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18 Jan - UNIT 1- John Locke on Toleration.docx

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York University
Social Science
SOSC 3375
Tanja Juric

UNIT1:J OHN L OCKE ON T OLERATION Jan 18, 2013  Overview of this week’s lecture  Social context and arguments that led to the development of John Locke’s ‘Letter Concerning Toleration’  Religious and political landscape in which Locke was writing, and the reason why he has developed his position on tolerance  Key terms and concepts: o Enlightenment o Secularism o Empiricism o The Reformation  How do Lockean concerns persist to today, such as the right to Free Speech and the difficult of asserting and maintaining one’s individual voice while being part of a group = a central issue navigated by the students in the film “Discordia” I. Navigating Liberal Toleration  John Locke (1632-1704), british philosopher  His influence upon philosophy and political theory endures today  The Enlightenment: A tradition in philosophy that marked a turning point where people used to be very plugged into their cultural belief system, whereby if they challenged it or practiced critical thinking, they would be punished somehow. The Enlightenment was a movement in philosophy to challenge this. For Locke and Emmanuel Kant, it wasn’t appropriate to follow the dictates of one’s society or tradition; we must understand our actions and follow our actions at a reasonable philosophy. These philosophers are not anti-religious (Locke himself was arguably quite devout), but religious beliefs had to be contained and justified within reason. Divine order is displaced and reason is placed in the center whereby the actions of the individual must first be justified by reason and then by belief.  Locke summed up the Enlightenment with his o Belief in the middle class – challenging the dogma of the church and the society that mimics it. Locke argues for the conscience of the individual, he’s a critic of all forms of authority (class structures, society and religious authorities) o Right to freedom of conscience – make up your own mind, don’t just puppet the beliefs of family or church members – justify opinions by a reasonable means. o Right to property – if you produce something, it is yours o Faith in science – Locke was trained as a physician, which contributed to his love and faith of science; through science, people often justify or critique a theological world view o Confidence in the goodness of humanity – rejects the idea put forth by Thomas Hobbes who is known to question the goodness of humanity, saying that human beings are inherently bad and irrational, governed by fear– Locke argues that human beings are good and rational  Locke left England for France, where he met French leaders in science and philosophy  He returned to England, trying to lead a quiet life until he was suspected of radicalism by the government  Holland – growing view of secularism; went there for a few years and published a few essays marking his position as a critical philosopher  Secular(ism) – without religious influence over actions over decisions and opinions; culturally neutral or culturally inclusive 1  Essay Concerning Human Understanding – Locke examines the nature of the human mind and the processes by which it knows the world o Locke believed that the mind is born blank, a tabula rasa upon which the world describes itself through the experiences of the five senses – we are all born with the ability to reason, and by viewing things we can understand causal relationships o British Empiricism – Locke is said to be the founder of this approach. Knowledge arising from sensation is perfected by reflection, thus enabling humans to arrive at such ideas as space, time and infinity – we learn about something through observation and reflect upon it – this is how we develop knowledge (observation, reflection and understanding)  Locke is most renowned for his political theory  Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that the original state of nature was happy, and characterized by reason and tolerance  People have rights (life, liberty and property) that are independent of law/society and nobody has a right to interfere with them – this includes government o Our recognition of one another as being rational human beings, offers us the right and privilege – this is an essential part of our character as human beings  Government exists by the consent of the people (social contract)  We willingly transfer rights to the government in order to better ensure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty and property o For Locke, government exists only by the consent of the people – we all agree to abide by the laws of the country/government, but they aren’t just given to us, we contribute to it o The government, in terms of the laws and social assistance that the law provides, is there to provide us as individuals with stability and ensure that we’re happy – not just take from the individual  Governments that fail to protect rights/promote public good can be (legitimately) resisted and replaced with the new governments  In addition to being an advocate for the rights of the individuals, he’s also very much a promote of the right to revolution and the rebellion of the people – a rational judgment of the acts of society, government and the law – if it’s not justified, then the government is not legitimate. Locke is very much a defender of the people  Religious Tolerance  The Reformation: splitting of Christianity; Martin Luther is seen as the man of the people as well, he objected to the hierarchy of the church and class structure of the society that upheld the beliefs of the church; he objected to the buying of indulgences – Martin Luther questioned the dogma of the church in terms of access of sacred texts themselves – they were written in Latin and only certain people could access them – he argued for the publication of the bible in the vernacular. Movement of society away from a classist structure and towards a more liberating system for all individuals  The Reformation had split Europe into competing religious camps, provoking civil wars and massive religious persecutions – religious tolerance was a significant interest of the 17 century  Locke’s Letter on Toleration argues for a separation between Church and State to prevent and avoid persecution  Locke gives a principled account of religious toleration, but this is mixed with arguments that apply only to Christians (maybe even only Protestants)  In explaining the role of government, Locke explains that the magistrate can use force and violence to preserve civil interests against attack o But, one’s religious concerns are not within the domain of civil interests and so to lie outside of the legitimate concern of the magistrate or the civil government 2  ***Locke adds an additional