and about his authorship of certain works (like the Two Treatises on Government). I think Locke understood that he was making a huge break from the Christian tradition of politics (Aquinas, Suarez, and Filmer), so he attempted to disguise his work as Christian to fool religious sympathizers into accepting his work and to avoid being hung!

    In sum, it is fair to state that his solution for the basic problems of politics is – on most points, and insofar as he is clear! – that of majority-rule. This is simply incompatible with our religious thought.

    I’m glad you mention this, as I left this out of my argument. Because his liberalism is intended to diminish religious and moral conflict in 17th-18th century Europe, he jettisons comprehensive views of the good. Hence, he rejects intrinsic moral goodness, the common good, and any religious underpinning to rights. Yet, he is crafty enough to make some of his readers think that he is, indeed, basing natural right on God’s will (a view he never really held). His strategy certainly helped facility the acceptance of his philosophy, and it continues to fool the uncareful reader today!

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I think you’re the one doing the misreading here.

    Locke derives natural rights and obligations from God (how else could he commit this ought/is fallacy you say he is guilty of?) – he mentions the “brute facts” as mere evidences that God has obviously ordered things such that we should live in society.

    Pope Leo does the same thing in Immortale Dei:

    “Man’s natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties.”

    Those are “brute facts about nature” that require a state to remedy. He continues,

    “Hence, it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life-be it family, or civil-with his fellow men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied.” (3)

    It’s the same argument. It’s not just the same “terms”, it’s the same argument. There are “facts” about a stateless nature that compel men to leave it and form governments. This is what God wants us to do.

    Locke, ST, sec. 13: ” God hath certainly appointed government to restrain the partiality and violence of men”

    Locke, ST, sec. 77: “GOD having made man such a creature, that in his own judgment, it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of necessity, convenience, and inclination to drive him into society”

    And the most pressing “brute fact” is that our natural rights to life, and to the property we need to sustain it, are insecure.

    On the right to private property:

    Leo, RN: “that which is required for the preservation of life, and for life’s well-being, is produced in great abundance from the soil, but not until man has brought it into cultivation and expended upon it his solicitude and skill”

    That’s a “brute fact” about nature – that it is ultimately useless until labor makes it useful. Right after that, he gives Locke’s labor theory of property.

    Locke argues the same thing throughout the whole chapter on property.

    Frankly I’m having a hard time understanding this distinction between derivation from “practical rationality” and “the brute facts of nature.” The brute facts of nature are present in in Leo – they are what make it rational to form societies, to protect natural rights.

    More on this, from RN, 15:

    “it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind”

    ” Private ownership, as we have seen, is the natural right of man” (22)

    In perhaps the most stunning refutation to your entire line of argumentation, and the greatest confirmation of mine:

    ” The preservation of life is the bounden duty of one and all, and to be wanting therein is a crime. It necessarily follows that each one has a natural right to procure what is required in order to live, and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work.” (44)

    IT NECESSARILY FOLLOWS. NATURAL RIGHT. IN ORDER TO LIVE. THEIR WORK. It’s Locke. Pure Locke, from the mouth of the pope.

    “the State has for its office to protect natural rights, not to destroy them” (51)

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    “Locke derives natural rights and obligations from God”

    With some severe qualifications. His chief doctrine was majority-rule, and I think that colors everything, especially in a time when philosophers had to be very careful (at the risk of sounding too Straussian, although L.S. was right about that).

    In the broader context, to this point, we might ask what was the project of Locke? I think: political equality, popular sovereignty, methods for discovering popular will, acceptance of majority-decisions. If this is the case, both his methods and his goals were not directly anti-religious, but they were against the sentiment of Catholic thought. By this I mean that the majority-rule democrat concerned with such things would establish, however craftily, a case for universal and equal sufferage and for popular sovereignty, as well as for the mechanics of consultation.

    Across the details, my best guess is that this was his aim. And it was a break from Catholic socio-political thought, where rights and obligations are derived from God.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Oh, and as for this…

    ” By your logic, what is possessed by bees and jaguars naturally is that to which they have a right. Again, no right or obligation from a brute fact of nature.”

    First of all, that’s nonsense. That’s not what my logic says, because Aquinas, Locke, and Leo all invoke human REASON.

    Aquinas ” man has a natural dominion over external things, because, by his reason and will, he is able to use them for his own profit”

    Locke: “God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience.”

