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Title: La legge di natura in Locke: una questione teologico-politica
Authors: Lotti, Brunello
Keywords: John Lockestate of naturelaw of naturemoral obligationtheologico-political viewspolitical realism
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Brunello Lotti, "La legge di natura in Locke: una questione teologico-politica", in: "Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics (2016) XVIII/2", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2016, pp. 13-58
Series/Report no.: Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics
(2016) XVIII/2
It is well known that Locke’s political theory with regard to the concepts of the law of nature, the state of nature and the transition from it to the commonwealth is at best highly problematic, if not inconsistent. Locke’s incoherence has often been related to the combination of different approaches; he accepted the traditional metaphysical doctrine of natural law (which he found restated in Richard Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity), but combined it with naturalistic ethics of Epicurean origin centred on the ideas of self-preservation and of the search for pleasure and avoidance of pain as the basic motivations of human behaviour. In my essay I examine the notion of natural law and try to show the inadequacy of this theory to account for the transition from the state of nature to political society. I focus particularly on theologico-political issues related to the transgression of natural law, which is conceived both as an ideal rational norm and as a natural, practical principle. Locke’s texts conceal a dilemma which he never discussed, but which undermines his political theory: either natural law’s obligation is effective, and in this case rational human agents should live in a self-regulating natural society without need of building the commonwealth and its repressive apparatus; or natural law is no more than a postulated set of ideal values, unable to regulate the dominant forces of human actions, and in this case it is difficult to understand how the positive laws of the commonwealth should respect its supposed prescriptions. I conclude my essay arguing that the shaky theological foundation of Locke’s political theory is not merely related to Locke’s inconsistencies, but reveals the deficiency of the traditional notion of natural law when faced with the elements of realism which Locke includes in his theory and which he shares with modern political thought.
Type: Book
ISSN: 1825-5167
Appears in Collections:Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics (2016) XVIII/2

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