A Challenge for Political Philosophers

In a previous blog, Bertrand Russell’s bullshit interpretation of Jean Jacques Rousseau, I expressed puzzlement how it is possible to claim that Hitler is the outcome of Rousseau.

Here I want to introduce a different puzzle.

Consider the following passages, and footnotes in D. G. Ritchie, “Chapter 7. Contributions to the History of the Social Contract Theory,” in Darwin and Hegel with Other Philosophical Studies (1893), (pp. 196-226); p. 206:

As we have seen, Locke quotes King James I. about the “paction” between king and people; but the original compact on which he basis civil government is, just as with Hobbes and with Rousseau, a compact between individual and individual, not between king (or whatever else may be the government) and people.

“Whosoever [he says] out of a state of nature unite into a community must be understood to give up all the power necessary to the ends for which they unite into society, to the majority of the community, unless they expressly agreed in any number greater than the majority. And this is done by barely agreeing to unite into one political society, which is all the compact that is, or needs be, between the individuals that enter into or make up a commonwealth.”2[2 Treatise of Civil Government, II., § 99. In a footnote in the English translation of Bluntschli’s Theory of the State (Oxford, 1885), p. 276 — a footnote for which I am responsible — I followed the usual fashion of contrasting Locke and Rousseau. Further study of Locke has convinced me that there is no essential difference between them in this matter. The error has been avoided in the second edition (1892); see p. 294.”

Later, pp. 215-216, Ritchie writes:

Milton’s own theory is expounded earlier in his treatise :

“ No man who knows aught can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were born free, being the image and resemblance of God Himself, and were, by privilege above all creatures, born to command and not to obey; and that they lived so, till from the root of Adam’s transgression falling among themselves to do. wrong and violence, and foreseeing that such courses must needs tend to the destruction of them all, they agreed by common league to bind each other from mutual injury and jointly to defend themselves against any that gave disturbance or opposition to such agreement. . . . The power of kings and magistrates is only derivative, transferred and committed to them in trust from the people to the common good of them all, to whom the power yet remains fundamentally, and cannot be taken from them without a violation of their natural birthright.”1 [1 For the term “birthright” in this connection, cf. Clarke Papers, pp. lc, lxi., 322-325.]

This is precisely Locke’s theory; expressed in Milton’s impassioned language, it reveals its identity with the theory of Rousseau. Milton, like Locke, gives the theory a setting of Biblical history. Remove this setting, and we have the theory as it appears in Rousseau.

Ok, you may ask “What’s your point?”

My point is that according to Ritchie, the positions of Locke and Rousseau (as concerns the main points) are the same. But Russell wrote: “Hitler is an outcome of Rousseau; Roosevelt and Churchill of Locke.”

So, evidently Russell must be in disagreement with Ritchie that the positions of Locke and Rousseau (as concerns the main points) are the same. Who is right?

If Ritchie is right, then Russell’s position becomes that Hitler, Roosevelt, and Churchill are the outcome of Locke/Rousseau.

My own position is that it is not clear to me what it means to say that x is the outcome of y; i.e., understood as x’s views are the outcome of y’s views.

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