    Leo: ” It is the mind, or reason, which is the predominant element in us who are human creatures; it is this which renders a human being human, and distinguishes him essentially from the brute. And on this very account – that man alone among the animal creation is endowed with reason – it must be within his right to possess things not merely for temporary and momentary use, as other living things do, but to have and to hold them in stable and permanent possession”

    So this completely excludes animals. And this is the “logic” I use as well.

    So its not just “brute facts of nature” for ANY of them – though those facts are obviously facts that can’t be ignored. It’s human REASON that sets man apart from the animals and gives him the RIGHT to appropriate things from nature for his private use.

    And you can quibble about the difference between Aquinas’ “dominion” and Locke and Leo’s “right”, but it amounts to the same thing. It’s a misreading to try and wrench these meanings apart and set them in opposition.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Johnathan,

    ” His chief doctrine was majority-rule, and I think that colors everything,”

    Maybe so, maybe not. I don’t think it really colors everything in the way you think it does, because Locke certainly isn’t talking about majority rule when he is setting down the natural right to property.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Locke derives natural rights and obligations from God (how else could he commit this ought/is fallacy you say he is guilty of?) – he mentions the “brute facts” as mere evidences that God has obviously ordered things such that we should live in society.

    Even if you were correct here, Locke would still be committing the fallacy since the mere fact of a sovereign’s issuing a comment does not entail an obligation (this is a matter of logic). You haven’t been reading my comments carefully. If you recall, I said Locke gives two types of arguments for rights in ST: 1. One from God (the “workmanship” argument); 2. From regularities in nature. He ends up undercutting the first argument, preserving only the second, which means in the end that God plays no real role in the derivation of rights. All this will be in my post.

    I think I see the root of your confusion: you think a natural right is a brute fact of nature. That, of course, is nonsense. Rights are derivative, they are not facts (not even Locke thinks they are facts). The question is how rights are derived. That’s where Locke and Leo XIII radically diverge. Now, you can continue to assert that natural rights are facts about nature, but this would be committing the same category mistake over and over again. All I can recommend to you is to read the history of the development of rights theories, from Aquinas to Mill. You will find none of them confusing rights for facts. My worry is that you have fundamentally misread this entire tradition.

    IT NECESSARILY FOLLOWS. NATURAL RIGHT. IN ORDER TO LIVE. THEIR WORK. It’s Locke. Pure Locke, from the mouth of the pope.

    False, for all the reasons already given. I’ll give you this much, Joe: you’re persistent.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    See my above comment. I don’t think a natural right is a brute fact of nature.

    The brute facts of nature make it such that these natural rights cannot be secured.

    So you see, I know they are two different things. The rights are derived from God, ultimately, but they are derived from further premises as well: human reason (which God gives us) and in the case of property, human labor (which only confers a right to ownership through human labor making use of human reason).

    Labor isn’t present in Aristotle, and it isn’t present in Aquinas, as that which gives a person a just claim to property.

    Aristotle thinks the state exists prior to man, and that property arrangements therefore can probably only come from the state, from human laws. But Leo clearly shares Locke’s view that man is prior to the state, which is why labor enters the picture as the means by which a man has a just claim, a right, to property before there is any state at all.

    And so to secure this right to property, men form political societies. And Leo says as much in Immortale Dei. So I’m not saying what you think I’m saying, and you’re the one misreading me.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    And you know what, I made this clear in the previous post as well, when I said,

    “And the most pressing “brute fact” is that our natural rights to life, and to the property we need to sustain it, are insecure.”

    So the brute fact is that the rights are insecure – not the rights themselves. That’s clear to an honest reader.

  • MJ:

    I’m looking forward to your post. This may be unrelated, but I know you’re familiar with MacIntyre. In After Virtue, he questions that is/ought is always a fallacy, using the example that being a mother necessary requires an ought (namely, that one ought to perform the duties of a mother and not simply abandon the child). It may not be relevant, but I’d be curious to read if you think that argument has any merit and if so, what role it would play in this discussion.

    Jonathan

    His chief doctrine was majority-rule, and I think that colors everything, especially in a time when philosophers had to be very careful (at the risk of sounding too Straussian, although L.S. was right about that).

    Clever Straussian trick. Making a Straussian argument, and then claiming to not be a Straussian while asserting the truth the Straussian argument! I have detected your Straussian-ness, neo-con! ;)

  • MJAndrew says:

    First of all, that’s nonsense. That’s not what my logic says, because Aquinas, Locke, and Leo all invoke human REASON.

    You’ve conceded my point! It is not from nature that we rightly derive rights (otherwise every animal would have rights), but from principles of practical reasonableness. You now also see what Locke got wrong–he does not derive rights from practical reason, but from natural facts.

    So this completely excludes animals. And this is the “logic” I use as well.

    No, you’ve been inconsistent on this up until now. Now that we are in agreement, we can put that inconsistency behind us.

    It’s human REASON that sets man apart from the animals and gives him the RIGHT to appropriate things from nature for his private use.

    This is a bit sloppy. The fact that we have reason is not what gives us rights. Rather, the principles of practical reason yield rights. Notice, though, that you are leaving Locke outside (which is a good thing), since Locke’s version of reason neither gives rights nor is much greater than animals (which he says also reason).

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    “Maybe so, maybe not. I don’t think it really colors everything in the way you think it does, because Locke certainly isn’t talking about majority rule when he is setting down the natural right to property.”

    Well….he is. As Locke relates to property: his view seems to me that a “law of nature” might be changed by agreement from a law which, for example, allows distribution on the basis of need into a law which provides on the basis of more modern theory and practice (ie capitalism / socialism).

    This is a departure which is easily abused.

  • MJAndrew says:

    I would like to begin posting on Locke today (and move from this comment thread), but there have been so many posts at TAC already that I worry it would be too much for one day. The first installment is ready to go.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Well Johnathan, aren’t there leftist Catholics who are doing the same thing with this supposedly radically different Catholic understanding of natural law and rights?

    There’s no logical safeguard here that will prevent people from doing what they want to do with certain arguments. But that’s a far cry from saying that these departures and distortions are imminent in these works.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    M. Denton,

    I certainly am a Straussian insofar as there is an ancient/modern distinction with Machiavelli as a key dividing line, and insofar as philosophers conceal for the purposes of public and personal safety.

    And neo-conservative properly means “left or right liberal social scientist skeptical of government-sponsored solutions to socio-cultural problems”, not Wilsonian…..what a change of semantics! (Wilsonian is a term that needs to come back, because it is so accurate, and one that applies to members of both political parties.)

  • MJAndrew says:

    See my above comment. I don’t think a natural right is a brute fact of nature.

    The brute facts of nature make it such that these natural rights cannot be secured.

    The rights are derived from God, ultimately, but they are derived from further premises as well: human reason (which God gives us) and in the case of property, human labor (which only confers a right to ownership through human labor making use of human reason).

    This is a really confused account of natural right, and you are now in disagreement with both Aquinas and Locke. I think this may be the problem with your overall argument: you don’t seem to have a firm grasp on what a right is, how rights are derived, and what Aquinas and Locke think about each of these matters. First, if rights have to be “secured” then they are not “natural.” Perhaps you mean “protected,” since if they are natural, then one cannot lose them (i.e., they are not insecure). But if you really mean “secured,” then you are not talking about natural rights. Second, neither Aquinas nor Locke “derive” rights from God. How does one derive anything from God, if God is the only necessary being? Nothing is “derived” from God. Perhaps you mean to say that rights are derived from the idea of God? But that won’t work. Rights have to be based on something besides a fact. As I have been arguing (with Aquinas), rights are derived from fundamental practical goods and principles.

    Labor isn’t present in Aristotle, and it isn’t present in Aquinas, as that which gives a person a just claim to property.

    Well, labor is, indeed, discussed by both Aristotle and Aquinas. The word they use is “work” (in Aristotle’s discussion of the polis, the polis relies on certain humans naturally performing certain types of work). What you probably mean to say is that neither Aristotle nor Aquinas derive from labor a right to property. That’s quite right, since such a notion is absurd.

  • MJAndrew says:

    I never held a contrary point.

    You’ve held several different points on the relation between nature and rights, and I am quite certain that a least one of them was contrary to mine!

    But he does derive it from practical reason.

    Book I of the Essay, Joe. There are no innate or self-evident principles of practical reason, on Locke’s view. Thus, there are no natural rights derived from practical reasoning, on Locke’s view.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    MJ,

    No, I don’t think a natural right can be lost, but conditions can be such that it cannot be used. I don’t understand why that is hard for you to grasp. I’ve made that point over and over again. Your quibbling over “secured” vs. “protected” is really just unnecessary.

    Same with “derived.” Maybe I’m not making the best use of the word, but God is the first premise.

    “As I have been arguing (with Aquinas), rights are derived from fundamental practical goods and principles.”

    I honestly don’t see the difference between that and what I’m saying, or what Locke and Leo are saying.

    Locke, ST, of the common fruits of the Earth:

    ” yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man”

    How is that not the same? The right to property follows from this necessity, from this fact. Are the principles and goods you refer to not “facts” in the same way?

