“What Does Locke Expect Us to Know?” by Steven Forde

Steven Forde, "What Does Locke Expect Us to Know?" Review of Politics, 68  (2006), 232-258.

Locke claims that his moral and political teaching is capable of a fully rational demonstration. It would seem then that Lockean citizens are expected to grasp the rational bases of their regime. But Locke was notoriously vague or incomplete on what the rational demonstration entailed, in matters of theology especially, but in other matters as well. I examine this question in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Two Treatises of Government, and Some Thoughts Concerning Education, and conclude that Locke did not expect most citizens to grasp the full philosophical demonstration of liberalism, but they would understand a simplified version of it. This, however, risks leaving liberal culture in an unsettled state.

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