15th Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Kim

Jiwon Kim

Call of Lockean Duty

According to Locke’s Two Treatise, the fundamental Law of Nature is a duty for preservation of humanity (§135). Is the duty positive or negative? I argue that it is positive, against modern libertarian political philosophers such as Nozick(1968) who read Locke as defending the negative duty. I aim to show that it is consistent to interpret Locke as arguing for the positive duty based on the characteristics of Natural Law: the Law is justified by the Christian tradition and revealed to us through Reason. The Natural Law consists of a duty to preserve oneself and a duty to preserve the rest. I show that the duty to preserve oneself is negative while there is a correlated right to preserve oneself. By drawing the difference between inaction which does not come in degrees and active action which has to be actively pursued, I argue that the negative duty to preserve oneself can be satisfied by default, while a right to preserve oneself can only be satisfied by the positive duty to charity from others. Adhering to the Principle of Charity which is more fundamental then Lockean proviso, Waldron(2005) interprets the duty to preserve the rest of humanity negatively: one ought not to interfere with the poor exercising their right to preserve himself. Defending Ashcraft(1994) and Tully(1980) against Waldron, I argue that the Principle of Charity and the formulation of negative are not only futile, but also create the false sense of having ‘clean hands’ among the members of the society when, in fact, the fundamental Natural Law is being violated; I conclude that the Lockean duty is positive. Locke is assumed to be the father of libertarianism. Nozick(1968) finds justification for his libertarian principles of justice in Locke. However, if Natural Law is a positive duty as I argue so, it is incoherent to justify libertarian principles with Locke’s philosophy.