    “What you probably mean to say…”

    No, its what I DID say. I added ” as that which gives a person a just claim to property.”

    I never said they didn’t mention it at all.

    Is this how you have to make yourself feel secure – by constantly suggesting that other people don’t know what they mean?

    As for the notion being absurd, well, we’ll just disagree on that I suppose.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Basically, I think you’ve taken something really simple and over-complicated it to the point of absurdity.

    What Locke says in the Essay may be different than what he says in the ST. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is what he says in the ST.

  • WJ says:

    This is quite a good back and forth.

    I want to make a couple tangential, but hopefully not tendenious!, points.

    Although I agree with MJ Andrew’s analysis of Locke, I also agree that Rerum Novarum’s relationship to Locke is quite an intimate one. So I think that Joe Hargave is right to see something there. This may be explained by the fact, unfortunate though it may be, that Leo’s ‘Thomist’ advisors actually had relatively little knowledge of Thomas per se; most of what they regarded as Thomism was derived from manuals, most of which drew their origin from Suarez-influenced sources. Consequently, for Leo and his advisors, the split between Locke and Thomas on property, say, was much narrower than it seems to scholars today. (Don’t forget that the Thomistic renewal was only just beginning at the time of RN’s publication.) All this is to say that Joe H. is right, in my opinion, to detect *some* elements of Lockeian thought in RN. I happen to think that these elements are the result of a poor understanding of Thomas (and of Locke), and that they exist in tension with other elements of the encyclical–and the rest of the encyclicals following–but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. There are plenty of articles out there supporting all these contentions, by the way. (Take my word on it. Ha!)

    Also, MJ Andrew, I hope you are not persuaded by Finnis et. al. about the is/ought distinction and their ensuing claim to ground natural law in the requirements of practical reason! Say it ain’t so.

  • MJAndrew says:

    No, I don’t think a natural right can be lost, but conditions can be such that it cannot be used.

    Well, this is another shift in your description of rights. Rights are not “used.” A passive right is protected and/or respected. An active right is protected and/or exercised.

    Your quibbling over “secured” vs. “protected” is really just unnecessary.

    I would not quibble if you kept the story straight. Precision and clarity are important in this sort of discussion, particularly when one keeps equivocating on terms. If you were not continually equivocating, I would not be continually quibbling. Your accounts of nature, right, and reason keep shifting, so it’s difficult for any of us to get any footing.

    Same with “derived.” Maybe I’m not making the best use of the word, but God is the first premise.

    How is God a premise??? Do you mean the proposition “God exists” or “God creates” or “God wills” is the first premise? If so, where is the “ought” premise going to go so that you can derive a conclusion that expresses an obligation?

    “As I have been arguing (with Aquinas), rights are derived from fundamental practical goods and principles.”

    I honestly don’t see the difference between that and what I’m saying, or what Locke and Leo are saying.

    Then there is little hope for a good outcome in this discourse, since you have danced around nature and reason, but never once argued from practical first principles. As I’ve said countless times, Locke does not derive rights from practical principles. I even cited Book I of the Essay for you so that you can see Locke’s cut-and-dried rejection of natural law and practical rationality in the Thomist sense.

    ” yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man”

    How is that not the same? The right to property follows from this necessity, from this fact. Are the principles and goods you refer to not “facts” in the same way?

    You are importing a right to property into this passage. The means of appropriation is not the same thing as a right. A means of appropriation is a method, arrangement, an execution, etc. This is not the same thing as a right, which is where your confusion lies. You make the unwarranted jump from natural conditions and facts to a natural right. Leo XIII makes no such jump.

    Is this how you have to make yourself feel secure – by constantly suggesting that other people don’t know what they mean?

    My security is not contingent upon getting clear about crucial terms. Your argument’s security, however, depends in large part on precision and clarity of terms, a security you are not providing it.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    WJ,

    You say two things here that appear quite different to me:

    ” I also agree that Rerum Novarum’s relationship to Locke is quite an intimate one.”

    and,

    “All this is to say that Joe H. is right, in my opinion, to detect *some* elements of Lockeian thought in RN.”

    Well, if it’s only “some” elements, is it still “intimate”? Serious question, no sarcasm intended.

  • WJ says:

    Joe, Touche!

