Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Locke and Stand Your Ground

Brandon over at Siris has an interesting post on Locke's idea of the "state of nature" and civil society as they relate to "stand your ground" laws, in response to a post at the NY Times philosophy blog, The Stone. It's always fun to watch
OK, so Debrabander himself tells us that the law is that you are protected from penalty if you kill someone when you "reasonably believe" that if you don't you yourself will be killed or maimed. And he gives us his overall opinion of "Stand Your Ground", which is that it encourages the wrong kind of society. That is fine, as well. Where the whole post goes obviously haywire is when he goes beyond merely giving his personal opinion and tries to build a relevant philosophical argument on the subject.

The philosophical argument is based on Locke's concept of the 'state of nature'. Locke gives us a whole discussion of the state of nature, so we have a pretty good idea of what it is supposed to be. But what does it have to do with "Stand Your Ground" laws? According to Debrabander:
Proponents and defenders of Stand Your Ground effectively wish to return us to a State of Nature and its attendant “Inconveniences” — and dangers. LaPierre urges individuals to presume the worst about supposed assailants — damn the consequences.
Err, no; this is obvious hyperbole, and at a fatal point in the argument. In Locke's state of nature there is no civil society at all; there would be no SYG laws in the state of nature because the only law in the state of nature is natural law. Further, in the state of nature, each human being is executive enforcer of every single law, and thus may punish someone for any actual crime under natural law; but SYG laws -- as Debrabander well knows, having actually quoted a typical one -- are restricted in scope. They do not say that you can use deadly force in the face of any crime.

In addition, the distinguishing feature of civil society as opposed to the state of nature is, as Debrabander says, that civil society is based on the principle that men should not act as magistrates in their own cases. But obviously this does not imply that men can do nothing unless authorized by the magistrate; it means that there should be common magistrates determining such cases as prevent abuses involving violence and partiality to one's cause. And SYG laws don't do away with the common magistrate or judge; they depend on them, because it will be such magistrates who determine that yes, the person in question is protected under the law. Locke recognizes one kind of state of nature in our age of civil societies: the state of nature existing between sovereigns. But SYG is based on there being a higher magistrate to which one may appeal and before which one may be held accountable.
Read the whole thing.

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