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God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations in Locke's Political Thought [Paperback]

Jeremy Waldron

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Book Description

Dec 23 2002 0521890578 978-0521890571
Jeremy Waldron, one of the leading political philosophers of our time, looks at the principle of equality in the thought of John Locke, and the extent to which this is grounded in Christian principles. Throughout the text, Waldron discusses contemporary approaches to equality and rival interpretations of Locke, making his book unusually accessible and intellectually exciting. It will be of interest to philosophers, political theorists, lawyers and theologians around the world. Jeremy Waldron is the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor at Columbia Law School and Director of Columbia's Center for Law and Philosophy. Waldron has taught and lectured at UC Berkeley, Princeton University, Edinburgh University, Oxford University and Cambridge University. His books include The Dignity of Legislation (Cambridge, 1999), The Right to Private Property (Oxford, 1988) and The Law (Routledge, 1990). Waldron contributes to the London Review of Books and the New York Times Book Review.


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"Extremely well-written and detailed, Waldron's God, Locke and Equality provides a nuanced treatment that deftly handles the complexity of Locke's corpus and yet manages to provide a non-anachronistic and largely coherent version of Locke's treatment of basic equality."
-Philosophy in Review

"This is a fascinating book[...]God, Locke, and Equality is a challenging and fascinating read."
-First Things

"Mr. Waldron's Locke reverberates far beyond the boundaries of this book. Readers of the Scriblerian can learn from Mr. Waldron to think of Locke's trinity of religion, politics, and philosophy as central to his legacy and the compound of religion and politics as foundational to his philosophy."
-Richard E. Brantley, University of Florida, The Scriblerian

Book Description

This concise new study from one of the leading political philosophers of our time looks at the principle of equality in the thought of John Locke, and the extent to which this is grounded in Christian principles. Throughout the text, which is based on the Carlyle Lectures given in Oxford in 1999, Jeremy Waldron discusses contemporary approaches to equality and rival interpretations of Locke, and this format gives the whole an unusual degree of accessibility and intellectual excitement, of interest to philosophers, political theorists, lawyers and theologians around the world.

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My topic is equality: the proposition that humans are all one another's equals - created equal, perhaps, or (whether created or not) just equal, in some fundamental and compelling sense. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent arguments, but take with a grain of salt May 10 2010
By B. Bowman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Waldron's work is an excellent philosophical analysis of Locke's argument regarding equality. Within the description of Locke as an egalitarian, Waldron develops and explicitly states his own opinion.

The third chapter presents one of the more surprising but most important elements on the foundation of equality in the creation of man by God. This chapters theme is extrapolated through the entirety of the book. In this chapter Waldron presents his case that Locke is an egalitarian who donated a basic level of equality to all people. The book reads well and the arguments are powerful, however Waldron does have an agenda in his work. Waldron wants to present Locke as a radical egalitarian, so when discussing Locke on Slavery, Women and the Poor, he somewhat ignores the negative writings of Locke. Waldron states that he is willing to let the seemingly contradictory views sit side by side and does not (likely because he cannot) reconcile egalitarianism with the entirety of Locke.

That being said, I highly recommend this book to anyone curious about Locke's philosophy, Christian egalitarianism and contemporary theories about equality. Certain issues mentioned are not argued to their logical end (with the theory presented in chapter one) but this is because of the constraints Waldron places upon himself to use Lockean theory. i.e. When Locke states that some group is inferior to another, Waldron does not manage to reconcile Locke and the idea, rather he lets Locke's theory speak for itself and let the reader take it to the logical conclusion (where Locke should have taken it had he not been writing in the late 17th century)
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Locke (enlightenment) and Christianity: not enemies as usually supposed Aug. 11 2011
By Joseph M. Hennessey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
On p. 19, Jeremy Waldron states that: "My book is about the relation in Locke's thought between basic equality and religious doctrine--and that is exactly what the First Treatise is devoted to." Locke is often thought of as an implacable enemy of Christianity, but that was only true of the concept of divine right of kings, as embodied in the works of Robert Filmer. Locke wrote the Reasonableness of Christianity, which supports Christianity, though of course not to the extent of the desires of the orthodox.

On p. 142, Waldron quotes Locke that "[we] are [God's] property, whose Workmanship we are, made to last during his, not another's Pleasure, and that i am not made to last during my own pleasure, so that i do not have moral authority over my own life." On p. 163, Locke continues that "the Idea of a Supreme Being, . . whose Workmanship we are, and on whom we depend . . . the original and foundation of all Law is dependence. A dependent intelligent being is under the power & direction & domination of him on whom he depends . . if man were independent, he could have no law but his own will . . .he would be a god unto himself." These sentences alone radically remove Locke as a supporter of 20th and 21st century thin version of ethical liberalism, which caters to a radical agnostic autonomous individualism. On p. 145, Waldron shows that Locke approved of capital punishment under certain circumstances, another difference from contemporary liberalism.

On p. 187, Waldron quotes Locke as saying that "true and proper relief of the poor . . consists in finding work for them," a sentence more likely to be found in a republican than democratic platform.

Locke is thought of as a kind of 'apostle of toleration,' although he never tolerated atheists, and while his later, more refined thought tolerated Catholicism, in 1667, in his Essay on Toleration, he wrote (p. 222 of Waldron), that "Papists are not to enjoy the benefit of toleration."

All in all, Waldron does an excellent job of showing, perhaps to the dismay of 21st century agnostic secularists, that current enlightenment regimes, such as the USA, are mole hills built on the mountain of centuries of Christian thinking and writing.

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