    The beginning part of the encyclical is, it seems to me, quite intimately connected with Locke’s ideas concerning property. Leo is quite clear about property being a very important “right”–here he is closer to Locke than he is to Aquinas, who, if I recall my ST correctly, waffles a bit on this. Leo really wants to combat State Socialism and the Third? International, so he really hammers home the importance of private property. I think that he later derives this right from duties–and this is where the text shifts back into more comfortable terrirory, for me anyway–but the encyclical is messy, conceptually speaking, overall.

    So it’s hard to say. Overall I think the text evinces a poor, or inadequate, or muddled, understanding of Thomas AND Locke. This is all from memory, though, so I’m open to being corrected.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Also, MJ Andrew, I hope you are not persuaded by Finnis et. al. about the is/ought distinction and their ensuing claim to ground natural law in the requirements of practical reason! Say it ain’t so.

    Indeed, I am convinced that it is a fallacy to infer an obligation from a fact or set of facts. You are right that Finnis has a delightful section on this topic in Natural Law Natural Rights, but I merely agree with his analysis (as opposed to having been persuaded by it–I already was!). I still think there is an intimate link between what we identity as a fact about our nature and what enables it to flourish on the one hand, and what practical rationality concludes we ought to do, on the other. But I do no think either of these is inferred from the other.

    As for your comments about Leo XIII and the neo-Thomists who advised him, I find yours to be a very plausible account. Instead of asserting what is evidently false–namely that CST as a whole and Lockean political thought are compatible at any deep and relevant level–you suggest that Leo XIII’s ambiguities stem from the modern tradition of natural law (as it was discussed by Grotius and Suarez). That may be the case, indeed. Fortunately, Leo XIII told us to go back to Thomas, and when we do, we can clean up some of Leo XIII’s ambiguities, reading his account of natural law and natural right as non-Lockean.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    MJ,

    Oh this is complete baloney:

    “Well, this is another shift in your description of rights. Rights are not “used.” A passive right is protected and/or respected. An active right is protected and/or exercised.”

    So “exercised” and “used” don’t mean the same thing? What nonsense! The argument of both Leo and Locke is that in a state of nature, which is sometimes a state of war, our natural rights to the things which are necessary for life are not “protected/secured/stable” whatever.

    In other words even if you have a natural right to the necessities of life, you can’t “use/exercise” that right unless you can a) claim it as your own property, and b) have that property protected from those who would take it for themselves.

    It is necessary to introduce labor because God has given the Earth to men in common; you can’t have a right to that which isn’t yours (except in cases extreme necessity, but then, as Aquinas says, it BECOMES the property of the thief in that extreme case!). You have a right to it when it becomes yours, by your labor. This is what Leo clearly argues in paragraph 9 of RN.

    “How is God a premise???”

    Because they all clearly begin with God in their arguments. It’s the first premise upon which the arguments are built. If you read the quotes I’ve made use of over and over again, on this thread and others, that is clear. Paragraph 3 of Immortale Dei, sec. 13 and 77 of ST, and plenty of references in RN as well which I’m not going to list here.

    “You are importing a right to property into this passage. The means of appropriation is not the same thing as a right. A means of appropriation is a method, arrangement, an execution, etc. This is not the same thing as a right, which is where your confusion lies”

    I import nothing. This is the quote again:

    ” yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man”

    And this is what follows:

    “Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to”

    Leo does THE SAME THING:

    ” The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property.

    ” it must be within his right to possess things not merely for temporary and momentary use, as other living things do, but to have and to hold them in stable and permanent possession”

    “, when man thus turns the activity of his mind and the strength of his body toward procuring the fruits of nature, by such act he makes his own that portion of nature’s field which he cultivates – that portion on which he leaves, as it were, the impress of his personality; and it cannot but be just that he should possess that portion as his very own, and have a right to hold it without any one being justified in violating that right. ”

    It’s the same argument. Any honest person can see that.

    The only reason Aristotle and Aquinas don’t include labor in this chain of reasoning is because the former certainly and the latter probably – sharing so much of Aristotle’s thought as he did – assumed that the state exists prior to man, either literally or as an abstract premise to build on.

  • Phillip says:

    Though it may be less that Leo misunderstood Aquinas on property as he did not completely accept Aquinas’ concept of property. Six centuries of development after all.

    Its possible that Aquinas, as a Thirteenth Century religious, didn’t really understand the role that property legitimately plays in the world. Particularly the world of the 19th – 21st century laity where certain property rights do act as a safeguard.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    So I’d further say that instead of RN being a “distortion” of Thomas, it is rather a clarification.

    Because they are starting from two different ideas – Thomas from Aristotle, who held that the state is prior to man, and therefore quite naturally would see all property as derived solely from human law and rational arrangements, and Locke/Leo from the idea that man exists prior to the state (those exact words in RN), which means that the right to property has to exists before the state as well.

