PAPM 1000 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Highwayman, Legislature, Common Good

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Intro to PAPM – PAPM 1000
Return to the question of slavery: puzzle: Locke writes a strong (for 17th century) denunciation of
slavery, but biographical fact is hypocritical – he was heavily invested in the African slave trade.
Answers range from ‘he’s just flagrantly racist – people are created equal only means white
Europeans’, some people say the treatise is actually a defense of colonialism and the slave trade,
other arguments say that in the 17th century salaries were hard to come by (excusable for earning
a livelihood?)
Even today, there are lots of people who have investments in companies like Lougheed Martin,
oilsands companies - questions about the extent to which you can infer direct
support/endorsement of policies of countries/companies based on one’s investments. In Canada,
most people that invest are invested in mining/oil/arms industries.
As individuals, we are presented with a question: ‘in text, strong denunciation of slavery written
by someone who was invested in the slave trade… how significant is this/in what ways to we
take this to be significant?’ We could answer it in many ways, try to explain how this
contradiction works… Other question: ‘can we read this text and put aside that biographical fact
and still get something significant out of the text? To what extent does how we read the text rest
upon how we make sense of this fact of Locke’s life?’
Back to the killing of the thief:
- For clarity: For Locke, when you exist in a state of nature with other people, there are
limitations on the use of force and the ways in which you can treat and interact with other
people, set by the law of nature. The law of nature is reason and we discover it through
the application of our reason. Page 9: the law of nature does not simply one not to harm
another… being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another… The law of
nature follows from the initial condition. While you operate in the condition of reason,
you are in the state of right. By initiating a state of war by making clear you intent to
subject another to arbitrary will, you renounce reason as your guide and therefore all
limitations are off. The message is more to the highwayman than his victim: if you
choose this path, you’ll probably end badly
- Who dictates when you’ve gone too far? The law of reason: do not harm people in their
life, health, property, or happiness.
- If someone threatens you, you don’t need to take the risk of determining whether they’re
- You can violate the state of nature without declaring a state of war. Simply taking a
possession is not a state of war – the problem is that we don’t make good judges in our
cases, we don’t do very well taking only reparation
How do we move to a political society?
- Men being equal and free and independent, no one can be put out of his estate and
subjected to the political power of another without his consent
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