Modern Essays Nature

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While Machiavelli and Hobbes abandon morality in their shift in perspective toward the isolated individual, Locke instead finds a different, yet somehow complementary, foundation for morality in this new perspective.

According to Locke, God’s ownership of humanity includes, as a kind of corollary, a directive for individual human beings to achieve ownership of themselves.

Such foundations may be laid not only in our common human nature, but also in our unique individuality as prescribed by this nature.

In providing this new insight, moreover, Locke is careful to show how it might be compatible with pre-modern understandings of natural moral foundations.

Since our common nature equips us to actually make our unique, self-conscious selves, we own ourselves individually in a real sense that legitimately excludes others and thereby serves as a foundation for morality (natural rights).

Locke, then, provides a genuinely new insight into the non-religious foundations of natural morality.

God makes us as potential self-owners by giving us the capacity for self-consciousness.

This capacity allows us to form an ongoing relationship with ourselves, as it were, through our ongoing awareness of our thoughts and actions.

Thomas Aquinas—in order to understand the complementary foundation of morality found in our common human nature, or natural law.

It is Cicero, building to some extent on the Stoics, who shows how Aristotelian moral philosophy implies the idea of a natural law.


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