    “The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man”. Who said it? Leo, RN, 44.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    In fact it’s pretty clear to me that Aquinas and Locke basically say the same thing, and would have clearly said the same thing if the former held that man exists prior to the state (as Leo does)

    Aquinas: “It is not theft, properly speaking, to take secretly and use another’s property in a case of extreme need: because that which he takes for the support of his life becomes his own property by reason of that need.”

    BY REASON OF THAT NEED. That is the SAME REASON (or one of them anyway – other being the “impress of his personality” but we can leave that aside for the moment) that the fruits of the earth become the property of the laborer, who does not find a state waiting for him to portion out property, but who finds no state at all, and yet is faced with those NEEDS.

  • WJ says:

    Joe, please get your hands off my aristotle! ;)

    Aristotle had no conception of the “State” in the way that Hobbes, etc. talk about the “State.” Aristotle’s “state” was a minutely specified polis of a particular size and kind of political organization; and further, the polis was *prior* to the individual citizen because the good of the citizen could only fluorish if the good of the polis were achieved. This is closer to the First Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous–”Our common welfare comes first, individual recovery is based upon the good of the group” than it is to Machiavelli!

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    WJ,

    I understand your point, I do. In many contexts we would want to make many distinctions between these usages.

    But I think in this discussion, “state” and “political community” and “government” all pretty much mean the same thing because they all perform the basic function of protecting natural rights, and specifically property rights.

    And its just a fact that Aristotle doesn’t speculate on a state of nature, a time prior to political communities. They exist for him, to borrow Leo’s phrase in arguing the exact opposite, in fact and idea, prior to man.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I also have to add, and this is what happens when people bog down simple matters with obfuscation, that God is obviously the premise for Locke and Leo because they both begin with the premise that GOD CREATES THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH AND GIVES THEM TO MEN IN COMMON.

    And it is from THIS PREMISE that the rest of the arguments follow. Jeez.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Just for the heck of it, from Rerum Novarum:

    ” For, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own” (6)

    ” private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature” (9)

    “the common opinion of mankind… has found in the careful study of nature, and in the laws of nature, the foundations of the division of property, and the practice of all ages has consecrated the principle of private ownership, as being pre-eminently in conformity with human nature,” (11)

    “It is a most sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten” (13)

    ” in as much as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature” (13)

    Again here we see that natural rights must necessarily exist because of man’s existence prior to the community or the state, just as I’ve been saying

    ” In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop.” (14)

    “Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain” (17)

    ” so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic” (19)

    ” all things should be carried on in accordance with God’s laws and those of nature;” (36)

    “Secondly, man’s labor is necessary; for without the result of labor a man cannot live, and self-preservation is a law of nature, which it is wrong to disobey.” (44)

    “The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man;” (47)

    “It is indisputable that on grounds of reason alone such associations, being perfectly blameless in their objects, possess the sanction of the law of nature.” (53)

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Over and over again, rights are derived from nature and from necessity. These aren’t exclusive at all. Because it is a natural law that we are to preserve ourselves, and because we can only do this with private property – because it is necessary – it is a natural right. That’s clear in paragraph 44 of RN, and its clear in the chapter on property in the ST.

    So clear, so obvious. It’s not me who needs to shift ground to make this point, MJ, but you.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Over and over again, rights are derived from nature and from necessity.

    I don’t doubt that you think this is true and that you are prepared to die in the ditch for your interpretation. The interpretation is false, nonetheless, and no amount of posting quotations that you are misinterpreting will change that.

    So clear, so obvious. It’s not me who needs to shift ground to make this point, MJ, but you.

    I’m not aware of any shifting on my part. I have been consistent throughout this discussion. However, your story about the nature of rights and how they are derived has changed considerably since you were challenged by a few of us.

    I have a full account of Locke’s natural law theory finished, so I’ll start there, breaking it up into several posts across a few days. That will show how you are wrong just about Locke. Then I’ll do a series on Aquinas’ view of natural law and rights, which will show the important difference and incongruity between the their respective accounts. Finally, based on the Locke and Aquinas posts, I will show where you fundamentally misunderstand Leo XIII and, by extension, the entire Catholic social tradition. That should suffice to put to rest the confusion on how to understand these three figures on the topics of practical rationality, moral good, natural law, and natural right.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I also have to say, once again, that a “full account of Locke’s natural law theory” just isn’t relevant. Everyone knows that the “full account” is sometimes contradictory, and so naturally there will be parts that are in harmony with Christian natural law traditions and others with Hobbes.

