Locke in America: The Moral Philosophy of the Founding Era

Locke in America: The Moral Philosophy of the Founding Era

by Jerome Huyler


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Books on John Locke abound, but until now none have captured the real Locke. By removing the layers of misperception that have clouded the philosopher's portrait for decades, Jerome Huyler reveals a startling new image that suggests a much stronger link between Locke's thought and the American Founding.

Huyler contends that authors as accomplished as J.G.A. Pocock, Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, Thomas Pangle, and Joyce Appleby have largely misread or ignored Locke's influence on the Founders. Building upon and critiquing their pioneering works, Huyler argues that the American revolutionaries, the Federalists, the Antifederalists, and the Jeffersonian republicans were all committed to a set of moral and political beliefs which were readily available and clearly articulated in Locke's writings.

Huyler demonstrates that recent debates and controversies over the Founding—especially those pitting classical liberalism (i.e., Lockeanism) against classical republicanism—have obscured the fundamental influence of Locke's ideas. In these debates, classical republicanism defines a belief in civic virtue, active political participation, and an overriding concern for the many over the one. By contrast, Locke is portrayed as a thinly disguised Hobbes, promoting a liberalism of narrow self-interest, possessive individualism, and greed that ultimately leads to civil strife and a fragmented polity.

That is a false opposition and a false view of Locke, Huyler contends. He portrays, instead, an essentially moderate Locke, a seventeenth-century moralist who advocated an individualism that actually fits well with classical republicanism and that opposes certain elements and institutions which we too casually identify with liberalism and with Locke. In fact, Huyler argues, vigilant civic virtue and participation are absolutely essential to Locke. Far from being selfish and isolated individuals, Locke's citizens have every motive and incentive to associate and work together.

As Huyler persuasively shows, the "Lockean way of life"—a moral code that combines social cooperation with equality, individual rights, rational independence, and industrious self-improvement—was extolled in the eighteenth-century's most popular literary works and was central to the Founders' thought. After this book, our views of Locke and the Founding will never be the same.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780700611089
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Publication date: 01/31/1995
Series: American Political Thought Series
Pages: 408
Sales rank: 994,716
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Locke in America--The State of the Debate
1. Interpreting Locke's Thought and Assessing Its Influence
2. Seventeenth-Century Background: The Threat to Authority
3. The Philosophical Foundations of Locke's Social Thought
4. The Virtue of Industriousness for the Benefit of Life
5. A Benignant Egoism: John Locke's Social Ethic
6. The True, Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government
7. Eighteenth-Century Background: Locke in America
8. The Spirit of '76
9. The Constitution of '87
10. The "Triumph" of Antifederalism

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