Moral and Political Views of John LockeJune 27, 2021
Locke argues in the third book of Essays that morality, like mathematics, is capable of being demonstrated. For the true essence of what moral words correspond to can be fully known. Thus, certain knowledge, that is, agreement and disagreement in the things themselves can be obtained (Locke, 1996: 292). Because Locke believes that definitions will make moral speech clear, he says that the way to determine the precise meanings of moral words is to define them. Thus, the meanings of the words will become indisputably clear. All the uncertainties in this area are due to the fact that this work has not been done.
Whereas, ethical propositions are about ethical ideas that are impossible to be false or disproportionate. So the most basic word in the moral good is ‘good’, and everyone knows what it means: good and bad are nothing but pleasure and pain, or whatever causes pleasure and pain in us. Thus, moral good and evil are nothing but the conformity of our voluntary actions with ethical laws. Locke speaks of three kinds of laws: 1. divine law, 2. civic law, 3. moral law. The question is what is the relationship between them.
Ambiguities in the field of morality are possible only when moral words are given precise definitions, so that the essence of what moral words correspond to is precisely known.
According to Locke, there are three kinds of laws: the Sacred Law, the Citizenship Law, and the Moral Law.
Holy Law: Locke argues that God has the right to make laws. According to him, God is good and wise enough to direct our actions to the good, and powerful enough to provide this with the rewards and punishments he will give in the next world. People decide whether happiness or unhappiness will come from God as sin and merit by comparing their actions with this law. II Law of Citizenship: Since we live in society, the measure of guilt and innocence in terms of relations with other people is the law of citizenship. It is another type of law in which people’s actions are compared to determine whether they are crimes. Here, good and bad, whether we obey the law or not, good or bad, which comes with the decision of the judge, is called reward and punishment.
Moral Law: This can also be called the law of thought and dignity. Here the terms ‘virtue’ and ‘evil’ determine the law. In all societies, we can see that the names of virtue and evil are given to likes and dislikes. People regard virtues that are admired and praised as virtues, and actions that are disliked and vilified as evil. The criterion for what is said to be virtue or vice is approval or disapproval, praise or reproach, settled by explicit or implicit agreement. Virtue is what is praised everywhere. Evil is also what goes with reproach everywhere. Therefore, the sanctioning power of the moral law is praise and blame. In fact, it is this law that is most effective compared to the others. Instead of being blamed, people want to do things that will bring them a good reputation, in other words, they want to be liked and praised. Morality is a term that expresses the relation of our actions with these ethical rules.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook