Hypocrisy In John Locke's Prescriptions

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In America, English settler colonialists beheld “A new Eden.” This “paradise” was soon filled with the anguished cries of enslaved Africans. These unfortunate souls would soon wrench from the virgin earth the bounty upon which the colonialist’s new nation could be built. Despite their wealth, the colonists found themselves yet under the control of a distant ancient power, Britain. To resist this, they marshaled all the most advanced political ideas of the day. The standard narrative holds that these men who fought for the ideals of liberal equality, yet ate their bread by the toil of others, were, at best, demigods who struggled with an institution which they could not bring themselves to end. At worst, they were willful hypocrites, who ignored the liberal exhortations of their…show more content…
How should we consider a thinker who seems to blatantly ignore his own prescriptions? At this point, it may still seem possible to simply impute Locke’s shortcomings to hypocrisy with no implication for how we understand his theories. If, however, one is inclined to believe that no one was ever a hypocrite without trying to rationalize that hypocrisy, this still falls short. A purely amoral person might be able to avoid rationalization, but, such a person could never be a hypocrite in the first place, because hypocrisy implies the existence of a system of belief which is violated. Therefore, in this paper, I will posit solutions to the problem of slavery’s co-existence with the Enlightenment by seeking to reconcile John Locke’s ideas to his involvement not only in the slave-trade, but in promoting the development of slavery in the English colonies. In attempting to solve this problem, I hope to move beyond notions of hypocrisy and instead to investigate Locke’s personal contradictions from a theoretical level. This effort is motivated by the conviction that there is an inherent contradiction,

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