right – the right of freedom to choose one’s own road to salvation – to the natural rights of life, liberty, health and property  Case study: Discordia o The film “Discordia” serves as an excellent example of how Lockean concerns (individual rights and freedoms, religious tolerance and the place/role of political authority) are expressed and negotiated in a contemporary context o We see how students in the firm struggle with one another and with themselves over issues of group membership, and the right to individual choice/expression  The film clearly demonstrates that we are far from resolving the debate over religious tolerance, despite our (seeming – there’s still conflict and religious struggle) celebration of cultural and religious diversity, and the assertion of individual and group rights  Christocentric – centered on Christian view Tutorial 1. Natural Law The concept surrounding natural law and natural rights is key to Locke’s political philosophy. This concept centers on the idea that there are certain moral truths that apply to all people, regardless of their place or any other agreements that they have made. There has been much debate around the fact of whether or not natural law is known by reason – Locke is a proponent of this idea. Natural law differs from divine law in that the latter, in the Christian tradition, normally referred to those laws that God had directly revealed through prophets and other inspired writers. By contrast, Natural law can be discovered by reason alone and applies to all people, while divine law can be discovered only through God's special revelation and applies only to those to whom it is revealed and who God specifically indicates are to be bound. 2. Locke on Property Locke’s treatment of property is generally thought to be among his most important contributions in political thought. Macpherson interprets Locke as a “defender of unrestricted capitalist accumulation”. According to this, Locke is thought to have set three restrictions on the accumulation of property in the state of nature. For instance, Locke was very much an advocate for if you produce something it’s yours, and everyone is entitled to the right to property. As such, the government has no right to interfere with our fundamental rights to property (as well as many other fundamental rights). Moreover, Locke, according to Macpherson, recognized that labor can be alienated. Others take Locke to be a libertarian, with the government having no right to take property to use for the common good without the consent of the property owner. 3. Locke on Toleration In Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration, he makes central claims that the government should not use “force to try and bring people to the true religion, and that religious societies are voluntary organizations that have no right to use coercive power over their own members or those outside their group”. In other words, during a time period where there was a huge intermingling between church and state, Locke was advocating for a separation between these two fundamental spheres. He found tolerance and this separation to be especially crucial during the mid 1600s because of the prevalent persecutions that were rampant against Protestant Europeans (both in France and England). In Locke’s view, the magistrate (i.e., the state) can use force and violence to preserve peace and civil interests, and avoid violence. In this way, religious concerns do not fit into the “civil interests”, that is, they do not constitute a legitimate concern of the government. 3 4. Natural law – laws that are attainable through rationality and reason, universal; fundamental laws of nature 5. Divine law – more specific, and doesn’t apply to everyone; natural and divine law may overlap 6. Positive law – man-made law, might overlap with divine and natural law 7. Punishment 8. Separation of Power (3 kinds) 9. Monarchy 10.State of Nature – individuals are free, equal, self-interested; natural rights – life, liberty and property – these exist in the state of nature just as they exist now. For Locke, in the state of nature things are like they are now – we don’t have the contracting need to be against others. In the state of nature, we have a common judge, and we all have the responsibility to judge whoever, restitution is an option. As opposed to Hobbes, the state of nature means something completely different whereby people are acting in their own best interests and the state of nature is a state of war. Lockes’ has rationality, there’s natural law etc. A common judge is needed so we don’t concern ourselves with punishment  Pursuit if happiness – the attainment of property is key to happiness; and we opt out of the state of nature to pursue happiness – to contract out of the state of nature and into a civil society, and erect government. The government helps us to maximize life, liberty and property because it gives people an equal opportunity and levels the playing field for everyone. This order and predictability helps us to attain these rights. 11.The government has one responsibility and exists for one reason – the public good and this happens to be the maximization of happy. The government is supposed to enhance the public good’s happiness, and when it doesn’t, we have the right to rebel 12.Consent (Individual and tacit) – The idea of social contract is that people come together and consent to the government; we exist as individuals and come together to consent to form a public – before this, we were all private. We now have public obligations. The government’s job is to ensure that it’s governing according to consent and according to the public good. 13.If a group of people disagrees with how the government’s being run, you can voice objection and rebel. The appeal to heaven – nobody can decide who’s right or who’s wrong, it’s up to fate – God being Locke’s reference. If people are rebelling and they happen to win, they re-erect a new government and new consent. For Locke, consent is crucial, everything is about consent 14.Toleration 15.Revolution Hordon & Mendus text (*p. 6-9) Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration  Duties of the state: o For Locke, the state is to be defined by its use of force – used to both justify and o Physical repression cannot be used to change a person’s belief/mindset (i.e., religion) p. 6 o If religious beliefs are causing civil war, public peace/good is affected and thus the government has an obligation to interfere  Some matters are necessary for the state (i.e., peace), but the state should be indifferent about other matters (i.e., religion)  For Locke, the pope is an extra form of government since catholics are obligated to do everything the pope says – Pope = God (as opposed to protestants who have an individual relationship with God)  Locke on atheism Jan 25, 2012 4 II. Locke’s Letter  Overview