    You acknowledge this, but you think the parts that are in accordance with Christian natural law are smoke and mirrors, devices to fool people, etc. I don’t even care if that is true, because even someone with bad intentions can make a true argument. You’ve also already admitted repeatedly that Rerum Novarum does make the Lockean argument, but you think it is confused for that reason.

    You want to “clean up some of Leo XIII’s ambiguities.” Well, you’d better show that they are indeed “ambiguities”, because I don’t see it that way at all. Your argument is ultimately with him, not me.

  • MJAndrew says:

    I also have to say, once again, that a “full account of Locke’s natural law theory” just isn’t relevant. Everyone knows that the “full account” is sometimes contradictory, and so naturally there will be parts that are in harmony with Christian natural law traditions and others with Hobbes.

    Of course it’s relevant. The matters over which we disagree (e.g., Locke’s view of natural right, his view of moral goodness) are intelligible only within the scope of his doctrine on natural law. By focusing on his account of natural law, we go straight to foundation of ALL of Locke’s moral and political thinking. Without such an account, we could twist Locke into agreeing with virtually any political thinker. I am not going to talk about Locke’s full political philosophy; once it is seen that Lockean foundations and Catholic social doctrine are incompatible, there will be no need to look at how Locke’s natural law is developed into a political theory.

    You want to “clean up some of Leo XIII’s ambiguities.” Well, you’d better show that they are indeed “ambiguities”, because I don’t see it that way at all. Your argument is ultimately with him, not me

    WJ sees inconsistencies. I see ambiguities. Later popes clarified key parts of RN. This is not an argument with Leo XIII. Rather, it is a way to make sense and clarify what the good pope was after. As for the two of us, we most certainly have an ongoing argument on how to read Leo XIII. You see Locke in RN where there is no Locke at all.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    MJ,

    “The matters over which we disagree (e.g., Locke’s view of natural right, his view of moral goodness) are intelligible only within the scope of his doctrine on natural law.”

    You’re creating disagreements out of thin air. All I was doing was showing where Locke and Leo overlap on certain points.

    “By focusing on his account of natural law, we go straight to foundation of ALL of Locke’s moral and political thinking.”

    If you agree with me, and with all of the Locke commentators that Locke is often contradictory, that he often argues from two different traditions, then how can you even talk about a single “account of natural law”?

    In part II I reference Waldron, in part III another paper, and I can find some more for you too: here’s a summary of the “Questions” to consider:

    “In the view of Horwitz, Clay, and Clay, Questions concerning the Law of Nature shows a tension between several opposing conceptions of natural law. In developing this view, the editors break with W. von Leyden, who prepared the first edition of the text and who interpreted Locke’s understanding of natural law squarely within a Christian framework. The editors here present a fresh interpretation of Locke as a thinker who posed a series of subtle challenges to traditional natural law doctrine”

    Ok. So there are different interpretations. The point is that plenty of people have seen exactly what I am seeing here – that it is possible to read parts of Locke as conforming with Christian natural law. It’s also obvious that he said many things that conflict with this tradition.

    Well, all I’m saying is, and really I don’t understand what your burning problem is with this, is that when Locke – for whatever reasons, which are totally irrelevant – puts on his “Christian natural law hat”, he says things that are obviously compatible with the Catholic political tradition, as the entire encyclical of Rerum Novarum demonstrates.

    In fact, an article from the Journal of Markets and Morality argues that this connection is conscious.

    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-186270909.html

    “Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler (1811-1877) in 1848–two years before his appointment as Bishop of Mainz, in his famous Advent sermon in the Cathedral of Mainz, in which he set off the Catholic theory of property from liberalism, on the one hand, and communism, on the other–still followed Thomas Aquinas entirely. (6) Luigi Taparelli, Matteo Liberatore, and Tommaso Zigliara, who prepared the social encyclical Rerum Novarum for Pope Leo XIII, also relied on John Locke’s property theory. Two aspects exert substantial influence on this first and ground-breaking encyclical: Locke’s individualism and work as the criterion for legitimacy of the right to private property.”

    The article goes on to say,

    “In various investigations on the development of the property ethics of the Christian social theory, which appeared in the early 1970s, the property theory of Rerum Novarum was accused of being too individualistic”

    Ok, I get that too. Some people – you included, I guess – don’t like the “individualistic” bent of RN. Fine. But no one would have made this claim if they weren’t seeing what I was seeing, though I wouldn’t describe either Locke or Leo as “individualists” because of the emphasis BOTH place on the obligation to charity, and the right of a poor man to the surplus goods of his neighbor.

