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Locke and the Legislative Point of View

Locke and the Legislative Point of View: Toleration, Contested Principles, and the Law

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Locke and the Legislative Point of View
    Book Description:

    Determining which moral principles should guide political action is a vexing question in political theory. This is especially true when faced with the "toleration paradox": believing that something is morally wrong but also believing that it is wrong to suppress it. In this book, Alex Tuckness argues that John Locke's potential contribution to this debate--what Tuckness terms the "legislative point of view"--has long been obscured by overemphasis on his doctrine of consent. Building on a line of reasoning Locke made explicit in his later writings on religious toleration, Tuckness explores the idea that we should act politically only on those moral principles that a reasonable legislator would endorse; someone, that is, who would avoid enacting measures that could be self-defeating when applied by fallible human beings.

    Tuckness argues that the legislative point of view has implications that go far beyond the question of religious toleration. Locke suggests an approach to political justification that is a provocative alternative to the utilitarian, contractualist, and perfectionist approaches dominating contemporary liberalism. The legislative point of view is relevant to our thinking about many types of disputed principles, Tuckness writes. He examines claims of moral wrong, invocations of the public good, and contested political roles with emphasis on the roles of legislators and judges. This book is must reading not only for students and scholars of Locke but all those interested in liberalism, toleration, and constitutional theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2539-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Political argument in liberal democracies is characterized by both agreement and disagreement. The disagreement is obvious. Citizens profess a wide variety of conflicting beliefs about politics, morality, and religion. Competitive elections, by their structure, encourage the expression and clarification of disagreement. Among the causes of this pervasive disagreement are self-interest, human fallibility, and the complexity of difficult moral questions. The agreement in political argument is less obvious but very important. Just as we must agree on certain linguistic conventions in order to communicate at all, so also we must agree on at least some moral ideas if we are to...

  6. PART I The Legislative Point of View and the Ends of Government

    • CHAPTER 1 Contested Laws and Principles
      (pp. 17-35)

      Toleration is a defining aspect of liberal thought. Although it is quite difficult to give a definition of what set of characteristics is necessary and sufficient to describe a view as liberal, one can say that any view that completely rejects the idea of toleration is not liberal. A doctrine of toleration holds that there are times when it is morally right to refrain from attempting to put a stop to some action or state of affairs that one thinks is morally wrong. It holds that there are moral reasons not to do so even when discouraging the action is...

    • CHAPTER 2 Contested Principles and the Legislative Point of View
      (pp. 36-56)

      If we adopt a legislative point of view, we have a reason to take into consideration the way others would interpret and apply a principle when deciding whether or not to act on that principle. The question is why we should adopt such a point of view if we are not really legislating. That was the essence of the King dilemma in chapter 1: why should he reject the principle “Disobey unjust laws” because other people might apply the principle incorrectly? The objection is a very important one, and in this chapter I will present a Lockean response to it....

    • CHAPTER 3 Legislative Consent and the Public Good
      (pp. 57-84)

      Invocations of “the public good” are a paradigm case of contested principles. In many instances people who disagree about the public good are disagreeing not merely about whether a given policy will actually produce the results that its proponents claim it will produce, but also about whether results of that sort should bear the honorific title “public good.” Some restrict the public good to material benefits like health, physical safety, and economic prosperity. For others it may involve a common national identity, virtue, or even religious piety. When the two sides in a disagreement invoke different conceptions of the public...

    • CHAPTER 4 Beyond Neutrality and Perfectionism
      (pp. 85-114)

      As we saw in chapter 2, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, civil disobedience was justifiable from a legislative point of view. His principle was that persons should disobey (openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept punishment) those laws that are unjust. This was a principle he advocated knowing full well that persons with deficient conceptions of justice would sometimes apply it. The requirement that we accept the punishment for breaking the law was a way to temper the anarchy that might result if fallible people were at complete liberty to disobey all laws that they thought unjust. King’s case is...

  7. PART II The Legislative Point of View and the Constitutional Roles

    • CHAPTER 5 Institutional Roles and the Legislative Point of View
      (pp. 117-136)

      To this point we have looked at the application of the legislative point of view to situations where a person must decide whether to use state power to punish a moral wrong or promote the public good. A Lockean legislative point of view provides a moral perspective that the persons who must make these decisions, particularly legislators and the citizens who elect them, should employ. The previous chapters simplified the discussion by assuming that the actors are either legislators or citizens trying to bring about a change in the law. In fact, the realities of political life are considerably more...

    • CHAPTER 6 Contested Roles, Interpretation, and the Framer’s Point of View
      (pp. 137-173)

      Constitutional crises come in all shapes and sizes. The 2000 Florida election crisis raised questions about the proper roles of state and federal courts, state and federal law, and various state officials in administering federal elections. In 1974 a constitutional crisis arose over the extent of the president’s “executive privilege.” The American Civil War was a constitutional crisis on a far greater scale. These are the sorts of crises that make headlines and history books. But there are also smaller, more mundane “crises” that occur so often we hardly recognize them as such. The pitched battles every time a Supreme...

    • Conclusion
      (pp. 174-178)

      Contested principles are pervasive in politics. In the most obvious cases, one side proposes a principle that the other side rejects. In this first case, both sides interpret the principle in the same way and anticipate similar applications of it. In this book we have focused on a second type of contested principle, principles that both sides accept in the abstract but that one side rejects because of the way others will interpret and apply it. Contested principles of this second type are found at all levels of political debate. In chapter 2 we examined simple assertions of moral right...

  8. APPENDIX 1 Textual Support for the Legislative Point of View
    (pp. 179-180)
  9. APPENDIX 2 Locke’s Theory of Consent and the Ends of Government
    (pp. 181-190)
    (pp. 191-198)
    (pp. 199-200)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 201-206)