Power in Locke's political philosophy

De Vidas, Charles (1978). Power in Locke's political philosophy Honours Thesis, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, The University of Queensland.

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Author De Vidas, Charles
Thesis Title Power in Locke's political philosophy
School, Centre or Institute School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1978
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Supervisor Unknown
Total pages 182
Language eng
Subjects 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies
220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts - General
Formatted abstract

POWER IS A RELATION. John Locke was the first thinker to give a thorough going analysis of this principle. Although apparently simple it has momentus consequences. Not only did it ground his political thought, but there was important repercussions cutting across ethics, theory of knowledge and natural philosophy. This was Locke's "Division of the Sciences". For here, was a totally non-metaphysical principle which challenged previous thought and its "survivals". Indeed, it was Locke who became " le Sage" of the Enlightenment as Francois Voltaire called him. Power viewed relatlonally was a revolutionary Insight which supported and promoted the "New Science". Locke's famous description of himself in his Masterpiece An Essay Concerning Human Understanding was that "it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge" that the real master builders in the commonwealth of learning, Newton, Huygens and Boyle, could truly advance their craft.

Even such a revolutionary thinker as Rene Descartes kept as his cardinal principle a substantiellst and teleological definition of power. This view of power, even more evident in Descartes' rationalist successors, saw it as reducible to fundamental logical relation(s) as the prior realisation of all possibllity. In contrast, Thomas Hobbes who tried to reduce thinking to a casual relation also maintained a hidden teleology in his politics. This was the view that power was the compulsive means to felicity. Locke understood both relations in terms of power. This has been seldom recognised, but it would answer the main criticisms imputed to a misunderstanding of Locke. Locke was not a "representatlonalist" but a realist. Locke is often criticised for maintaining a hidden dualism (and a substratum). However, he favours a theory of "embodied bodies" to use his phrase. As for the dispute over the status of Locke's thought as rationalist or empiricist, the question is mere 'wrangling' as Locke said in the opening book of his Essay.   ...........................
Keyword Locke, John, 1632-1704
Power (Social sciences)

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