of this week’s lecture  Learn Locke’s reasoning and argument behind the separation of church and state – division between public and private spheres  Recognize the Christo-normative assumptions of Locke’s argument o Locke was neutral between the two Christian sides, but he himself was a protestant  See how the debate over the separation of church and state persists in contemporary western societies today (i.e., the wearing of the niqab)  Locke’s Separation Thesis  Recall: Locke is concerned about the expression and preservation of individual voice  Locke goes about to attempt to preserve that individual voice by o Limiting the extent to which the state has authority over the individual concerns (e.g., individual religions, beliefs and practices) o Otherwise known as the separation thesis – separating the two realms  Locke’s arguments are o A way of preserving individual rights and freedoms o A way to advocate tolerance amongst a diverse citizenry  When the citizenry is diverse, then there’s no way to implement one more standard behavior or belief. For Locke, it would be inappropriate for the state to impose their own religious beliefs  Rather than focusing on the points of disagreement, individuals are seeing that religious beliefs are private matters not meant for the public sphere – he’s promoting religious tolerance  For Locke, separating religious concerns and beliefs and the state is a way for people to cultivate an area of their identity and beliefs, and not have it influence the public sphere – he’s getting people to agree to disagree by telling people that it’s their private practice – is this artificial or real? It sounds great to preserve a person’s identity – but is it realistic that aspects of their identity (i.e., sexuality, religion) that are crucial to their identity as human beings won’t be brought into the public sphere  Forced Conversion Unacceptable  To actively/forcibly convert (Christian belief of being “born again” and actively go out and missionize) others is unchristian  Would lead to a state of war between parties involved – if we know that people are so devout and their identity is constructed according to their religious beliefs, then they’re never going to agree with other world views – thus, it will lead to resentment and persecution “No one…neither single persons nor churches, nay, nor, even commonwealths, have just title to invade the civil rights or worldly goods of each other on pretense of religion” (Locke, 8)  No one – worldly or otherwise – as the right to impose his or her own beliefs on others. Each individual has the right to come to these conclusions on their own  Why does he say it was unchristian to actively/forcibly convert others? Does this apply to all religions? (I.e., would Locke say that all religions should refrain from imposing conversion?) o Locke is against this approach – it’s against a person’s free will, and against the tenet of religion itself o This justifies abuses, so how can it be ethical? 5 o Locke makes a very provocative statement here – he’s talking to predominately a Christian audience who would be taken back when they hear that what they’re doing is actually abuse  Is conversion (as a concept acceptable)? Why or why not?  In a way, Locke is forcing a god-structured lifestyle because he has strong views against atheism, and feels that in order to be a moral person, you need to have God in your life  Everyone is equal under the law, except for atheists  Locke has a serious objection to atheists – he doesn’t understand those who don’t believe in a Christian or god worldview  Locke believed that there is a distinct and inseparable connection between religion and morality  Without the acceptance of God (or any supreme and omnipotent being, as a basic truth), Locke argued that an individual’s morals and ethics were questionable  Does this make Locke’s theory – at base – theological? o Prof. Juric argues that it is, but others believe that it’s not and it could be a philosophical framework, and not necessarily a theological one  Necessary precondition framework for society – in a multicultural society where there could be multiple god-heads and not necessarily one supreme being  Distinguish civil from religious concerns “I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion and to settle the just bounds that lie between one and the other” (Locke, Toleration, 2)  This philosophy is the basis for modern democracy and a cornerstone of the American constitution (which advocates the separation of Church and state)  Without a clear distinction between the two, care for the commonwealth will be distorted by personal beliefs and will not be the priority, as it should be  Quebec’s banning of the niqab – Bill 94, proposes to ban women wearing the niqab from receiving government services (i.e., they can’t take language classes if wearing the niqab  The niqab is seen as a symbol of oppression  Other secular, ‘western’ societies, have proposed similar and on the niqab, or other symbols of Islam (e.g., Minaret in Switzerland)  By proposing such bans on religious symbols, is the state interfering with religious freedoms? Or is the state upholding human rights?  The separation between public and private is so porous o I.e., by ensuring that individuals are not marked as ‘different’ and/or forced to wear the hijab or niqab etc.  The claim is that having religious symbols being word identifies the person as being different, and once a person is identified as being different, they become targets. This is an insidious argument – because rather than addressing the xenophobia/racism in society, there’s clearly a creation or identification of an us-them dichotomy and suggest that people assimilate  Are these instances of John Locke’s separation thesis at work? Or is it his separation thesis gone wrong?  There’s an assumption that there’s this indigenous Quebec identity – us-them division  Assumption that secularism is neutral – secularism is still an identity – it has assumptions, values, and even a religion – even if it’s deemed to be welcoming, it doesn’t make it neutral. You still have to give something up to participate in this mainstream society 6  Privileging the secular over the religious is not what Locke was about – he saw both sides as important, and saw a need to distinguish between the two – not make one marginalized and one privileged. Our assumption, in a secular nation and secular society that religion can be oppressive  Immigrants – sometimes they come here willing to start over in their identity and leave behind the identity that they had at home  In conclusion…  Locke’s argument behind the separation of church and state o Preservation of individual voice o Freedom of conscience o Resist authority (Church and/or state) – he’s criticizing autocratic forms of government, and govern
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