Posted on: January 2nd, 2023 Thoughts on Political Philosophy

Although I have big time criticisms of a book I am reviewing for the Genealogies of Modernity site, it has nevertheless clarified some extremely basic issues for me. My erstwhile ignorance of these issues leads me, in turn, to reflect back upon the nature of my intellectual formation over the past 3+ decades.

So, what I did not clearly see (til reading this book, Redeeming the Law of Nature by Simon P. Kennedy) is that for early modern thinkers like Hobbes (whom I read in grad school) and Locke (whose political thought I have, to this day, never actually read), natural rights are native to the “state of nature.” The state of nature, in turn, is ruled by the so-called natural law or law of nature (now reduced drastically from Thomas’ version to little more than self-preservation), which unfortunately is neither observed nor enforced.

This is what leads to the need for civil government: “Civil government is the proper remedy for the inconveniences of the state of nature,” says Locke. (Kennedy, 148)

In my review I will argue, pace Kennedy, that the shift from Thomistic natural law to something non-participatory and voluntaristic (including Calvin) is way more important than any other factor in this decline, and also that it is wrong to oppose “divine origin” and “human origin” as Kennedy does.

Still, this book has clarified much basic material for me, which is more than I can say for either my secular (philosophy) undergrad or my Reformed masters-level (theological) education. (Sadly, in my Ph D program I was deluged by Straussiasm, which did nothing but murkify my mental waters.)

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