Friday, February 20, 2004

A Strauss-inspired reading of Locke

The so-called right of self-preservation, upon which Locke builds his entire politics, is nonsensical--because it is evolutionary not only against the traditional teachings of philosophy, but against philosophy itself. It has no status philosophically. Its status is ideological, not philosophical. The proposition that asserts it is born out of defiance of the norms of philosophical discourse, because it claims a right that has no correlative duties. Philosophy knows no such right; it is incapable of knowing any such rgiht. To put it otherwise, right-of-self-preservation political theories are all ideological, and recognizable as such because they owe their survival, in large part, to their habit of stealing terms from philosophy, giving them without due warning a new and philosophically illegitimate meaning, and using them to mobilize for political purposes the respect and reverence that philosophy, using them in their correct meaning, has won for them(as the Communists use words like "freedom," "justice," etc.). The proposition that asserts the right to self-preservation is adopted by those who appeal to it not because of the cause that can be made out for it philosophically, but because of its potential value as a weapon. And make no mistake about it: the "right of self-preservation" is the weapon that the modern politics has used for the overthrow of the traditional politics.
-Willmoore Kendall, "John Locke Revisited," Intercollegiate Review January-February 1966

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