So I haven't read John Locke, I intend to, but I have a friend who says Objectivism is just a copy o the ideas of classical liberals, specially Locke's. Can anyone help me at least with the basic differences? As a starting point since I have told my friend I would have to read Locke, I did tell her I'd try asking here to answer at least with something. Thanks.
The significance of John Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers is concisely explained by Leonard Peikoff in his book, The Ominous Parallels, Chapter 5, "The Nation of the Enlightenment," referring to the founding of America. Dr. Peikoff explains how Thomas Aquinas' reintroduction of Aristotelianism was the beginning of the Renaissance, the beginning of the era of reason. This led to the Age of Enlightenment:
The seventeenth century carried the advance still further, by means of two major achievements: in science, the discoveries that culminated in the Newtonian triumph; in philosophy, the creation (by Descartes, Locke, and others) of the first modern systems, the first attempts to provide Western man with a comprehensive world view incorporating the discoveries of the new science.... [The] universe is intelligible; there is nothing outside man's power to know, if he uses the proper method of knowledge; the method is reason.... For the first time in modern history, an authentic respect for reason became the mark of an entire culture.... thinkers of the West [before Kant] regarded the acceptance of reason as uncontroversial....
(From pp. 101-103.) Regarding John Locke, Dr. Peikoff writes (pp. 115-116):
In epistemology, the European champions of the intellect had been unable to formulate a tenable view of the nature of reason or, therefore, to validate their proclaimed confidence in its power.... John Locke -- regarded during the Enlightenment as Europe's leading philosopher, taken as the definitive spokesman for reason and the new science -- is a representative case in point. The philosophy of this spokesman is a contradictory mixture, part Aristotelian, part Christian, part Cartesian, part skeptic; in short, it is an eclectic shambles all but openly inviting any Berkeley or Hume in the vicinity to rip it into shreds. The philosopher taken as the defender of nature could not establish its reality. The philosopher taken as the defender of scientific law could not validate the concept of causality, held that basic causes are outside man's power to grasp, and stated explicitly that a "science of bodies" (i.e., a science of material entities) is impossible. The philosopher taken as the champion of the senses was promulgating every doctrine necessary to invalidate them. The philosopher taken as the spokesman for the unlimited power of the human mind was proclaiing (in effect) that the field open to human cognition is a precarious island surrounded by a sea of the uncertain, the subjective, the unintelligible, the unknowable.... [It was] a philosophy of reason so profoundly undercut as to be in process of self-destructing.
The same situation existed in ethics. Locke and others had sought to offer "a rational, demonstrative science of ethics," but none of them "could define such an ethics." (p. 116) This left the door open for a rising tide of voices proclaiming that ethical principles are based on feeling, not reason.
Those who skim philosophical issues superficially will readily find striking similarities between Locke's Enlightenment thinking and Objectivism's veneration of reason, individualism and individual rights. Dig just a little deeper and one will also find a world of difference. At the same time, however, Locke's pivotal role in formulating the principle of individual rights, and his influence on America's Founding Fathers (as well as on the transition of Britain from monarchy to parliamentary democracy) cannot be underestimated.
answered Jan 23 '13 at 02:29
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