    So when you say,

    “Without such an account, we could twist Locke into agreeing with virtually any political thinker.”

    Well, even with such an account, we can “twist” – I don’t see it as a “twist” at all. Because the ideas are the same. Even the language is almost completely the same. And why wouldn’t it be, if the people who worked with Leo on RN consciously relied on Locke? And Leo obviously signed off on it, and he obviously didn’t see any problems or contradictions with the Catholic political tradition. Are we to believe Leo just rubber stamped the encyclical without reading it?

    “once it is seen that Lockean foundations and Catholic social doctrine are incompatible, there will be no need to look at how Locke’s natural law is developed into a political theory.”

    That’s your huge error. That’s the premise that’s completely invalid. I readily grant that there are many things Locke argues that are indeed incompatible with Catholic philosophy. But when both of them come to private property, they’re saying the same things. It doesn’t really matter how they get there from their epistemology or whatever. The point is that there were obviously people developing Catholic social teaching with Leo who did not come to this conclusion of yours.

    ” You see Locke in RN where there is no Locke at all.”

    Well, I think the historical evidence, aside from the clear and obvious logic I present in part II, shows otherwise. And maybe instead of writing a 20 part series, you could just address that.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    And since you seem determined to have the whole discussion here, I want to repeat my footnote for part III:

    “In a paper on the ST by Patrick Coby for The Review of Politics (1987), it is claimed, and my own experience with Locke bears this out, that “Locke is inconsistent, or apparently so, and is thus difficult to interpret.” Coby makes this claim as he himself is attempting to discern whether or not Locke is truly in the Christian (Catholic) natural law tradition, or a sort of pseudo-Hobbesian. Like many commentators, he finds some support for both positions. I hope no one will hold it against me if I emphasize Locke’s natural law tendencies, especially in light of his arguments regarding charity, since I don’t think many in modern America who look to Lockean ideas for inspiration are moved by his Hobbesian tendencies. We ought moreover to be grateful for Locke’s inconsistency, and that it was he and not Hobbes who so influenced the founders of the United States. Indeed, I’d say its a drift towards Hobbes that we see in America’s modern statesmen, and this is what the Tea Party opposes.

    Also see Murray Rothbard’s “Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism” [linked in Part III] for further arguments regarding the “unpaid debt” that natural law theorists such as Locke owed the Catholic tradition.”

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    And here’s something regarding your manifestly uncharitable quibbling over “secure” vs. “protect”:

    “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

    I think you know where that comes from.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I also suggest that those who are interested in these questions get themselves a copy of Jeremy Waldron’s “God, Locke & Equality: Christian foundations of John Locke’s political thought.” Read the google preview if you want, the chapter on disproportionate and unequal possession. There he argues,

    “I think we can say that the substantive case for importing the First Treatise doctrine of charity into the Second Treatise theory of property revolves around the premises of Lockean natural law.” (184)

    And the fundamental premise Waldron cites is the same premise Leo uses in RN – the right to self-preservation, from which both the right to private property and the right to charity are derived. RN cites Locke’s theory of property to establish the right to property, and Aquinas’ view on charity to establish the right to charity – and Locke’s view of charity, as Waldron also notes, is that of Aquinas!

    If there’s some HUGE difference here, I just don’t see it. All I see is hair-splitting that is irrelevant.

  • MJAndrew says:

    Joe,

    I see you’ve already started the Google research in anticipation of my post. I’ll get the first installment up tomorrow afternoon. Every point I make about Locke has one or more citations, so we can both examine the primary texts closely before sifting through the secondary literature.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    MJ,

    I actually did no such thing. I had many of these things researched before I wrote my series.

    I was hoping I wouldn’t have to include so much minutia, since I didn’t want any of my posts to exceed 4000 words, and really much of it isn’t related at all to my purpose, which is to show the influence of Locke on Leo.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    By the way, here it is again, later on in the same paper I linked above:

    “Because man was created by God not only as a spiritual but also a physical being, he is dependent
    on external goods. Because he has a duty of self-preservation, he also has the right to the goods necessary for this and because he, as the image of God, has been given sovereignty over the earth, he is authorized to place these goods in his service. This is generally done through work. It leads to the acquisition of property and, thus, the power to dispose over external goods”

    The whole thing is here:

    http://www.acton.org/sites/v4.acton.org/files/pdf/8216645.pdf

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