- Series: Exxon Lecture Series
- Paperback: 354 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 15, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226645479
- ISBN-13: 978-0226645476
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,315,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke (Exxon Lecture Series) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Thomas L. Pangle is the Joe R. Long Chair in Democratic Studies in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author or editor of numerous books.
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Thomas Pangle has the right hands. This is one of the earliest books (1988) in the Straussian revival of the last few decades. Pangle provides
the reader with a reading of Locke that is convincing (at least, for someone like me who hasn't read any Locke in over 15 years) and disturbing. What I find disturbing about reading some of the Straussians sometimes is that it makes some of the scholars that I have read or studied with seem sloppy or, worse, lazy.
One example would be Pangle's approach to Locke's First Treatise. Some interpreters and many teachers of Locke completely blow off this book. Pangle reads it as being the Lockean equivalent of Spinoza's Theologico-political Treatise(p. 135). In other words, he sees it as an important attempt to criticize the traditional understanding of the Bible and to use rationality as the guideline for doing so. This undermining of traditional readings of the Bible is read by Pangle as essential to understanding Locke's ideas on property, on natural law and on education.
Another strength of Pangle's approach to reading Locke is that it is based on Locke's own suggestions about how to interpret difficult thinkers (see p.137 for a good example but there are many others).
I have two arguments with Pangle's interpretation. First, it seems to lead inevitably to the conclusion that Locke was so close to being an atheist that the only way we can save his religion is to declare him something like a weak Deist. Pangle resists the direction of his own reading (see his statement on p. 149).
The second argument is one that I have with Straussians in general. Part of the power of Leo Strauss' thought is that it provides an overarching narrative to the entire history of Western (and some non-Western)political thought. It talks about the differences between the ancients and the moderns and locates the developing breach in Machiavelli-Bacon-Descartes-Spinoza-Locke. It culminates in the baleful influence on Western thought of Nietzsche and Heidegger. It then suggests that if we just listen to our boy Leo that we (or at least, the more philosophical among us) might be able to focus once again on the perennial questions that are really the only ones worth asking. By providing that overarching narrative, it seems to me as if sometimes Straussians sometimes read all of philosophical history as leading up to Strauss. He seems to serve the same function in his own philosophy as Hegel did in his. Along the way, many great philosophers become versions of Strauss.
I think there is a little of this tendency in this book. On the other hand, it has been a long time since I really studied Locke. One thing I will give Pangle- he has really read everything Locke wrote and tries to see it as a piece. And he has the gift of any great scholar- he makes me want to go back and read Locke again. Until I undertake that project, I suspect I will find myself very much relying on his interpretation of Locke.
I have gone on about Pangle on Locke because the greater part of his book is devoted to his reading of Locke. But he also earlier provides us with convincing Lockean readings of Trenchard and Gordon, Jefferson, Madison and Wilson.
In sum, while I have some reservations about the method of intellectual historigraphy that was developed by Strauss, that I have to admit that some of the best writing that I have read on the Founders in the last few years have been by Straussians- Rahe, Zuckert (who I am currently working through), Pangle and Hiram Caton (see his altogether amazing The Politics of Progress). I think that if you combine their work with reading the books of Jonathan Isreal on the Enlightenment that you will have a pretty good understanding of the political philosophy of the period. Whether or not that understanding leads you to being part of a philosophical elite perenially pondering the realtion between revelation and reason is up to you. Me, I'm still thinking about how to get rid of Bush.